June 5, 2010

grundgestalt

A great article by the WSJ about Beethoven piano sonatas reminded me of one of my favorite classes at the U of U in which we spent most of our time analyzing these sonatas. Our teacher's (Bruce Reich) theory of composition was contained in the word grundgestalt, which roughly means "basic shape" and "is a term of Schoenberg, referring to the initial material of a work that is organically developed through the entire work, [and] is often employed in analysis and discussion of Beethoven and earlier Classicists."  (The Wanderer's Way, Christopher Booth) The WSJ article alludes to this when it talks about Beethoven's manipulation of tiny themes.   

It was Claudio Arrau's recordings of these Sonatas that provided the background music during Dave's and my wedding brunch,  and I turn to these pieces frequently for inspiration when my mind is over-crowded.  I almost wish I had pursued the piano so that I could have played them myself.  But there's something in the form of Beethoven's music, his way of taking a little idea, like a seed, and making it grow, and turning it into an exciting journey that always resolves in surprising ways.  It encompasses the whole human experience.

No comments: