The First Movement of Beethoven's Sonata Op.31 No.1 Displays Rhetorical Effects Resulting from the Harmonic and Formal Departure from Sonata Form Convention

1500 Words Dec 5th, 2010 6 Pages
This sonata was composed around 1802, a point at which Beethoven experienced the crisis of encroaching deafness. From then on, the composer started to introduce innovative and bold ideas within classical framework in his musical composition to expand the expressiveness of his music. His novel approach was evident in his formal and harmonic arrangement in the first movement of Sonata Op.31 No.1. Distinctive harmonic departure from the classical sonata form convention fills the movement with drama. In classical sonata form convention, tonality is to be established in the first theme with no ambiguity so as to make contrast with the second theme, which is normally set in the dominant. In the first movement of Beethoven’s sonata Op.31 …show more content…
He preserved the harmonic integrity by finally returning to the home key-G major (Fig. G) in the closing section of the second theme (mm.265-275).
Fig. F

Fig. G The return to the home key can be seen as a relief from the “dissonance” produced by the passages of second themes in E major and b minor. Yet, the tonality on G major is not distinctive enough to induce a home-returning emotion in the listeners. Therefore, the composer restated the opening of the first theme in G major and continues with arpeggiando passages (Fig. H) (mm.288-295) establishing the dominant of the home key. The coda (mm.295-324) consists only simple harmonies (Fig. I) of the tonic and dominant seventh, reassuring the listeners the sense of finally returning home.
Fig .H Fig .I Employing remote keys and tonicisation seem not sufficient for the composer to display his ability to expand the expressiveness of his music. Thus, Beethoven employed the technique modal mixture through out the second theme in both exposition and recapitulation. For instance, the second theme in the exposition starts with B major harmony (mm.65-69) (Fig. C). With a descending scale, the second theme swiftly changes to b minor (mm.72-79) (Fig. J). It creates abrupt change in the mood from a sweet dance-like major passage to a stormy minor one. From measure 72, b minor persists throughout the second theme except