A Fugal Sonata without a Fugue: Beethoven's Op. 102 No. 1

By Black, Leo | Musical Times, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

A Fugal Sonata without a Fugue: Beethoven's Op. 102 No. 1


Black, Leo, Musical Times


FUGUE: A composition, or a compositional technique, in which imitative counterpoint involving one main theme is the most important or the most characteristic device of formal extension.

(The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians (London, 1980))

THIS STUDY is by no manner of means an analysis, something which would have challenged even the genius of Edmund Rubbra, he who apart from being a major composer could happily devote an hourlong Oxford lecture to the vicissitudes undergone by the subject and its constituent intervals in the course of a single Bach fugue. Unlike most academic analysts, he could at the same time delight and enlighten. Mine is rather an attempt to rationalise my grounds for a long-standing conviction that Beethoven's Cello Sonata in C op.102 no.i, which, unlike its companion and four out of the final six for piano, lacks a fugue, is nonetheless 'fugal'.

Fugue was brought to a high point of perfection in JS Bach's Das wohltemperierte Klavier and Die Kunst der Fuge, but Beethoven's everincreasing interest in the form likewise took him to new peaks of achievement. A climax was reached in twin masterpieces composed some five years apart - the finale of the 'Hammerklavier' Piano Sonata in Bl? op.106 (1818) and the Grosse Fuge op.133, original finale of the String Quartet in the same key, op.130 (1825-26). The next quartet (Cjj minor, op.131) opened with one of his profoundest and most thoughtful fugues, while the 'Et vitam venturi saeculi' of the Missa solemnis in D op.121 (1822-23) similarly explored the heights and depths of fugue.

Counterpoint was for centuries a nature reserve attracting the finest scholarly minds. The Austrian composer Johann Joseph Fux drew up a first definitive guide to its practices in his 1725 classic Gradus adParnassum, in the belief that he was codifying counterpoint as practised by its greatest master, Palestrina (1525/26-1594). In fact his thinking was already conditioned by the onset of the age of harmony. JS Bach carried that harmony-counterpoint synthesis to its greatest height, and Beethoven studied the '48' closely while a pupil of Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-98) in his native Bonn. At the end of 1792 he became all too briefly Haydn's pupil in Vienna; the ageing master soon lost interest, but counterpoint studies continued in the same city (which Beethoven would never leave) with the far more conscientious JG Albrechtsberger (1736-1809).

Under way to his twin fugal peaks, Beethoven was not short of practice. The Piano Sonata in A major op.ioi sported a fugue as its finale, so too did the D major second of the two cello sonatas that make up his immediately succeeding opus number (being in a less popular form, they appeared in print later though written earlier), and as would his penultimate Piano Sonata in Ab major op.no (1821-22).

The 1959 book Fugue in Beethovens piano music by the Oxford scholar John Cockshoot traced the manifold incorporation of fugue into the greatest of all collections of music for the instrument, his choice of subject affording him an overview of Beethoven from the fugue that ended the 'Eroica' Variations in 1802 to the fugal section in the opening movement of his very last piano sonata (C minor, op.in, 1821-22) and the penultimate 'Diabelli' Variations from a year later still. Cockshoot's analyses were very thorough and his knowledge of fugue's technicalities impressive, though his doctoral brief precluded any deep consideration of the place of counterpoint and fugue in a composer's personality - something which in that day and age could have led him dangerously close to the forbidden fruit, hermeneutics.

For Albrechtsberger Beethoven worked 24 exercises in double counterpoint at the tenth. As Cockshoot put it, 'Sometimes three- and four-part texture is achieved by the addition of one or two parts which are either free or run in parallel tenths with the original voices', and that indeed happens at quite an early stage of op. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Fugal Sonata without a Fugue: Beethoven's Op. 102 No. 1
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.