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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 March 2021

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Summary

VERY little has been written about the ways in which Beethoven begins his works, or about the structural, rhetorical, and emotional implications of these beginnings, or about the listener's experience in hearing them. This book aims to fill these gaps and add another level to our understanding of the music. My focus is on the experience of hearing, the effect of a beginning as it happens, as silence gives way to sound.

The book discusses the opening moments in nearly 200 compositions of Beethoven, including many of the lesser-known works, both with and without opus numbers. All aspects of these beginnings are analyzed, including their adherence to or departure from convention; the way they establish or disguise the key, rhythm, and meter of the work; the way they call the listener to attention or sneak up on them; the sonority, texture, and dynamics of these beginnings; their directness or guile, wit, or humor; their occasional iconoclasm. Beginnings can form structural units (or not). Beginnings can be iterative; they can begin in the middle of things; they can pay their respects or thumb their noses or linger in contemplation. They can issue a challenge or wander into aimlessness. I discuss slow introductions, overtures, and themes for variations as beginnings. I consider where a beginning ends; how a multi-work opus begins; beginnings with words; storehouse beginnings; beginnings as endings; beginnings before the beginning; and how beginnings look in the autograph manuscripts.

Setting the context for Beethoven's work, I have also closely analyzed beginnings in the compositions of Haydn and Mozart. Other composers considered include C. P. E Bach, Boccherini, Carl Czerny, Dittersdorf, Dussek, Eberl, Hofmann, Clementi, Pleyel, Reichardt, Schulz, Spohr, Carl Stamitz, Vanhal, Viotti, Anton Wranitzky, and Paul Wranitzky.

Chapter One establishes in musical and rhetorical theory how a beginning works; it also surveys the findings from neuroscience as to how a beginning is received by our brains. These topics are vital to setting the scene for the rest of the book. In Chapters Two through Seven, the book is arranged by category, so that all the different types of beginning may be understood, and the strategies of Beethoven may be compared side by side with those of Haydn, Mozart, and the other composers, enabling consideration of issues of originality, emulation, influence, competition, and cross-fertilization, as well as the overall compositional approach to beginnings in the musical style of the Classic era.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Introduction
  • Jeremy Yudkin
  • Book: From Silence to SoundBeethoven s Beginnings</I>
  • Online publication: 27 March 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787446885.002
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  • Introduction
  • Jeremy Yudkin
  • Book: From Silence to SoundBeethoven s Beginnings</I>
  • Online publication: 27 March 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787446885.002
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Jeremy Yudkin
  • Book: From Silence to SoundBeethoven s Beginnings</I>
  • Online publication: 27 March 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787446885.002
Available formats
×