L. Van Beethoven, Piano sonata Op.31 No. 2 (The Tempest)
Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata was composed during a tough time for Beethoven in which he had to assume the fatality of his deafness. According to Anton Felix Schindler (secretary, and biographer of Beethoven), the name of Tempest has its origin in the drama of the same name by W. Shakespeare.
This specific sonata belongs to the Classical period and consists of three movements. It is important to note that the most unusual aspect of this specific piano sonata is that all its movements are constructed in the sonata-allegro form. For this written exercise, I am going to explain the structure and form of the first movement (Largo-Allegro):
The first movement is in D minor, and we can identify the Exposition, Development, and Recapitulation very easy. However, the major contrast in this movement is in the Exposition between the first and second motives (a and b) which are separated by a long fermata between “Largo” and “Allegro.”
In the first theme of the Exposition, we can see a “question-answer” structure created by the arpeggio (question), and the violent theme of eight notes grouped in pairs in a descending sequence (answer) that will be repeated in the second phrase. It is in this second phrase where we find a climax that leads directly to the transition.
The second theme of the Exposition is presented in measure 41 but unlike the classic secondary themes, it does not bring any kind of rest or contrast with the first theme. Its main characteristic is that it is constructed with the combination of transformed basic elements of the first theme. The closing section which is in a chorale style, starts in measure 55 and introduces two contrasting elements by changing the rhythm from an unstoppable movement of eighths to quarter notes, and by creating a harmonic and syncopated tension using the Neapolitan chord.
The development of the sonata restates different stages presented in the exposition, and its main characteristic is that it is very short compared with other sonatas. Finally, the recapitulation starts just as the opening of the movement with a “Largo” in measure 143. However, it is important to highlight that it is not followed by the Allegro as before, but with a recitative of four measures mainly in the dominant chord of D minor. This recitative is inserted between the “Largo” and “Allegro” in both phrases, but with the only difference that Beethoven offers another surprise by not going back to the traditional material from the transition. Instead, he uses repetitions of aggressive chords followed by arpeggios (m.159) which lead us directly to the second theme of the exposition now in the tonic key.
Beethoven´s contribution to piano music is very important as he composed 32 sonatas that helped to broaden the expressive range in piano at that time. In addition, he also used new approaches in piano music by using frequent octaves, thick textures and abrupt changes in dynamics. For those reasons, Beethoven became like a cultural hero, whose reputation as one of the most important composers of all time grew through the nineteenth century, helping to define the Romantic view in music.
Manuel M. Ponce, Mexican Ballade
Manuel M. Ponce was a Mexican composer, performer, conductor, pedagogue, musicologist, music critic, and lecturer. His music is so vibrant that has influenced the music of many composers in Latin-America and Europe alike. Regarding the Mexican Ballade, it is considered as one of his most representative piano works because he showed in this piece his love and interest in creating a Mexican national art inside his music.
This specific ballade presents three large sections. The first one is based on the popular Mexican song “The peach,” where we can find the theme in a four-part polyphony, vastly elaborated in different tonalities and virtuoso passages. The first part ends with a descending musical phrase whose main characteristic is the use of the hexatonic scale.
The second part begins with a brief introduction that announces the romantic Mexican melody “Remember me.” The characteristic of this theme is the use of trills, arpeggios and scales who accompany the main line of the soprano. The last part of the ballade is the recapitulation, whose main climax is a crescendo episode clearly influenced by the style of Franz Liszt. It is not surprising that Ponce used this influence as he studied with Martin Krause who was one of the most prominent students of Franz Liszt.
Ponce´s contributions to piano music, show a wide variety of styles like the romantic, impressionistic, neoclassic, and neoromantic, as well as works imitating the baroque and the classical period. Besides, many of his music reflects aspects of the music of Cuba, Spain, and naturally, Mexico. He also was the pioneer of the musical nationalism in Mexico because he was the first composer in collecting and classifying a significant portion of the folkloric music of his beloved country.
On my honor, I have not received any unauthorized aid on this essay.
Oscar Vázquez Medrano
Grad student at Kansas State University