Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Rite of "Spring Sonata"

We interrupt the "12 Musings of Christmas" with this special musicological news bulletin. (It is Beethoven's birthday, after all.)

When you break a story (as I did three years ago) about how Stravinsky's famous Rite of Spring chords were originally sketched by Beethoven for possible use in his "Eroica" Symphony, a few things happen. First, people warily avoid any mention of the scoop because the truth frightens people; the musical world just goes about its business as if nothing had happened. But also, as I've learned, sometimes strange men with hybrid German/Russian accents approach you in the back of libraries to whisper secrets that dare not be uttered in the light of day. So it is that I was recently presented with more Beethoven sketches (too fragile to be photographed as of yet) that prove Beethoven had also imagined using these same famous chords in what would come to be known as as his "Spring" Sonata.

It's always been a bit of a mystery as to how this sonata got its name, but these sketches make it pretty clear that Beethoven had something much darker in mind before he took a left turn (opposite of rite) and published one of the sunnier sonatas in the repertoire. The music is still being painstakingly reconstructed from the sketchy sketches, but here's a sampling of what Beethoven might've had in mind, if he'd truly had the spirit of a revolutionary....OK, wait, I gotta admit, this is one of my least successful experiments ever. I thought the idea of a Rite of "Spring Sonata" seemed clever enough, and these fairly distinctive repeated chords in the Beethoven seemed to be the rite place for Stravinsky's famous chords to intrude:

...and it could probably work if enough work was put into it, but I'm gonna step aside here and leave this as is.

[UPDATE: Looking at it again the next day, I realize it would've made more "musical" sense to start Stravinsky's chords in that third measure, right after the sfp. Those actually look like the "rite" chords. Maybe later...]

...and done!

...and, there's more [Updated 12/17]:

I'll just exit by affirming that I've had better luck with these chords in the past:

The Reich of Spring

and maybe even here...

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