How Beethoven Emulates an Ensemble in His Fifth Piano Sonata

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Gavin Davis
Andy Villemez


By Gavin Davis, Piano Performance

Advisor: Andy Villemez

Presentation ID: 265

Abstract: This presentation will demonstrate and analyze Beethoven emulates ensemble writing in op. 10 no. 1 by looking at his use of texture, dynamics, contrast, range, and timbre throughout the piece. Beethoven published this sonata in 1798 alongside his three op. 9 string trios. Still concretely in Beethoven's early period, this sonata features a symphonic sound with its expansive opening chords and its quick shifts in dynamic. By implementing a high amount of contrast paired with drastic shifts of range, Beethoven is able to imply a dialogue between instruments. For example, the opening theme employs fully-voiced forte chords to resemble the expansive sound of an orchestral tutti before he quickly reduces the texture to four-note voicings with a piano dynamic. This dramatic amount of contrast and range also implies a difference in distance, as the opening chords and rocket themes have such a wide range, while the response is so small and closed, as if from a smaller group of instruments playing from further away. Beethoven also uses changes of texture and compositional style to separate themes. While the opening is clearly symphonic in nature, the second theme is a strict four-voice texture akin to a string quartet. Throughout op. 10 no. 1, Beethoven employs a great deal of contrast in his texture, range, and dynamics in order to emulate the various instruments of an orchestra or string quartet.

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Category: Design Matters