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Variations on the Canon

Variations on the Canon: Essays on Music from Bach to Boulez in Honor of Charles Rosen on His Eightieth Birthday

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 395
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  • Book Info
    Variations on the Canon
    Book Description:

    Charles Rosen, the pianist and man of letters, is perhaps the single most influential writer on music of the past half-century. While Rosen's vast range as a writer and performer is encyclopedic, it has focused particularly on the living "canonical" repertory extending from Bach to Boulez. Inspired in its liveliness and variety of critical approaches by Charles Rosen's challenging work, Variations on the Canon offers original essays by some of the world's most eminent musical scholars. Contributors address such issues as style and compositional technique, genre, influence and modeling, and reception history; develop insights afforded by close examination of compositional sketches; and consider what language and metaphors might most meaningfully convey insights into music. However diverse the modes of inquiry, each essay sheds new light on the works of those composers posterity has deemed central to the modern Western musical tradition. Contributors: Pierre Boulez, Scott Burnham, Elliott Carter, Robert Curry, Walter Frisch, David Gable, Philip Gossett, Jeffrey Kallberg, Joseph Kerman, Richard Kramer, William Kinderman, Lewis Lockwood, Sir Charles Mackerras, Robert L. Marshall, Robert P. Morgan, Charles Rosen, Julian Rushton, David Schulenberg, László Somfai, Leo Treitler, James Webster, and Robert Winter. Robert Curry is principal of the Conservatorium High School and honorary senior lecturer in the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Sydney; David Gable is Assistant Professor of Music at Clark-Atlanta University; Robert L. Marshall is Louis, Frances, and Jeffrey Sachar Professor Emeritus of Music at Brandeis University.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-754-4
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Robert Curry, David Gable and Robert L. Marshall
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)
    The editors

    Possessing “une culture vraiment intimidante,” as Pierre Boulez remarks in a tribute included in this volume, the pianist and man of letters Charles Rosen is perhaps the single most influential writer on music of the past half century. Rosen’s repertoire ranges from Bach to Boulez, and his immersion in this repertoire as a pianist informs his writing, contributing to its unique strengths. Rosen’s abiding concerns include the definition of style and the nature of canon formation. He has written widely admired books on the Classical style, sonata form, Beethoven’s piano sonatas, the Romantic generation, Romanticism and realism in nineteenth-century painting,...

  5. Part One: Johann Sebastian Bach

    • Chapter One Fugue and Its Discontents
      (pp. 5-13)
      Joseph Kerman

      Charles tells this story, I think: as Rossini and Meyerbeer are watching the cortège go by at Halévy’s funeral, with Meyerbeer’s funeral march, Rossini says sadly, “How much better if you had died and Halévy had written the funeral march.” Rather than another analysis of another Bach fugue by the present writer, the world would be better off with a reprint of Charles Rosen’s 1997 review ofBach and Patterns of Inventionby Laurence Dreyfus.¹ This long review does more than set down and acknowledge Dreyfus’s accomplishment in a remarkably comprehensive way, given the space that would have been available....

    • Chapter Two Fugues, Form, and Fingering: Sonata Style in Bach’s Preludes and Fugues
      (pp. 14-24)
      David Schulenberg

      The conception of sonata form as expounded by Charles Rosen has proved enormously useful for understanding music of the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.¹ In this view, a sonata movement is a dramatization of fundamental tonal and motivic processes; to analyze sonata form is to uncover the expressive aspirations of a composer, even of an age. Neither a single formal structure nor a simple principle or device, Classical sonata form is central to the personal styles of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Hence it is almost a contradiction in terms to speak of the same form in music of other composers,...

  6. Part Two: Haydn and Mozart

    • Chapter Three Notational Irregularities as Attributes of a New Style: The Case of Haydn’s “Sun” Quartet in F Minor, Op. 20, no. 5
      (pp. 27-38)
      László Somfai

      Musical notation is a most ambiguous way of recording musical intentions. As a form of “shorthand,” it is, after all, rather good. Even centuries later musicians interested in recreating what composers intended to express to their own contemporaries can still make profitable use of it, despite not only changes in instruments but also wholly new social conditions—circumstances that have transformed once contemporary artworks into “period pieces” in the context of a later repertoire. But this shorthand can also be misleading for the modern musician interested in recreating “authenticity” of expression in ways unforeseen by the composer. Unless we are...

    • Chapter Four The Fugal Moment: On a Few Bars in Mozart’s Quintet in C Major, K. 515
      (pp. 39-52)
      Richard Kramer

      “Although the C-major quintet is accepted as one of Mozart’s greatest works, it is not generally recognized as perhaps the most daring of all,” wrote Charles Rosen in a discussion that no one who has since thought about this work can ever put out of mind.¹ I want to pursue Rosen’s claim with some observations about a few notes in the midst of the first movement of the work, where the daring, to my ears, is most deeply felt.

      The passage that I have in mind is a famous one, but identifying the moment at which it begins— testimony no...

  7. Part Three: Beethoven

    • Chapter Five A Tale of Two Quintets: Mozart’s K. 452 and Beethoven’s Opus 16
      (pp. 55-77)
      William Kinderman

      In the repertoire of chamber music for piano with wind instruments, Mozart’s Quintet, K. 452, and Beethoven’s, Opus 16, occupy a special place. Each of these works stems from a time when its creator celebrated signal triumphs as a keyboard virtuoso. Mozart’s quintet dates from the spring of 1784, when he was otherwise occupied with the great series of piano concertos beginning with K. 449 to 451, and this work was originally performed at Vienna in concerts alongside his concertos. Beethoven’s quintet was evidently composed during his only extended concert tour, a journey in 1796 that took him from Vienna...

    • Chapter Six Vestas Feuer: Beethoven on the Path to Leonore
      (pp. 78-99)
      Lewis Lockwood

      Clinging all his life to an improbable dream of operatic success, Beethoven achieved it only once, withFidelioin 1814—the third version of the opera he had originally written asLeonorein 1805 and revised in 1806.¹ All his other dramatic projects remained mirages, though some were vivid, since he was never able to develop any of the operatic subjects that he sought independently or those that were urged on him by his friends and acquaintances. His letters and conversation books contain various references to operatic ideas, some of them matched by brief musical jottings in his sketchbooks.² But...

    • Chapter Seven Sonority and Structure: Observations on Beethoven’s Early and Middle-Period Piano Compositions
      (pp. 100-129)
      Robert L. Marshall

      By the time Beethoven was thirty years old he was already an accomplished composer. By then he had completed, among other things: a symphony, two piano concertos, two cello sonatas, four piano trios, three violin sonatas, and no fewer than a dozen piano sonatas. Most of these are major works, obviously revealing, along with Beethoven’s characteristic boldness of invention and unprecedented power of expression, a thorough—and thoroughly original—mastery of the well established formal and tonal principles governing large-scale instrumental form.¹

      What is striking about this tabulation is the preponderance of compositions for or with the piano. This is...

    • Chapter Eight Recomposing the Grosse Fuge: Beethoven and Opus 134
      (pp. 130-160)
      Robert Winter

      A long-time colleague, who has had the privilege of knowing Charles Rosen as well as I, recalled an occasion some years ago when they were together and the subject of Beethoven’s four-hand arrangement of theGrosse Fuge, Op. 134, came up. Rosen, without pausing to catch a breath, burst out: “But ____, you know that it’s unplayable!”

      Since the artist rendering this judgment plays Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata, Liszt’sReminiscences on Don Juan, Boulez’s Third Sonata, and Carter’sNight Fantasieswith equal aplomb, you are obligated to take the charge seriously. General support for Rosen’s position comes from the utter rarity...

  8. Part Four: The Romantic Generation

    • Chapter Nine Schubert, the Tarantella, and the Quartettsatz, D. 703
      (pp. 163-171)
      Julian Rushton

      Recalling insights from Charles Rosen into reminiscences and connections between works by composers of different generations, I offer here some remarks on an intriguing musical figure that appears at a revelatory point in the first movement of Schubert’s unfinished Quartet in C Minor, universally known as theQuartettsatz.

      The movement stands alone within Schubert’s output, not because it belongs to an incomplete project, but due to purely internal, musical factors. Not many of his first movements are in 6/8 , and fewer still present so remarkable a deformation of sonata form (see table 9 .1 ).¹ The movement conforms to...

    • Chapter Ten On the Scherzando Nocturne
      (pp. 172-184)
      Jeffrey Kallberg

      Edginess infects even the best definitions of the nocturne. Consider as emblematic this description from the authoritativeNew Grove: “Nocturne: a piece suggesting night, usually quiet and meditative in character, but not invariably so.”¹ The verb brims with ambiguity. (Suggesting how? To whom? Why state the matter so tentatively?). The substantive phrase redundantly hedges its claims (“usuallyquiet and meditative . . .but not invariablyso” [my italics]).

      Such squirrelly lexicographical practice rightly encapsulates the diversity of the genre it describes. Where once the history of the genre prior to Chopin strained to admit anyone other than John Field,...

    • Chapter Eleven Chopin’s Modular Forms
      (pp. 185-204)
      Robert P. Morgan

      InThe Romantic Generation, closing the last of three chapters on Chopin, Charles Rosen remarks:

      That is the true paradox of Chopin: he is most original in his use of the most fundamental and traditional technique. That is what made him at the same time the most conservative and the most radical composer of his generation.¹

      Rosen is referring to Chopin’s tendency to transform the traditional idea of musical “line” in order to “demonstrate the intimate relation between line and color in music.”² But his characterization applies equally to many aspects of Chopin’s work, including his conception of form. Near...

  9. Part Five: Italian Opera

    • Chapter Twelve The Hot and the Cold: Verdi Writes to Antonio Somma about Re Lear
      (pp. 207-224)
      Philip Gossett

      It is difficult, even impossible, to demonstrate that something doesn’t exist and never has existed. What if tomorrow we find an elusive source that has escaped detection? So it is with documentation pertaining to Giuseppe Verdi’sRe Lear. Information about the libretto of the projected opera and correspondence concerning its creation has gradually emerged over the past century and now seems relatively complete. As early as 1843, Verdi mentioned the Shakespearean play as a possible operatic subject.¹ In 1845 he brought it to the attention of Francesco Maria Piave.² Toward the end of the decade (probably early in 1849 ),...

  10. Part Six: The Modernist Tradition

    • Chapter Thirteen The Ironic German: Schoenberg and the Serenade, Op. 24
      (pp. 227-246)
      Walter Frisch

      My title comes from a well-known book of 1958 by Erich Heller about Thomas Mann. For Heller, irony is a fundamentalWeltanschauungand narrative strategy in all of Mann’s fiction, from the early family tragedy ofBuddenbrooksto the comic finale ofFelix Krull. Heller defines irony in this context as “a calculated and artistically mastered incongruity between the meaning of the story told and the manner of telling it.”¹ This is probably as good a basic description of literary or linguistic irony as one could find. And,mutatis mutandis, the irony that Heller and other scholars explore in Mann...

    • Chapter Fourteen Words for the Surface: Boulez , Stockhausen, and “Allover” Painting
      (pp. 247-280)
      David Gable

      It is a commonplace to observe that much of the painting of the twentieth century depends on a radically new principle: “that the pictorial illusion takes place on the physical reality of an opaque surface rather than behind the illusion of a transparent plane.”¹ One result of such an approach is “allover” painting, painting the structure of which spreads out with approximately equal weight in all directions across the surface of the picture plane rather than exploiting a framework in depth dependent on perspective. An analogous “allover” structure characterizes much of the music of Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen: Jackson...

  11. Part Seven: Criticism and the Critic

    • Chapter Fifteen Rosen’s Modernist Haydn
      (pp. 283-290)
      James Webster

      Modernism in music emerged roughly between 1890 and 1914, when it was associated primarily with expressionism, the avant-garde, and the rejection of methods of tonal, formal, and rhythmic organization that had long been taken for granted. During the second and third quarters of the twentieth century it enjoyed a dominant position, marked by increasing consolidation of musical techniques (and the necessary accompanying theories) and increasing prestige among critics and scholars. Around 1970 or so, however, new and incompatible trends began to emerge, including a withering away of dogmatic serialism; minimalism, “downtown” style, and non-Western influences; and altogether an increasingly pluralistic...

    • Chapter Sixteen Facile Metaphors, Hidden Gaps, Short Circuits: Should We Adore Adorno?
      (pp. 291-302)
      Leo Treitler

      Europeans began writing down music in the ninth century as an aspect of the powerful orientation toward scriptuality that characterized the Carolingian culture. Whether as a matter of chance coincidence or not (I think not), medieval writingaboutmusic began, as far as we know, in the same century and under the same cultural and political circumstances. To get a sense of what the musically curious and informed thought should and could be described and explained, we can consult the oldest comprehensive—and most widely transmitted—didactic manual about music that has come down to us from the Middle Ages,...

    • Chapter Seventeen The Music of a Classical Style
      (pp. 303-310)
      Scott Burnham

      Memorable criticism merges style and idea. Few writers on music have attained this elusive desideratum to anywhere near the same degree as Charles Rosen. This is why his 1971 bookThe Classical Styleremains among the preeminent accounts of any artistic style in any age. Critical sensibility seems to map onto the subject matter; both seem to speak with the same transparency and the same stylistic authority. Rosen’s prose style is worth drawing out, for its most telling effects are never on parade; it is neither baroque nor purple. Moreover, an appreciation of the poetic ethos of Rosen’s style can...

    • Chapter Eighteen Montaigne hors de son propos
      (pp. 311-318)
      Charles Rosen

      In his “Consideration sur Ciceron” (livre I, chapitre 40 ), Montaigne remarks that when someone dwells on the language, the style, of his essays, “j’aimerois mieus qu’il s’en teust.”¹ It was, above all, the objective content of which he was proud, more material and denser, he says, than in other writers. But, as he observes at once, this matter is not always straightforward:

      Ny elles [mes histoires], ny mes allegations ne servent pas tousjours simplement d’example, d’authorite ou d’ornement. Je ne les regarde pas seulement par l’usage que j’en tire. Elles portent souvant, hors de mon propos, la semance d’une...

  12. Three Tributes

    • Une culture vraiment intimidante
      (pp. 321-321)
      Pierre Boulez

      Charles Rosen possède une culture vraiment intimidante. Non seulement en musique, d’ailleurs. Mais dans le domaine musical, il a écrit des ouvrages qui font date aussi bien sur l’univers contemporain que celui de la musique dite, avec plus ou moins d’exiguïté, de répertoire. Mais justement il la sort de cette notion étriquée de répertoire, de même qu’il extirpe la musique contemporaine d’où l’on veut la confiner pour la replacer dans une perspective plus large et entièrement justifiée. De même que ses qualités d’interprète sont irriguées par l’étendue de ses connaissances et l’acuité de sa réflexion, de même sa vaste culture...

    • Charles Rosen for His Eightieth Birthday
      (pp. 322-323)
      Elliott Carter

      I believe I first met Charles Rosen after the war in 1949 at an ISCM concert in New York, where Aaron Copland introduced us. A few years later I was fascinated by remarks he made at Milton Babbitt’s apartment in New York City. It must have been when I was in Paris around 1951 that the American Consul told me of a performance of my Piano Sonata in Brussels; arriving there I was amazed at how wonderfully in command of my work Charles was, both technically and expressively. This performance was certainly the best I had heard up to that...

    • Charles Rosen: A Personal Appreciation by a Contemporary
      (pp. 324-326)
      Charles Mackerras

      It was some time during the 1970s that I first had the pleasure of meeting Charles Rosen. At the time, we shared the same manager, Basil Douglas, who had been the General Manager of Benjamin Britten’s English Opera Group. Basil had become an agent with quite a short list of a rather specialized kind of artist. When visiting London, many of Basil’s artists used to stay in his beautiful Regency house on Primrose Hill, which is where I met Charles. Charles must have been playing in London while I was making one of my lightning visits from Hamburg, where I...

  13. Appendices

    • Appendix 1: A Discography of the Recordings of Charles Rosen
      (pp. 329-345)
      David Gable
    • Appendix 2: A Bibliography of the Writings of Charles Rosen
      (pp. 346-364)
      Robert Curry
  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 365-368)
  15. Index
    (pp. 369-376)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 377-383)