The Beauty of Mozart and the Sublimity of Beethoven
The Beauty of Mozart:
The delicate and organized nature of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is a reflection of the work’s beauty. The first movement has the textbook format of a sonato-allergo form, thus allowing the timing of the piece to be simplified down to calculations utilizing the repetition of the first and second theme. The development is short and the fight between tonic and dominant keys is chaotic and unstructured; Mozart quickly returns to the balanced structure found in the first and second theme for the recapitulation. The coda returns to the light-hearted and cheery tones found at the start of the movement. The precise structure mixed with the detailed nature of the first movement adds to the refinement of the piece. The piece is beautiful both upon hearing and upon analyzing. The movement as whole is brief and busy paired with an overwhelming feeling of gaiety. It is a bright and happy piece that is both charming to the ear and remnant of audible mirth. The movement becomes beautiful through its balance of intricate layering and liveliness.
The second movement offers a softer, more refined melody, a result of its slower tempo and serenade structure. This in combination with the brief timing of the piece constructs an intimately beautiful and elegant second piece. The tone of the movement is so delicate it could best be described through touch: the piece is the auditory equivalent of a flower petal. It has that same gentle and soft feel on a material so fragile it could be torn with a mistaken jerk of hand. In this delicacy the movement reflects a fading and postured beauty.
The construction of the third movement builds into a rhythmical cadence as dictated by its menuetto allegretto tempo. This piece being more lyrical in nature settles into a charming melody. The slurring of the notes by the strings creates a soothing and pleasing sound for the listener. The subtleness of the breaks smooths the piece as a whole creating a beautiful and gratifying effect. The artful construction of the third movement adds an enchanting element to the beauty of the symphony.
In the fourth movement Mozart returns to the distinct structure of the sonata-rondo form, continuing with the exposition, development, recapitulation, and coda found also in the sonata-allegro form. The tonal exposition features the first theme played in the home key, tonic, which is then followed by the first and second themes being played in an alternate key, dominant. The use of the tone allows the first theme to be played in a cheery fast-paced manner, emanating that feeling of levity found at the start of the symphony. The contrasting shift to the alternate key softens the sound of the second theme and the first theme is repeated. The development is a brief, chaotic struggle between keys. The tonic key emerges at the end of the development. The tonic key is solely used for the themes of the recapitulation, in the theme one, theme two, theme one order found at the start of the movement. The light and busy fever of the exposition returns in the coda. The movement draws the symphony to a close beautifully in refined and ornamented manner. This last movement returns to the uplifting and fleeting tones found in the first movement. This provides a sense of closure as the symphony remains both charming and beautiful throughout its movements.
Mozart’s rapid rise in popularity during his life may have contributed to the audible beauty found throughout his symphony. Mozart, having been labeled a child prodigy at the age of four, and the special attention that he received may have contributed to the amount of education and refinement in his works. There is a superficial beauty among his symphonies; they are delicate, but they are not passionate. Each movement is structured into a mathematical layout, his works were not driven by emotion but rather by extravagant adornment. This structured format resulting in a consistent baseline throughout his movements which is then overlaid by detailing. A truly emotional piece would not subside to reasoning. Mozart quickly diminishes any sense of chaos or uneasiness throughout his pieces as seen by the briefness of his developments and codas. These are times in each movement that lack structure and repetition; a development is an audible fight between tonic and dominant where one is attempting to over power the other. This is a messy period which contains multiple attempts to find the key that will be played in for the remainder of the piece. This lack of reasoning deferrers Mozart from a lengthy development. The constant need for structure results in the audibly pleasing and charming sounds found in Mozart’s works. These superficial pieces are lively, sensational, intimate, detailed and artful allowing them to best be described as beautiful in a Kantian sense.
The Sublimity of Beethoven:
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is one of his most notable works, combining passion with disdain to move a person towards the sublime. The first movement is opened by four disquieting notes which are then offset by the lighter tone that follows. This lighter melody carries the listener back to those four opening notes played with less grandeur. There is an increase of tension as the first theme builds in anticipation of a horn solo. The movement as a whole loosely follows the sonata-allergo format; this first theme will be followed by a second theme, both of which are repeated in the exposition. The second theme has the same nobility as the first but without the magnificence; this theme is drawn out with gradual shifts and quiet stillness. The listener is moved to dread in the first theme and sullenness in the second. The emotional strain of the piece forces the listener to feel the movement rather than listen to it.
The second movement opens with a dramatic shift away from the astonishment of the movement prior. There is a noticeable stillness in these opening notes for the subtle building of suspense. Beethoven courageously moves away from this drawn out quietness in sudden responses to the strings by the woodwinds of the first theme. These shifts reoccur throughout the movement building to crescendos then abandoning them in loneliness. These vast juxtapositions are an uncomfortable mix of simplicity and greatness connected only through emotional undertones. This inconsistency is sublime in nature, calling upon the listener to be moved by the passionate expression of the piece. As the movement plays on the piece become progressively more active with variations in the tempo. The tempo realigns with that of the opening theme as the coda builds to a crescendo encompassing the full orchestra.
The third movement of the piece starts off quiet breaking into the faster paced scherzo and trio form. The music alludes to contemplation as the orchestra builds repeatedly finally reaching a full crescendo. The culminations create a feeling of almost tangible passion full of emotion and disbelief. After the climax the piece returns to the hesitation and stillness found at the start of the movement. In a series of gradual additions as the piece builds one last time, nobly forging its way to the fourth movement.
The final movement opens with the same strong sense of grandeur found at the start of the symphony. The first melody of this movement carries this same greatness through a optimistic march-like composition. The piece forwards with an forceful and audacious stride upon the inclusion of nearly the entire orchestra. Upon the third theme the melody shifts into the lightly played stillness emanating from the upper strings. From the strings, the woodwinds are added into the expression of the fourth theme. Once repeated the exposition gives way to the development, a series of ascensions by the flutes. These ascensions build to the level of grandeur initially heard in theme one, thus starts the recapitulation. This repetition of the four themes transitions directly into the coda. The coda evokes an emotion of familiarity and friendship as it subtly deviates from the pervious themes. Shifting to a heightened tempo with the full orchestra, the finale is forcefully played in a courageous replication of theme one.
Beethoven’s fifth symphony is an artful reflection of the sublime. Throughout the piece he used both passion and emotion to dictate the cadence. This highly in touch expression of veracity ranges in tempo without thematic repetition. The structures of each movement were altered to convey a feeling rather than a rhythm. In the developments Beethoven embraces the chaotic nature of emotion rather that quickly reverted to the structure of the themes. He need to add transitions in between the themes to add continuity from one theme’s complex to another’s. His adeptness towards the sublime is likely derived from his humble upbringing. Beethoven, not having been exposed to the superficial tendencies of the noble, strayed away from a lavish and adorned lifestyle that was adopted by Mozart. Beethoven’s music was driven by emotion and necessity rather than a desire to maintain an wealthy lifestyle. Beethoven’s life was not beautiful. He combatted poverty, death, and deafness; music became his mode of expression rather than a lifestyle choice. This honesty is sublime in nature, becoming a genuine reflection of virtue.