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Surely the job of the pianist is to project the musical conception, but in the case of Beethoven Op. 109, from the very first bar it's ambiguous just which one. Or is it crystal clear ?
In the beginning, the accentuation is very light but it exists naturally. But after a few bars, especially bar 4, it is clear where the downbeat is and therefore that it is written with an anacrusis. Some pianists even add a slight pause after the downbeat. The downbeat respond to the upbeat, so if it there wasnt an anacrusis every second beat would be emphasized, which would go against the 2/4 meter. Composers go against the meter but rarely in such a consistent manner. That said at first hearing i dont know how many people would actually recognize it.
I was reminded of Schumann Op. 18 that has similar sixteenth note broken chord figurations and pick-up, and lo and behold, even identical 2/4 time signature. So one might ask, why are we second guessing Beethoven's metre (are we? hehehe), while the metre in Schumann Op. 18 was never in doubt? Could it be that the tonality is secure in the Schumann (first downbeat in the tonic) while it's unstable in the Beethoven (first downbeat in the dominant)?
At any rate, I think a case can be made that you could play the Beethoven exactly as you would the Schumann, i.e. start with a slight ritardando, then ease into the tempo in the first downbeat - and then follow the metre exactly as notated.
So just to crystallize the hypothetical question: "Would you play the original notation and the frameshifted notation differently or exactly the same way?" (see first post)
Differently: Mark_C, Papa D Exactly the same: bennevis, Sidokar, Jun-Dai Undecided: pianoloverus, me
Correct me if I'm wrong of course!
I would play them differently, but the second one (modified) would sound unnatural as the accentuation of the meter would go against the natural flow of the melody and the natural accentuation as written, like in bar 4 where you would have a strong ending on second beat. The music would sound completely different.
In bar 84, it sounds indeed different as there is no upbeat. It is actually a good illustration of the difference created by the upbeat but also because it is written differently. The second beat motive completes the first beat whereas in bars 1-8 the downbeat responds to the previous upbeat.
@cygnusdei — I would play them differently. I mean, it's impossible to know for sure, since I can't really go to the alternate reality where my first encounter with Op. 109 has it starting on the downbeat, but I suspect in that alternate world I would put a lot more emphasis on the first note. I would then likely end up pairing the g# and b (and e and g#, etc.) as a question-and-answer a bit more as a sort of sub-phrasing, and it would sound a lot less in medias res and the larger phrasing would be a bit subtler as I dial up the question and answer motif.
But that's just a guess, I don't know for sure what I would actually end up with, and if I tried it now it would be so coloured by how I understand Op. 109 now that it would not really be a legitimate experiment.
Ok, noted Sidokar and Jun-Dai. I guess Schiff also belongs in the 'exactly the same' column with bennevis by way of his comment about no downbeats/barlines.
In the frameshifted version, regarding the end of the first phrase where it reaches the tonic in the second beat, I see it as an appogiatura of sorts so I see no inconsistency there.
I did not know the Schiff conference and I just listened some parts. Interesting video. There are some observations I agree with and others less. The idea that the mouvement sort of starts in the middle of something is definitely what I feel also. The fact that there is a flowing character, absolutely, and the natural accentuation is very subtle. But in the same time I would not say it is barless. Personally I feel that the flowing is built on an inner pulse and that the meter is quite present, which in a sense gives it a quite unique character. There are plenty of Chopin melodies which would be more "barless" than this one.
Here is for me a barless/measureless piece, first 1.5 minute. It is impossible to put any regular meter in there (sorry about the loaded decor).
I did not know the Schiff conference and I just listened some parts. Interesting video. There are some observations I agree with and others less. The idea that the mouvement sort of starts in the middle of something is definitely what I feel also
Then you heard the part where he said the opening passage could be seen as an embellishment of the finale of the Sonata Op. 79 - with no qualms about the fact that there the theme starts on the downbeat! To me the theme is also reminiscent of the K. 379 finale, which also starts on the downbeat (both examples align with the frameshifted version).
Then you heard the part where he said the opening passage could be seen as an embellishment of the finale of the Sonata Op. 79 - with no qualms about the fact that there the theme starts on the downbeat!
What he is saying is in fact that the harmony of the opening of the opus 109 is the same as the opening theme of opus 79/iii (Schiff did not discovered that, it is known since a long time). Indeed the bar 1-8 of the opus 109 can be considered as a 4 parts choral put in broken form with some add figuration. The opus 79 theme is different though in rythm and in mood, it is a fairly simple little theme.
I like Beethoven Op. 109, but whenever I attempt to learn it I'm always stumbled by the pick-up bar and the resulting metre. If you only listen to performances you wouldn't know that's how it's notated - there are no perceived accents highlighting the descending fourths. In fact the music sounds as if it's notated without a pick-up bar (see below). I don't understand why Beethoven notated the music that way. Did he mean it and it's just that performers don't bother to highlight the true metre?
I think he notated that way so as to land on the surprise of the first chord of the Adagio espressivo section in just the way he wanted it to happen. Playing that opening as simple plain chords, instead of as broken ones with held notes, clarifies what he is up to, I think. The chord sequence is organized in a way that wouldn't work if the piece didn't start on beat 2 of a measure.