For a comparsion of Beethoven’s Opus 7 with another of his piano sonatas, I have chosen Sonata Op. 2, No. 1, the first of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, in a  live recording by Daniel Barenboim in Berlin, accessible online  via  Due to it being structured in four movements (just like Opus 7), in a way it lends itself for a comparison.

Similarities and differences to Opus 7

The most obvious similarity to Beethoven Grand Sonata is the way in which is has, to some extent, a symphonic character. It is structured into four movements, the first one in a fast pace (Allegro), the second one a slow movement (adagio, not literally leisurely, but really slow), the third a traditional piece (here it is a menuett just like in opus 7), and, finally,the fourth movement (Prestissimo), which has, despite its contrasting tempo and after a rather conventional, traditional, reassuring third movement, exposes the listener again to a movement with a character of its own.

Another key similarity is how much the first movement follows the sonata form: an exposition with two themes, the main theme in the tonic (F minor), the second theme in the dominant (A-flat major), an „away-from-home“ development, and a recapitulation of both themes in the tonic, with a more or less long (or short) coda at conclusion of the movement.

The first movement (Allegro)

Opus 2 opens with a rather simple, 2/2-upbeat, but also catching main theme , the a so-called „Mannheim Rocket“ (a theme Mozart used in the finale in his G-minor symphony) The second theme is, just as in Opus 7, in the relative major to the tonic (here A-flat major) and is complemented by a 4-beat theme.

The opening scene of the movement bears a similarity with Opus 7 insofar as it does not at all raise the expectation that something modest is under way – rather the opposite: it appears agitated and give high expectations. But whereas the opening of Opus 7 announces -already in the first few seconds- . something really grandiose to come, the first seconds of Opus 2 are rather unspectacular, almost timid, but soon after that it also becomes promising,, here for something emotional meaningful and heavy to come, even though substantially less dramatic than in Opus 7.

Both the main theme and the second theme in Opus 2 and Opus 7 are rather “simple” and catchy (in case of the main theme), and the second them in both is more complex and melodic.

Yet, as a difference, the first theme of Opus 2 does not play the important role for the development as the first theme of Opus 7 does. The second theme takes up that role:

The development of the first movement in both sonatas does what the sonata form is expected them to do. It takes up the themes introduced in the exposition, playing around with them (or at least one of them), modify them, and give them various expressions. In the case of Opus 7, the main theme is so neutral, that it almost lends itself to be transformed into a variety of expressions: irate, despondent, cheerful – you name it. Opus 2 does that too to some extent. Yet – and that is the difference- it takes up the first topic, the „Mannheim Rocket“, only at the beginning of the development, and then only harnesses the second topic in order to make the development an adventurous experience. The second theme turn out to be rather malleable as well, and serves its purpose well, like the first theme of Opus 7.

As as side note, it’s might take as no surprise that the first theme, coming as recipe ingredient from a rather traditional school, it is not or cannot be used as very malleable theme to be tampered with -maybe is it too much ‘off-the-shelve’ to serve a versatile kernel like the main theme of Opus 7.

In both works the recapitulation – we are still talking only about the first movement- follows the sonata form quite strictly. It returns to the initial two topics again in the home key (the tonic) and concludes it -not mandatorily, but still to some extent expected by the listener- with a rather short coda, which which remains in the characteristic of the movement.

In the first movements of both works their symphonic characters becomes visible insofar as in the development, Beethoven seems to strive for other instruments. In case of Opus 7, we here reverberations which reminds us of an orchestra, and in Opus 2, some passages sound like imitations of other instruments, like a flute or a violin.

The second movement (Adagio)

In both cases Opus 2 and Opus 7, the second movement stands in the ‘tradition’ how Beethoven interpreted the tempo „adagio“: Not literally as leisurely pace, but as „slow“. Both movements are indeed slow: in Opus 7 in the interpretation of „adagio“ and in case of Opus7 ‘largo’ also with the strong connotation of „slow“.

Both slow movements are emotional very meaningfull Yet, whereas Opus 7 does something bold in deviating in tonality quite daringly by switching do a distance key (C major instead the parallel key E-flat minor), Opus 2 stays conventional and keeps the connection to the first movement – its key is F minor, the parallel key to F major.

As another difference, whereas the Largo of Opus 7 makes frequent use of silent pauses, as an integral part of the grammar of the music and as manipulative tool of time, the Adagio of Opus 2 does not do that to same extent. Almost every pauseshere is still filled which reverberations of the piano, and is just before the sound would end, taken up again as expected. Thusly, Opus 2 hardlys allow those totally silent moments like in  Opus 7, moments which poses questions and raise expectations. In Opus 7, the pauses are more a prolonging and a fading-away of the previous tone than a raised question. You don’t feel like you do in Opus 7: “And…?”.

The third movement (Menuetto, Allegretto)

For both Opus 2 and Opus 7, the third movement is a rather traditional piece and form: a minuett in allegro or allegretto, respectily Also on this  respect, both sonatas share a similarity in their symphonic character. They differ insofar as, even though the third movement of Opus 7 has some trembling moments towards the end, in this movement, Opus 2 appears overall less conventional and more lyrical than Opus 7.

The fourth movement (Prestissimo)

In the last movement the most salient difference between Opus 2 and Opus 7 comes to the fore. Whereas Opus 7 has a fourth movement in a traditional form, a Rondo, which usually gives the expectation of nothing groundbreaking being to expected anymore, as though the plot has already happened, Opus 2 offers another promising movement in sonata form – albeit in a modified form. Whereas for Opus 7 it is true – at least up to to the impressive and meaningful coda at the very end- that everything of meaning is already behind us and took place in the first two movements, it is not that obvious in Opus 2. The fourth movement of Opus 2 has a dramatic and a brisk character and even a grandiosity at times of its own. In this regard it almost takes up with the first movement of Opus 7.

Whereas in Opus 7, the movement is unspectacular and rather conventional, except from the revolutionary coda, in Opus 2 appears more energetic, even more dramatic in large parts, and seems more weighty than the preceding movements.

Probably the most salient difference between Opus 2 and Opus 7 is the coda of the last movement. Whereas Opus 7 gives a very surprisingly extended coda with a very dístant key, but also a different theme and becomes what lingers in the memory of the listeners, the final coda of Opus 2 ‘merely’ concludes the last movement in its character and is much less conspicuous.

Overall, despite the last movement of Opus 2 being more ‘daring’ in its sonata form than the Rondo of Opus 7, Opus 2 appears to me more tradititional and less revolutionary than Opus 7 – mainly because of a conventional final coda, the absence of silences in the slow movement and the use of a familiar and traditional main theme in the first movement.

External sources:

Basic Facts and Life

Born on January 31th, 1797 in Vienna, Austria and died on November 19th 1828, Schubert’s short life fell almost precisely in the transition from the Classical to the Romantic period, and his childhood starts with Beethoven’s middle period, in which he has already changed the Classical sonata form into something free and emotional.

Franz Schubert was the son of a schoolmaster. He got basic musical training from his father and his brother and was an extraordinary talented choir boy. He received an excellent education in a convent and got musical tuition from prominent teachers.

The most interesting fact about his life as a composer is that he is the first western composer who earned his living without patronage. He only gave one public concert during his life, which was well received, even though he was not known as especially virtuous player – still, he was a good player. In times without income, he was sometimes supported by his friends.

At the age of seventeen in 1813/1814, he attended a teacher training college and then was a school teacher for young boys in the school of his father, which seemed for him the only possibility of an income. Nevertheless, he had not much interest in this occupation and showed an indifference towards his job. During that time, in 1814, he was prolifically composing: he wrote a symphony, 6 string quartets, piano pieces, orchestral pieces and over 50 songs. He had an almost Mozart-like gift of being able to write no matter what was going on around him, and what he wrote needed hardly any corrections. During 1815, he wrote more than 200 works, ranging from songs to symphonies, among them his famous and lovely Goethe works “Heidenröslein” and the “Erlkönig”.

In 1816, he gave up school teaching and moved in with one of his closest friend, Franz Schober. His cosmopolitan friend introduced him to a rich but also and frivolous life, which Schubert otherwise might not have met. He became acquainted with a well-known Baritone singer in the Vienna Opera, Franz Michael Vogl, who admired Schubert’s songs tremendously and became their pivotal singer and exponent. Unfortunately, it was also that frivolous lifestyle which exposed Schubert to health dangers: presumably, during frequent visits to brothels he contracted syphilis.

In the post-Napoleon-defeat atmosphere, in a climate of careful observance and drastic measures against potential revolutionary motions due the the Metternich reign – a model of a surveillance state – people started to withdrew into the security and privacy of their homes. People started to live according to comfortable Romantic Bourgeois values, and music was an intrinsic part of it. Almost everybody sang and plaid or listened to music. It may have been also due to this fact that Schubert’s music became valued in private circles, and which vice versa may have influenced the motifs of his songs towards a private and individualistic romanticism? With his music suitable for private occasions together with his outgoing, charming temperament, he was never without a wide circle of friends who valued him and his music – not a little rewarding substitute for a public career.

Still, there is a legacy Schubert himself might nor might not have been happy about: he and part of his music has been now and then associated with the notion of “Biedermeier” – a German idiomatic term for a way of living that puts much value of the convenience and security of the private home, surrounding itself with neat objects and avoiding involvement in public affairs.

An income as composer from the Church was not one of Schubert’s feasible options. Even though Church music was still a way forward for a composer, patronage of the Princess of the Church was still necessary. For the non-religious, agnostic Schubert, religion was not an easy match. So he struggled unsuccessfully in this regard.

But there was high demand for Opera at that time, and it was light Opera and above all Italian opera what people wanted. Schubert wrote 17 German operas. In 1815, we worked on no less than seven operas, but only three of them reached the stage. They all failed, due mostly to poor librettos and the popular competition from the Italians like Rossini. Another opera was commissioned from him, the “Die Zwillingsbrüder”, but it was not performed until 1820, and then only for six performances. Hence, opera could also not be counted as a source of income for Schubert.

An ephemeral income came in 1818, when he was offered the position of music tutor for the daughters of the Esterházy family in their Hungarian summer home. The Esterházys were the life-long employers of Joseph Haydn. This journey to Hungary was as far as Schubert traveled in his life.In 1819, back in Vienna, on a trip with Vogl, he wrote a commissioned work for a local music patron the charming piano quartet “The Forelle”, one his most famous chamber works.

A more stable source of income came after that. After his friends had already made Schubert’s manuscript known to him, one of Vienna’s most significant music publisher, Anton Diabelli, began to publish his works sporadically, which brought Schubert a nice income, but he was generally useless in organizing his finances and other practical issues – another parallel to Mozart. Genius seems to be that concerned with every-day issues.

In the winter 1827, he began one of his greatest works, the song cycle “Die Winterreise”. It was based on the poems of Romantic poet Robert Müller, and Schubert’s great composing make this little stunning piece of poetry quite magical. In 1928, he. was busy with his “Great C-major Symphony”, a string quartet in C major and his unfinished 8th symphony.

In 1828, he experienced the onset of the second state of syphilis, which is contracted in earlier years, presumable due this visits to brothels. Later, while seeking betterment at his brother’s house on the countryside, typhoid fever struck him down, the same illness which killed his mother and from which he died soon later on November 19th 1827, aged not quite thirty-two. Some sources surmise he had tried to treat his syphilis with mercury, the usual treatment for syphilis in those days, and actually died of mercury poisoning.

Musical Education and Influences

At a young age, Franz Schubert’s musical talent was recognized and promoted. His father, a hobby celloist taught him the violin, his brother gave him violin lessons, As a choir boy in the Imperial Court Chapel in Vienna, he become the first soprano due to his beautiful voice and his vocal talent, where his gifts caught the eye of the choir master. He received a place in the Imperial Court Seminary, where he learned about the Overtures and symphonies of Mozart and those of Haydn.

His later to become prolific production of “Lieder” was mainly influenced by the ballads of German composer Johann Rudolph Zumsteeg, which Schubert imitated as teenager.

In the seminary, Schubert was occasionally allowed to lead the orchestra. It was due to this circumstance that Vienna’s Court Composer Antonio Salieri was impressed by the genius of Schubert’s compositions, and he gave the young Schubert private tuitions in composition and in counterpoint. Salieri also introduced Schubert to Christoph Wilibald Gluck’s music, the most popular German Opera composer of the previous century, which delighted young Schubert. Even later, when Schubert was a teacher at his father’s school, the continued to take technical training from Salieri.

Schubert was a great admirer of Beethoven, but both only met once, and Schubert was nervous on the occasion, so another encounter never came to pass. Beethoven was astounded by the quality of Schubert’s songs, and Schubert had dedicated a piano duet to him. In 1827, Schubert was of many torch bearers at Beethoven funeral.

Towards Mozart, Schubert showed the admiration as a composer who could not reach him, but the work of whom have left permanent impressions on him: “[..] I still here faintly, as if from a distance, the magic echoes of Mozart’s music … O, Mozart, immortal Mozart, how many, how infinitely many inspiring impressions of a brighter and better life have you engraved in our souls[…]” [4]

Schubert’s Legacy

Franz Schubert left an impressive amount of work in his brief life. His musical legacy comprised about 1000 works, the majority of which over 600 songs (amongst them the aforementioned lovely “Heidenröslein”) and song cycles, (the greatest and most profound one being “Die Winterreise”, the “Winter Journey”).

He wrote nine symphonies, two of them incomplete, among them the so-called “Unfinished” Eigths, which is probably the most popular of all – and the fragment of a tenth. His most important and most influential symphony is his so-called “Great Symphony” in C major, D. 944. It is his ninth symphony, listed in newer catalogs as the 8th symphony. It was published only in 1840 after Schubert’s death. Robert Schumann seized hold of the manuscript ten years after Schubert’s died. After a performance by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in Leipzig, Schumann is reported to have said it be “the greatest instrumental work since the death of Beethoven”. He also hailed it for its “heavenly length”. The symphony’s new emphasis of melodic development influenced Schumann’s symphonic own aspirations, but also of other Romantic composers. Indeed, listening to Schubert’s Great Symphony, you are reminded even of composers like Bruckner, something which does not occur when listening to Haydn’s, Mozart’s and Beethoven’s symphonies. Furthermore, Schubert left 30 chamber works – for example his famous “Forellen Quintett” (“The Trout”) and the mesmerizing and influential “Der Tod und das Mädchen” of 1824 (“Death and the Maiden”), which gained much admiration and praise from Robert Schumann as well.

Concerning Church music, a category in which Schubert engaged in his last years, he composed six masses (for example, the “German Mass”).

He created about 18 operas, half of which he completed; the most known is the commissioned work “Die Zwillingsbrüder” (“The Twin Brothers”) mentioned earlier.

Last but not least, he left a great number of solo works for the piano, amongst it 21 piano sonatas.

Since Schubert works were rarely published during his lifetime, most of them do not bear opus numbers. Only in 1951, Otto Erich Deutsch created a chronologically catalog of Schubert works, assigning them “Deutsch Numbers”, a number prefixed by the letter D.Notwithstanding his immense output, unlike Beethoven, Schubert was almost unknown as composer during his lifetime. Contemporary music critics did not even mention him. In the eyes of the public his reputation was that of a song writer and therefore not that of a serious composer. When his music got serious it was not understood though. Yet, he was well valued and understood by his close circle of friend, among whom many of his manuscripts and copies were circling and who later preserved his works, so that they were gradually published after this death.

Schubert had many social gatherings and musical parties with his wide circle of predominantly artist friends, with recitals of his works, his songs and waltzes. So it came that during his lifetime, his music was predominantly performed in those private occasions, which after Schubert’s death came to be called those “Schubertiaden”. Presumable, it is this fact in combination with the Romantic poetry he set into this music which founded his popular reputation among the broader public as Romantic song composer – an image not at all living up to his sweeping genius recognized in musically privy circles.


(1) Composer Biographies, GroveMusic:

(2) Wikipedia, Franz Schubert:

(3)  Schubert: 20 facts about the great composer:

(4) Christopher Nupen, Documentary “The Greatest Love & The Greatest Sorrow”:

(5) Wikipedia, String Quartet No. 14 (Schubert):

Bach Chanonne

Bach’s Chanonne Scores

I. Identification of a passage in the Chaconne

At minute 6.27 (according to my counting the transition from measure 120 to 121), a series of variations, reminiscent of Vivaldi’s „Autumn“ in the „Four-Seasons“, which appear stormy and agitated, is put to a stop by a fierce stroke in the bassline. The music then evolves into a sequence of melodic and fluent undulations in the higher voice, interspersed more or less regularly by distinct two notes, an ostinato again in the bassline, repeating and reaffirming the voice with ended the stormy phase in the first place.

That preceding stormy phase started at minute 4.50 while going from measure 89 to 90, when the instructions say “arpeggio” that is, play in “broken chord”. This also marks a striking transition. Neverthelesss, I am going to concentrate on the described transition from measure 120 to 121.

II. Exploration of personal responses

1. Emotions and Associations

The moment when this transition occurs, it feels like I am going from a state of motley, fighting emotions and thoughts, agitated and stormy, to which I felt helplessly subjected, into an awareness of self-determination: the fierce bassline note which puts a stop to the chaos is like a virile voice, proclaming: „Stop, am the master of my thoughts and emotions. You cannot do with me as you please. I am going to bring order in the chaos“.

From that moment on, emotions are becoming more regular and stable; the melodic, fluent line in the high voice gives me emotional stability. At the same time, it gives me a ride, it drives me effortless further over a short distance, like a gust of tailwind while on a bicycle. And yet, as if I am afraid of being dragged along against my will, those interspersed two bassline notes come to my rescue by slowing down the momentum – as if the low voice itself is afraid of losing its sway. I want to hold emotions in check and do not want to be swept away by them.

2. Differences

The transition is so striking because the preceding section sounds very different from the other variations of the original motif: it is played in arpeggio, that is, harmonically broken, harp-like, every note in a chord sequentially, and this gives the preceding section such a stormy and discordant emotional character. The transition is so stark because the music then changes back to harmonic chords: a chord, consisting of two, three or four notes above each other are played simultaneously (as far as possible on the violin), and it makes the following section rather soothing in contrast.

As broached before, the contrast also resonates emotionally in me: this sudden change evokes appears as inner revolt against the chaos and the whirlwind of emotions, and it actually brings me back into a state of calmness and harmony. The upper voice, now harmonic and fluently undulating, becomes more melodic and ordered. A self-determined hope, represented by bassline voice, is still present as a reminder to keep things ordered and do let them spin out of control again.

The revolt had its intended effect, but it is only ephemeral. The exhorting, virile voice becomes less powerful; it slows down by becoming stretched; Also, the melodic voice becomes weaker and hesitant: the top voice is palpably lowered and stretched, too. It feels like the initial revolt slows down and loses momentum.

3. The Larger Structure

Yet, before the whole play of exhorting and upbeat voices peters out, the original motif from the beginning reappears, as if the emotional storm was only an unsettling, but ephemeral episode. But I appears not fully unexpectedly. Rather, it feels like something what was expected to happen. We return home to familiar motif from with we started out in the first place. Several measures later, the key changes from the emotionally gloomy key d-minor to the brighter key D-major. This is the second part of the Chaconne.

The described phase turns out to be a transition from an adventurous emotional journey, a self-determined returning home to the original theme, towards what feels like the end of a movement. It is almost like the recapitulation in the sonata form, only less emotionally  resonating per dint of am unchanged tonality: there is no transition from a dominant key to the home key. Nonetheless, I feel on secure and familiar soil again, until, with the shift to D-major when we enter the second part of the Chaconne.

Embedded in a larger structure, this passage constitutes a transitional phase, preparing us for coming back emotionally to the original motif. It also prepares us for the end of the first “movement”. If it had been left out, the direct transition from the emotional storm in the arpeggio section to the well-behaved home motif would have felt too abrupt, too unnatural. It would have been a leap we would not have been able to follow emotionally. The passage from the described transition at 6.16, until the return of the home motif, helps us manage the emotional shift.


J.S. BACH Chaconne from Partita in D minor, BVW 1004, James Ehnes, violin

BWV 1004 – Chaconne (Scrolling) :


I. Exposition (0:04 to 1:41, repeated at 1:42 to 3:19)

The first theme appears right at the beginning of the piece (in the recording at minute 0:04 or measure 1), and it lasts until minute 0:20 (or including measure 12).

The transitional material is plaid from 0:20 until 1:05, and features some interesting sub-themes, transitions and cadences.

The one example I would like to single out are three “staircase transitions”, played by the first violin. It gives us the imagination of running several flights of stairs up or down, as if we are searching for something, and what we find at each place is a harbinger of the second theme, its upbeat motif, its bridge, In midst all the transitional material we have heard since we have left the first theme, it sticks out with its melodic, stable character and shows some melodic connection with the second theme: it appears like a prelude to it. I call it therefore the harbinger or the upbeat motif of the second theme.

At 0:39, the first violin takes us down a some flights of stairs, and we find the cello announcing the second theme in a modified form over two bars. At 0:45, the violin takes us up again the staircase, and the cello gives the same upbeat motif of the second theme as harbinger. At 0:50, the converse direction is repeated, until at 0.55, the first violin takes up that upbeat motif and continues it – and here the shift to the dominant key F major takes place.

Finally, at 1:04 (measure 45) the second theme is fully introduced by the cello until 1:16 (measure 53). Right after that, the first violin repeats the second theme slightly modified, until 1:26 (measure 60).

This section feels like the second theme, because it is the first singable melody in the dominant key F, and it also gives a striking contrast in instrumentation: it is played by the cello alone, only slightly accompanied by the viola. Hence, the texture is very thin compared to the first theme, in which all four instruments are involved, except for the first five measures, in which only the violins and the viola provide the music; only later, the cello chimes in. Nevertheless, the first theme is predominantly introduced by the first violin, the other instruments are mere accompaniment, while the second theme has the texture of a solo. Furthermore, whereas the first theme shows a refined and timid character, being played in piano, the second theme is articulated with more volume, even though not in any forte dynamic: it is neither timid nor assertive, thereby affirming its independent, self-reliant nature: neither does it have to be restraint nor assert itself.

One aspect of contrast to the first theme stems from a different tonality: the second theme is played in the dominant key F major, creating an emotional pull towards the first theme, which is plaid in the home key, the tonic key B flat major.

Concerning its character, the second theme is less melodic and less beautiful than the first theme. Even though you feel that it tries to follow suit the first motif in its melodic character, due to its sole, almost isolated existence and its more sentimental rather than beautiful countenance, it seems like the little sibling of the first theme. It stands lonely outside of the concert hall, at the window, trying to imitate his big brother playing inside with all the other instruments. You recognize some relationship, but you still feel the contrast.

The second theme appears to be slower, but also more continuous, more fluent than the first theme. This continuity is nicely counter-painted by some pauses, with gives the theme a hopping, punctuated element: it adds a feeling or progression to the theme. The first theme lacks these moments of instability and progression.

Even when the first theme is repeated by the first violin at 1:14 (measure 53), those differences makes for a striking contrast to the first theme.

A worth-mentioning aspect of this piece is that Mozart uses so much wonderful and resourceful material in the transition from the first to the second theme. This part is – in my view – actually the richest portion of the first movement.

II. Development (3:20 to 4:39, retransition at 4:29)

At 3:20 (measure 72), the development starts strikingly. It repeats in forte the last five measures of the closing theme from the exposition, but without giving a feeling of strict closure: the final chord at 3:25 (measure 76) is a weaker chord, especially because for both violins it is not a chord anymore at all, but only a single note. That is why is does not feel as the end of a section, rather as a dramatic upbeat for a new section.

It might be argued that this section still belongs to the exposition and constitutes its final closing theme. But I disagree with this view on the grounds that the first rendition of the exposition does not include this section, and that the closing chord of this section has not a strict closing character. Hence, this section appears to me as an upbeat for the development.

The very first bar of the first theme appears very soon, subtle but frequently: lowered quite a bit at 3:46 (measures 89/90/91), three times and descending by the viola, slightly higher then the original at 3:47 (measures 90/91) by the fist violin, and very subtle by the cello at measures 3:52 and 3:54 (measures 93/95).

The pure development section is rather short. It only lasts until the retransition begins at 4:29 (measure 108), which broaches the first theme by playing its again the very first bar of the first theme. Starting with the second violin, both violins take turns playing the first theme’s beginning. The second violin does it a few notches lower than the first violin. The violins pass each other the first bar of theme one, until the first violin abandons the play and provides several modulations, during the break of which the second violin and the viola keep repeating the first bar of theme one.

These snippets of the first theme have a thicker texture than in the original first theme: they are always embedded in a dense accompaniment, either by the viola or by the cello. Most of time, it is different in pitch, that is, slightly higher or lower than the original.

At 7:27 (measure 123), the violin ushers in the final return to the first theme by means of a staircase-like downward sequence. It leads us up again the stairs, changing to the dominant F along the way, and drops us there with a two-bar cadence at 7:35 (measure 128-130). This cadence let us fall gently like a swinging leaf, until the the first theme catches us. Those short, preceding snippets of the first theme have subconsciously prepared us for being caught by theme one; they have been a part of a shrewd retransition.

III. Recapitulation (7:38 to 9:28)

As mentioned before, at 7:27 (measure 123), the retransition begins and leads us to the recapitulation. The recapitulation starts at 7:38 (measure 131) with a repetition of the first theme, only with some differences: here the first theme appears less carefully and less timidly. It is self-confident right away: the second violin is game right from the beginning, whereas in the original first theme, the first violin solely introduces the theme, feeling its way forward, until the second violin chimes in thematically at measure two. In short, the first theme starts with a thicker texture here.

In terms of articulation, the first theme here appears with slightly more volume. Concerning other features, like rhythm and tempo, both appearances of the first theme seem widely identical.

The little brother, the second theme, makes its first appearance in the recap at 8:47 (measure 179) until 8:59 (measure 187), but different in instrumentation. It is played by the first violin (instead of the cello), immediately repeated at 8:59 (measure 187) until 9:10 (measure 195) by the viola (instead of the first violin). The importance of the second theme seems to be reversed compared to the exposition, but obviously deliberately: it lends their appearances some symmetry (cello – violin – violin – viola), but it still makes for a contrast. In terms of texture (in both cases it is essentially a solo), in terms of articulation (both are neither piano nor forte) as well as in rhythm, the second theme appears identical both in the recapitulation and in the exposition.

In terms of texture (in both cases it is essentially a solo), in terms of articulation (both are neither piano nor forte) as well as in rhythm, the second theme appears widely identical both in the recapitulation and in the exposition.

The main differences are with respect to instrumentation as well as tonality: apart from being played by a different instrument in the recapitulation, it is played in the home key, the tonic B-flat major instead of the dominant F in the exposition.

Worth mentioning is how the quest on the staircase appears in the recapitulation with a nice contrast. This time, it is the cello which drives us through the stairwell, and the violin offers a place to rest by delivering the upbeat motif of the second theme.



IMSLP, String Quartet No.22 in B-flat major, K.589, Full Score:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (painted portrait)

Portrait of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)

According to Immanuel Kant, Enlightenment is the process of humankind overcoming the inability of making use of one’s intelligence, with two decisive characteristics. First, using intelligence is supposed to be independent of others, without others instructing or guiding it. Second, the inability of using it independently does not originate from a lack of intelligence, but from inertia, indecisiveness or a lack of courage. (1)

Bringing another pivotal figure of that epoch into consideration of whom Kant was an admirer, Rousseau, who was nonetheless an ardent critic of the Enlightenment, much in contrast to the excitement of his contemporaries, it appears as a valid question whether he was a character of the era of Enlightenment, but not necessarily a figure of Enlightenment.

According to Rousseau, the exact thing which enables a human being to reason, his intelligence, “has its needs, just as the body does“ (2), which causes harm on the virtues, in particular on the urge for freedom. In his “Discourse on the Arts and Sciences”, he considers arts and sciences as inevitable endeavors of an independent human mind at work and points out its perils. The sciences destroy the fundamental urge for freedom, an expression of self-preservation, because “the sciences … and the arts spread garlands of flowers over the iron chains which weigh men down … and make them love their slavery.” (3).

They also have harmful impacts on on authenticity because of vanity. “In place of contemptible ignorance, we will substitute a dangerous Pyrrhonism…” (4). The arts as a sign of luxury “bring with it … the corruption of taste” (2), because “every artist wishes to be applauded” (5) and “will lower his genius to the level of his age” (6).

The arts and sciences render people unable of noticing their bondage and create new corruptions of the intellect. They not only distract people from their dependence, but make them blind to it by giving it treacherous countenance, thusly depriving them of their ability of breaking free from a new dependence. Vanity and the need for approval impedes determination and courage. These new shackles cause the inability of the individual of using his mind independently. One evil seems to be traded for another, even for the same. Humankind at best gains a treacherous state of intellectual maturity. A state of universal enlightenment does not seem to be attainable.

Kant, in contrast, albeit “as things are at present, we still have a long way to go before men as a whole can be in a position of using their own understanding confidently” (7), saw “distinct indications that … the obstacles to universal Enlightenment … are gradually becoming fewer” (8). For Kant, universal Enlightenment seems possible, whereas Rousseau’s only hope is to bring those “who have no need of teachers” (9), men of the caliber of Bacon, Descartes and Newton, together with the powerful, because “it is the task of this small number of people to raise monuments to the glory of the human mind” (10) – hardly a state of Enlightenment of all humans.

Taking into account Kant’s definition of Enlightenment, Rousseau shows the ability of using his reasoning without guidance and making the result of it public with mature self-responsibility, being aware of the dangers: „I anticipate that people will have difficulty forgiving me for the position I have dared to take. […] I can expect only universal censure …. and I cannot count on public approval.” (11)

Rousseau’s bold and trenchant argumentation against the Enlightenment despite the ubiquitous excitement about it in society characterizes an unguided use of a mature mind. He is indubitably a person beyond the state of self-incurred immaturity of an unenlightened individual.

Nevertheless, according to Kant’s definition, Enlightenment is the process of humankind emerging from intellectual maturity, not the final state. Being a figure of Enlightenment necessitates playing a promoting role in that global process, while Rousseau, per dint of his heavy critique, does the opposite. Kant himself makes a distinction between an “enlightened age” and “an age of enlightened”: “If it is now asked whether we at present live in an enlightened age, the answer is: No, but we do live in an age of enlightenment.” (12)

Rousseau, thinking well-conceived, original and unpopular thoughts publicly and being both aware of the personal disadvantages it can entail and his own vices, shows all the hallmarks of a person able of using his mind without tutelage, with courage, self-responsibility and the maturity of yielding it prudently. Nevertheless, considering his heavy critique against the perils of Enlightenment and his indications towards its universal elusivenesss, he appears less as a figure of Enlightenment than a character of an enlightened age.

1) 7) 8) 12) Immanuel Kant: “What is enlightenment?“, 1784
2) 3) 4) 5) 6)  9) 10) 11) Jean-Jacques Rousseau: „Discourse on the arts and sciences“, 1750

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Scientists and philosophers, those who bring about ideas breaking with traditional world views, being themselves children of intellectual traditions, are likely to make use of intellectual traditions. This is the case for a revolutionary scientist like Charles Darwin, but does it also apply to the thinker who broke with the philosophical tradition – Friedrich Nietzsche?

Darwin’s work shows Romantic aspects. We frequently encounter admiring depictions of the beauties of nature. „We see these beautiful co-adaptations most plainly in the humblest parasite … in the plumed seed which is wafted by the gentlest breeze“ (1). Not only in this regard he draws upon the Romantic. In his quest for understanding nature, he also puts on Kant’s spectacles of perception and makes the world and ourselves understandable. His observations of plants and animals on a heath (2) leads him to insights about ourselves: “’So profound is our ignorance, and so high our presumption that we marvel when he hear of the extinction of an organic being; and as we do not see the cause, we invoke cataclysm to desolate the world …” (2).

Darwin takes recourse to Empiricism as well. He was concerned with what Kant called the phenomenal world. He studied surface and effect. When performing studies in order to derive the relation of animals and plants to each other (3), he only takes into account things perceivable by sensory experiences. He examines the plants visually. He even goes one step further by incorporating quantities: „twelve species of plants flourished in the plantations ..six insectivorous birds were very common in the plantations … I counted thirty-two little trees, and one of them with twenty-six rings of growth … “ (3). He takes recourse to a fundamental aspect of Utilitarianism: Taking measurable and countable entities and bringing them into an equation yields something of substance: “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong” (4). Quantity of measurable entities matter in order to derive a conclusion.

Darwin stands even more in the tradition of Utilitarianism. By dispelling the notion of ‘species’ as a real thing, he helps devaluating hitherto valued entities, showing their lack of essence. Where the idealist would like to see a distinct species, an ideal or at least a to-be-perfected entity, there is actually nothing than gradual and imperceptible change. „It may … be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing … the slightest variations, rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good, silently and insensibly working“ (5). By bringing to the fore the genealogy of things, Darwin reduces hitherto idealized entities to their mere expedience. There is no ‘species’. It is merely a term, invented for dealing with a complicated world.

Friedrich NietzscheNietzsche assumes a starting point in the tradition of ancient Greece, in which being “human, all-too-human” was embraced. The ancient Greek Gods showed human traits which would have been in Judaeo-Christian ages considered immoral. They did not deny their animal urges: “…this, fortunately, Is revealed by the merest glance at the Greek gods, those reflections of noble and self-controlled man, in whom the animal in man felt himself deified … and did not rage against himself.” (6). There is no moral ideal here. Importantly, Nietzsche is not idealizing that state either.

Here ends Nietzsche harnessing the intellectual past and here begins his genealogy of it. Ever since Socrates and Plato, with the advent of the denial of animal instincts and the pursue of an ideal in lieu of it, Nietzsche critically scrutinizes intellectual tradition.

Religion and western philosophy, Judaeo-Christian ethics and the secularisation of it, Enlightenment as well as arts and sciences, are all the maintainers of an unhealthy ‘slave morality’, the constituents of which are resentment (a reversal of values, strength and health as ‘evil ‘instead of good, suffering and weakness as ‘good’ instead of bad, upheld by religion) (7), guilt and bad conscience (the result of a creditor and debtor relationship, with punishment as  sustaining tool) (8), and the ascetic ideal (the denial of a life in pleasure for an ideal, both in arts and sciences) (9).

For Nietzsche, the “will to power” is key. That “will to power” also steers and governs even slave morality. The urge for dominance is present even in the weak and rebels with resentment; in the individual it clashes with the internalized ascetic ideal, leading to bad conscience. Hence, all intellectual traditions with their ideals lead to sickness. Nietzsche rejects the intellectual framework of the past altogether.

Darwin, albeit debunking godlike humankind as myth, makes use of ideals in intellectual traditions:  fascination with nature and scientific objectivity in the quest for the truth, and he paves their path into the future: natural sciences prevail to this day. Nietzsche, discrediting and doing away with ideals, rejects making use of them. If anything, he ushers in a new tradition, the tradition of psychology: There is no ideal to meet. It is about trying to live mentally healthy – while pursuing the ideal of science.

1) 2) 3) 5) Darwin, The Origin of Species
4) Bentham, A Fragment on Government
6) 7) 8) 9) Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche

Creating and consuming art has been an endeavor of humans ever since they have been living in communities. Since we can safely assume that only humans are capable of art, it is a legitimate question what the reasons and benefits are for us. Two thinkers who were exceptionally engaged with the psychological history of humankind are Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche. What are their accounts of genealogy and psychology of active and passive artistic activity?

For Freud, art is a „palliative measure“, a method of reducing and avoiding suffering. In order to see how he derives at this conclusion we have to originate from one of his primary theories that the fundamental purpose of human life is seeking pleasure, and, as subordinate goal, the avoidance of suffering: “It is simply the program of the pleasure principle that determines the purpose of life. … As the pleasure principle itself has been transformed … into the ‘reality’ principle … the task of avoiding suffering pushes that one of obtaining pleasure into the background“ (1).

For Freud, two fundamental drives constitute the sources of pleasure: aggression, as a manifestation of the ”death drive’, and the constructive libido drive, the urge to love and satisfy, The libido emanates originally from sexual love, which later became transfigured into so-called ‘aim-inhibited’ impulses, with sexual love as its unconscious motive, but prohibiting the sexual act itself. The friendly relationships we have to members of the larger society is a manifestation of this.

Since for Freud pleasure is either accomplished by acting upon aggression or libido, it is substantial that the former is restricted by civilization, thusly robbing the individual of a means of obtaining pleasure: „I take the view that tendency to aggression … represents the greatest obstacle to civilization.“ (2) He goes further in showing that the libido is transfigured into aim-inhibited impulses and harnessed for rendering aggression against fellow-humans inoperative.

Considering the restrictions to natural happiness by the shackles of civilization, it becomes almost inevitable to understand that Freud saw palliative measures all the more indispensable means for reducing suffering. He mentions three methods: „Powerful distractions, which cause of to make light of our misery, substitutive satisfaction, which diminishes it, and intoxications, which anesthetize us to it.“ (3)

Concerning passive artistic activity, he sees it fall into the second category: „Substitutive satisfactions, such as arts affords, are illusions contrast with reality“ (4), yet also saw the illusionary downside of it.

The second form art -creative activity- also falls into that category, but another Freudian aspect is crucial for understanding its nature. Renunciation of natural drives causes a transfiguration into another form. He mentions „another technique for avoiding suffering, which „makes use of the displacements of the libido.“ (5) Here the task is, according to Freud, „to displace the aims of the drives in such a way that they cannot be frustrated by the external world.“ (6). That is the technique of sublimation, and the artists work fall under that term: „This kind of satisfaction – the artist’s joy in creating, in fashioning forth the product of his imagination … has a special quality“. (7)

Nietzsche’s account of art and aesthetics have to the following prerequisite aspects: Detachment from reality and the real object, resentment of natural vigor and reclusion from the world. Concerning the latter, he shows a similarity with Freud’s view on reclusion from fellow-humans as a means of avoiding psychosocial suffering.

Concerning detachment, Nietzsche claims that the artist could not depict what he does if he were what he depicts: „a Homer would not have created no Achilles, a Goethe no Faust.“ (8). An aspect of this is the artist being detached from reality: „A completely artist finds himself separated from the ‘real’ … to all eternity“. (9).

Concerning the more significant resentment aspect, for Nietzsche art is, despite the claims of Enlightenment figures like Kant, a transfigured derivate of the sexual instinct, and denies its sexual nature insofar as the weak has to deny natural vigor as ‘bad’. He makes the mocking assumption that an artwork in not the ascetic ideal it is claimed to be: „If our aestheticians … never tire of arguing … that … it is possible to contemplate even statues of naked women ‘without interest’ … one is entitled to have a laugh at their expense.“ (10). For Nietzsche the artist and his audience delude themselves by denying and rejecting the underlying natural instincts behind aesthetics – fitting perfectly into the great scheme of Nietzsche’s theory of resentment.

In comparison, whereas Freud is more accepting in seeing art as a legitimate choice and sublimation in order to reduce suffering in face of an external oppression by civilization, Nietzsche considers it as self-delusional act of internal resentment against animalistic vigor.

What might remain to moot are possible implications of the expounded views. It seems nothing much genuinely positive is left as motivation for pursuing art. and it might leave behind a bitter taste for all those with artistic interest. Yet, we have to keep in mind that both, Freud as well as Nietzsche, have the diagnosis as their main purpose, not prescriptions for us whether or not pursuing art.


1), 2), 3), 4) 5), 6), 7) Freud, Civilization and its Discontents

8) 9) 10) Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals