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Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: pianoloverus] #2662805
07/20/17 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Mark_C
P.S. about Op. 26:

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Where, for example, do you find humor in.....Op. 26?

If nowhere else, do you not think the ending of the piece is humorous?
No. If I remember correctly Beethoven uses a similar approach in the last movements of Op. 31 No.2 and Op. 10 No.3. Just kind of a trailing off ending.

Your humor thesis reminds me of the chess grandmaster/psychiatrist Reuben Fine's claim that Bobby Fischer had, for some psychological reason, a problem with moves near the edge of the board. When someone pointed out a Fischer error on a move in the center of the board Fine said something to the effect that this was just the inverse of a move on the edge.


Thankfully this isn't a thread based on the errors of Beethoven. I'm rather grateful someone else sees humor in unsuspected places. I vaguely remember Andras Schiff doing an interview with Pianist magazine on performing the cycle of Beethoven Sonatas, and saying something to the effect of if the audience doesn't laugh out loud he didn't feel he was doing his job right.

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Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: MikeN] #2662825
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Originally Posted by MikeN
....I vaguely remember Andras Schiff doing an interview with Pianist magazine on performing the cycle of Beethoven Sonatas, and saying something to the effect of if the audience doesn't laugh out loud he didn't feel he was doing his job right.

Presumably this wouldn't qualify, though:
(music starts at 0:38, but the intro is worth hearing too) grin


Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Mark_C] #2662880
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Ugh, I know this clip. Let's have a listen though...Oh no, it's more ridiculous than I remember. crazy grin

Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Mark_C] #2662892
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I don't know if I know these well enough to rank them, but I have always enjoyed the humor in the Op 10 no. 3 rondo. That's pretty jokey.

The Pastoral isn't jokey throughout, but there's one fantastic joke right before movement I's recap, where after a lovely long excursion into F# major with generous diminuendo and long pedal, the closing theme busts right in in B major for two measures, then a long rest, then it comes in in a more chastened manner in B minor, then back to D major for recap. It reminds me of a loud child suddenly bursting into a room where others are having a quiet moment, stops, apologizes, and then says whatever she was going to say at a quieter volume.

In the Pastoral's rondo, there is a place near the end where the theme comes in in G major and pp with some staccato chords in the RH. I do not know why, but this spot always makes me want to giggle. I don't even get the joke if there is one. But I giggle. I know it isn't just me because I played the rondo for a 6-year-old student and that is the place she giggled.

Last edited by hreichgott; 07/20/17 09:02 PM.

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Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Mark_C] #2662893
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PS My wonderful former teacher Cassandra Carr wrote her doctoral dissertation on humor in Beethoven's sonatas
https://www.researchgate.net/public...tic_force_in_the_Beethoven_piano_sonatas


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Working on:
Cabaret (whole show)
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Verdi: Stabat Mater
Copland: Appalachian Spring
Tangos and other fun music for piano duo

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music
Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Mark_C] #2662908
07/20/17 10:42 PM
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Regarding the Op 28 (Pastorale) mentioned above, Tovey is interesting:

The first theme of the Rondo is the only feature of this Sonata which Beethoven would have thought definitely pastoral; the cadence-subject of the first movement is a dance-theme that can be viewed in that light, both these features have their beautiful functions in a work that is full of elaborate beauty in its various phases of meditation, humour, melancholy, and wit- all intensely poetical, but, on the whole, about as pastorale as Jane Austen.

laugh

We sometimes read (not in Tovey) that the staccato bass in the 2nd movement is a sly imitation of Maelzel's newly minted metronome, though as Beethoven's sonata pre-dates 1816 by some years, that can be put to rest.


Jason
Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: hreichgott] #2662914
07/20/17 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
I don't know if I know these well enough to rank them, but I have always enjoyed the humor in the Op 10 no. 3 rondo. That's pretty jokey.

The Pastoral isn't jokey throughout, but there's one fantastic joke right before movement I's recap, where after a lovely long excursion into F# major with generous diminuendo and long pedal, the closing theme busts right in in B major for two measures, then a long rest, then it comes in in a more chastened manner in B minor, then back to D major for recap. It reminds me of a loud child suddenly bursting into a room where others are having a quiet moment, stops, apologizes, and then says whatever she was going to say at a quieter volume.

In the Pastoral's rondo, there is a place near the end where the theme comes in in G major and pp with some staccato chords in the RH. I do not know why, but this spot always makes me want to giggle. I don't even get the joke if there is one. But I giggle. I know it isn't just me because I played the rondo for a 6-year-old student and that is the place she giggled.

Love it, Heather!!
Great job!!

I know both of those sonatas very well, and you really nailed it with them.
Op. 10 #3 was one of the first Beethoven sonatas I came to know because it's on an old Horowitz LP which was one of the first LP's I had, and I didn't have many, so I listened to it dozens of times.
I mentioned that Op. 26 was the first Beethoven sonata I learned; Op. 28 was the second. You did such a great breakdown of its humor that I gotta believe you've worked closely on it too. I'm marveling at how you described it!

I said before that I'm not necessarily talking about belly laughs in this thread, just humor. I'd say that most of the humor in the Pastorale is "just humor," but when we get to the G major part that you talked about, near the end of the last movement, that's belly laugh material, if just briefly -- and, isn't it brilliant how he suddenly but not jarringly flips the mood back to 'serious' with that diminished chord? (the chord with the G# in the bass)

BTW, I think I can say where's "the joke" in that part: The 'after-beat' chords in the right hand, if done well, are kind of silly. smile
Why?? That's harder to specify. Part of it is that they come from nowhere and that they totally disrupt the rhythm, pattern, and feel that had been so strongly established. (Y'know, maybe that's the whole explanation.) grin

===============

Great also to see that a teacher of yours actually wrote an article on humor in Beethoven!! Thanks for the link. I'm eager to read it.

Thanks also to Argerichfan for that quote from Tovey!

(So, turns out we're not the first to be talking about humor in Beethoven. To tell the truth I feel more disappointed than affirmed.) ha

Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: hreichgott] #2662916
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
I don't know if I know these well enough to rank them, but I have always enjoyed the humor in the Op 10 no. 3 rondo. That's pretty jokey.

Indeed, no question. Musical Q&A ("Where's Charlie?") along with other stuff.

Then there's the third movement trio as well. I think you could also claim that the first movement has comedic qualities of a kind that would have pleased Ben Johnson: The pervasive rhythmic playfulness and cross-barline riffing rolls into the supercharged energy of the movement with awesome cogency. The serious message of the movement depends upon this superficially playful rhythmic device. But as with great poetry, the meaning is somewhere way deeper, as anyone who has learned the piece will attest.


SRF
Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: hreichgott] #2662927
07/21/17 12:21 AM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
PS My wonderful former teacher Cassandra Carr wrote her doctoral dissertation on humor in Beethoven's sonatas
https://www.researchgate.net/public...tic_force_in_the_Beethoven_piano_sonatas

Would it be possible for you to copy/paste the whole text of the article?
(Maybe in a thread of its own, if you think it would be out-of-place on here?)

I'm only able to see the title and abstract. I tried registering on that site, to be able to see the whole thing, but you need to be a researcher, and they didn't 'accept' me as a member, stellar credentials notwithstanding. grin

Meanwhile, I'll post right here the parts that I'm able to see. Interestingly (and gratifyingly), her take has a lot of overlap with what I've said, although of course she says it more knowledgeably and eruditely. I hope I will indeed have the chance to see the whole article, including because I'd love to post a list of the Beethoven sonatas that she mentions as containing humor!


Wit and humor as a dramatic force in the Beethoven piano sonatas

Cassandra Irene Carr


Abstract

Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 1985

This study examines the piano sonatas of Beethoven, seeking not just to identify the musical figures, rhythms, dynamics and harmonic movement which constitute Beethoven's vocabulary of musical humor, but more importantly, to evaluate the ways in which these devices are used to further the dramatic power of the individual works. The clear evidence is that Beethoven's youthful sense of musical humor manifested itself in rather blatant gestural humor. Deliberately simple-minded exaggeration, abrupt pauses, and/or sforzandi, structurally unsound phrase extensions, and overdone pathos abound in the early sonatas. Sometimes these outbursts of humor/parody/wit are placed so as to undercut any serious drama that may have evolved; often, the explosions of humor occur in such abundance that the result is a comedy-sonata with brief moments of seriousness. Formal aspects of the Sonata-Allegro procedure are not often used as vehicles for wit, however, with the one exception of the preparation for the recapitulation.In his mature works of the so-called Middle Period, many of the same devices of musical humor continue to be used. With few exceptions, though, Beethoven's extensive vocabulary of humor is used with a far more delicate touch. Fewer works that can be called comic are found; the areas of broad humor are increasingly placed so as to increase rather than undercut the serious nature of the overall work, assuming more and more the qualities of comic relief in great tragedy. Much humor here may be called ironic. Beethoven's late sonatas suggest an ostensible return to the early concept of long stretches of low, not to say rude humor. But the meaning of the humor has shifted from those early works, largely due to the structure and style of the Beethoven Sonata idea having evolved to a very different level, altering irrevocably the meaning of the humor. In many of these late sonatas, low humor is perceived as grotesque humor largely because it is juxtaposed with material of a distinctly other-worldly quality; musical ideas of a transcendent nature are subjected to raucous and vulgar transformations, revealing a much-heightened complexity of dramatic conception.

Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Mark_C] #2663285
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Um, it was her doctoral dissertation from before everything was computerized, so it's book-length and in paper format. You might have to go to a library and request it through interlibrary loan? I'm not sure if there actually is an electronic copy on that site (or if she ever made an electronic copy.)

Last edited by hreichgott; 07/22/17 04:12 PM.

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Working on:
Cabaret (whole show)
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Verdi: Stabat Mater
Copland: Appalachian Spring
Tangos and other fun music for piano duo

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music
Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: hreichgott] #2663323
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Would it be possible for you to copy/paste the whole text....

Originally Posted by hreichgott
.....it's book-length....

Well in that case..... grin

Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Mark_C] #2663325
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Some of his funniest works are in his bagatelles, but always at someone else's expense.


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Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Mark_C] #2663326
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He likes to make jokes at other peoples composing styles.


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Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Ralph] #2663327
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Originally Posted by Ralph
He likes to make jokes at other peoples composing styles.

Can you say, like whose?

Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Mark_C] #2663381
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by Julian_
(Used to post as SlatterFan)

.....and is now seen here far too rarely! smile

(Thanks for the sig; I wouldn't have remembered exactly 'who' you were. I did remember you were a great old member that I've been missing.)

That means a great deal to me; thank you!

Originally Posted by Mark_C
I hope indeed that I haven't ruined too many Beethoven sonatas for you. grin

On the contrary, you have encouraged me to get to know them better. I have a confession to make about Beethoven's sonatas... Today, for the first time in my life (as far as I remember), I listened to the whole of op 106 (Hammerklavier). shocked

A long time ago I read about how profound the Beethoven's last five sonatas were, and how it takes a lot of maturity to appreciate them (or similar), so I decided to save them for later and the years few by (except for op 109, which I already knew from listening to a Kovacevich recording many times). Obviously, I can't and won't pretend to understand op. 106 too well after hearing it just once... but to my surprise I found fair bit of it funny, and here is the thread to confess the details!

If I had to give the first movement of op 106 a caption/synopsis, it would be, "Ludwig tries to contain his larger-than-life enthusiasm and energy, but fails". I don't know why, but I suddenly remembered a scene from the (original) movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, where one unfortunate man keeps having a drink chucked in his face no matter where he stands in the room. And in the Scherzo, after that scale runs up the whole keyboard, what's with the sudden tremolo? It seems superfluous to me, which is part of why I find it funny. It's as though Beethoven is teasing himself for overusing the device of a sudden diminished seventh harmony before a new section, and is hoping we'll find it funny, too. And in the last movement, I find the trills funny. The bassline ones tend to ratchet up the tension, I don't mean those, but many of the other ones. Like an imp or fairy buzzing in at regular intervals, reminding us not to take things too seriously. And then after the fairy goes a bit nuts (mm. 243-246) ha , the following chorale seems so sober and poignant in comparison. And the trills, clunkily off-rhythm, bring the sonata to its final cadence, "proving" their importance beyond a mere decoration in a fugal theme; perhaps more goofy than funny.

Off-the-cuff theory: if Beethoven was someone who often hid his pain behind coarse humor, it could explain why there is quite a lot of humor in his works if one looks for it, but how not much of it seems conventionally funny.


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Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Julian_] #2663473
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Originally Posted by Julian_
.....I listened to the whole of op 106....to my surprise I found fair bit of it funny, and here is the thread to confess the details!

If I had to give the first movement of op 106 a caption/synopsis, it would be, "Ludwig tries to contain his larger-than-life enthusiasm and energy, but fails". I don't know why, but I suddenly remembered a scene from the (original) movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, where one unfortunate man keeps having a drink chucked in his face no matter where he stands in the room. And in the Scherzo, after that scale runs up the whole keyboard, what's with the sudden tremolo? It seems superfluous to me, which is part of why I find it funny. It's as though Beethoven is teasing himself for overusing the device of a sudden diminished seventh harmony before a new section, and is hoping we'll find it funny, too. And in the last movement, I find the trills funny. The bassline ones tend to ratchet up the tension, I don't mean those, but many of the other ones. Like an imp or fairy buzzing in at regular intervals, reminding us not to take things too seriously. And then after the fairy goes a bit nuts (mm. 243-246) ha , the following chorale seems so sober and poignant in comparison. And the trills, clunkily off-rhythm, bring the sonata to its final cadence, "proving" their importance beyond a mere decoration in a fugal theme; perhaps more goofy than funny.....

Nice!!


I'd leave it to Julian to decide where the Hammerklavier might slot in on the 'ranking' list.
Although it doesn't seem anyone but me felt any need for a ranking list. grin

Quote
Off-the-cuff theory: if Beethoven was someone who often hid his pain behind coarse humor, it could explain why there is quite a lot of humor in his works if one looks for it, but how not much of it seems conventionally funny.

Sounds pretty good to me!

I sometimes think that I find such examples in wide varieties of things, not just music. Often they're examples that it seems to me were personal "in jokes" with a basis in some painful experience, that the writer figured few people would get, and he didn't care; he was doing it mainly for himself.

Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: tedrp] #2663507
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Originally Posted by tedrp
The scherzo in Opus 31 No. 3. At several points (ritards) sounds like a mechanical clock or metronome about to expire. Thought it was quite funny the very first time I heard this and still think so.

Agree. This is the only sonata movement that actually makes me laugh.
But the funniest piece ever IMO is the Bagatelle op. 33 #7.

Mark_C: should the 15th entry read A major op. 101? What's humorous in that sonata?
(I can think of one moment, near the end, where it makes like the fugue is going to be reprised, but then it gently backs off.)

Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Ferdinand] #2663513
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Originally Posted by Ferdinand
Mark_C: should the 15th entry read A major op. 101?

Yeah, sorry! (And thank you!!)
I was fooled by the first chord. ha

Quote
What's humorous in that sonata?
(I can think of one moment, near the end, where it makes like the fugue is going to be reprised, but then it gently backs off.)

I think that's gently smiley, but other places in the movement are more loudly humorous. Don't remember how many such places there are, that I'm thinking of -- certainly the ending (the last several measures), and at least one part in the middle where we get the sudden unison octaves; I think there may be one or two other parts with sudden fortissimo chords that strike me this way.

Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Mark_C] #2663762
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Put me on the list of people who have inched closer to playing Beethoven from having discovered the "Wit and humor as a dramatic force", and finding myself drawn to his amazing mix of drama and relief moments. Something that goes together with Shakespeare, maybe also Verdi - not so much in the style as in the underlying breadth of feeling.

I was totally intimidated by Beethoven when I was younger, and was amazed to discover something like the andante movement of op 14 / no. 2 , which has all kinds of smile moments in it, even before you get to the joke at the end.

I have a few parts of sonatas learned, more "in progress". I am sure that just the parts I can reasonably dream of tackling will last me the rest of my life.

Inspired by a comment from Heather Reichgott (thank you!) several months ago, I just bought the Schirmer book of "Beethoven's Keyboard Essentials", and I'm diving into the 6 Bagatelles (op 126) - which feel like a conversation - general theme goes along, well behaved.....and then all of a sudden there is a wink/one liner from the master. You start to giggle, but by then he's put his straight face back on, and you try to get serious again - and then he hits you with another one-liner.

I hadn't been thinking of the music in these terms, but reading the great ideas in this discussion has changed that.


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Re: 'Funny how'? :-) Ranking Beethoven's sonatas on humor [Re: Medved1] #2663935
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Originally Posted by Medved1
I'm diving into the 6 Bagatelles (op 126) - which feel like a conversation

Aren't they amazing?? Profound, or lyrical, or comic, or maybe a bit of all of the above. So glad you love them too.

BTW (to Mark also) I am indeed thinking a lot about Op. 126 and also Op. 28 because they're part of a Haydn/Beethoven program I'll be performing at least once and hopefully a few more times around MA next season.


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Working on:
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Tangos and other fun music for piano duo

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