Analysis of Haydn’s Piano Sonata in E Flat

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Sonata in E Flat major, Hob XVI/49, can be said to embody both the Viennese keyboard style and many of the musical ideas that Haydn gathered in the cosmopolitan capital of England. Written in 1789, it is one of his last piano sonatas and is quite representative of works composed in his late period. Most importantly, Haydn’s mastery of the standard sonata form was unquestioned in this sonata and it provides a template by which to judge divergence and innovation. The development section in the first movement in this particular sonata begins at bar 65 and ends at beat 3 of bar 131.

It serves as a contrasting and linking section that connects the exposition to the recapitulation though the transformation and juxtaposition of motives, with the harmony going through distant keys. This essay will attempt to analyse bar 65 to bar 131 of the first movement of Haydn’s Piano Sonata in E Flat, Hob XVI/49 in three aspects, namely motives, harmony and scoring and pianistic writing. Motives The development section acts as a segment in the sonata to develop motives.

Through different techniques such as sequences, augmentation, diminution, fragmentation and repetition, original motives presented in the exposition are being transformed and altered. In this case, bars 1 to 2, which is the start of the first subject would be labelled as motive A and bars 12 to 13, which is the beginning of the transition would be considered as motive B. Motive C would be located at bars 24 to 25, where the 2nd subject begins, and motive D (which is reminiscent of the “fate” motive used by Beethoven) is located at bars 53 to 54.

Bars 53 to 54 and bar 60 would be considered as motive E and F respectively. Haydn manipulates those motives craftily to develop this section extensively. For example, at the very first bar of the development (b. 65), the diatonic similar motion scalar patterns are being introduced in descending direction instead of the ascending direction and shifted an octave below. A few bars later (b. 68), we can in fact see the rhythmic motive of E (which consists of notes in a stagnant line) appearing in the lower voice of the R. H.

The motive is undergo sequences in the contrapuntal texture and this rhythmic motive then returns two more times before going to the upper voice at bar 73. In bar 80, Haydn reuses the motive from 2nd subject. However, the motive here is being filled with different notes, giving it a tonality of C minor. Haydn also cleverly merges two separate motives to form a complete phrase at bars 84 to 86. The first half of the phrase is likely to origin from the running semiquaver passages at motive C, except that in this case, the passage is inversed.

The second half of the phrase apparently comes from motive D with the lively 4-note figure appearing in beat 2 and 3 of bar 87. This combination adds a new dimension to the motives which attracts and sustains the listener’s attention. This merged motive is repeated as phrases in the following bars until bar 98. From bars 84 to 98, one can see that each time the 4-note figure appears, it is transposed and this small transformation creates the anticipation of the next passage. At bar 96, the motive E (“fate” motive) reappears and it signals the small conclusion (starting at bar 100) to the thematic development that occurred in bars 84 to 96.

Motive E is given importance in bars 100 to 102 as it is the link between the previous and the later passage. Later in bars 105 to 107, E again appears in the L. H. with thirds and sixths. Haydn have intentionally placed it then to show the significance of the motive as the R. H. is having single note runs and therefore the motive would be very obvious to the listener. The extensive use of motive E in the last few bars of the development (bars 108 to 131) seem to suggest that Haydn views this motive as the most important motive in the development if not the first movement of this sonata.

He constantly repeats the 4-note motive, each time with different notes and different intervals between the notes. This can be seen from bars 108 to 124. To build up even more tension, the legato motive A in the R. H. is juxtaposed with the detached, rhythmically driven motive E in the L. H. These two superimposed motives create contrast and unfamiliarity and thus heighten the anticipation to allow a flowing entry of the recapitulation. He constantly highlights the use of motive by attaching various functions to this motive.

For example, although the harmony goes through several tonicisations and modulations, the 4-note rhythmic motive still remains present. Because of the above examples, we can see that Haydn is indeed a master at transforming motives through compositional techniques such as repetition, sequences and fragmentation. His ability to reuse thematic material and create interest and variety for those reappearances of them is unrivalled. Harmony The development uses secondary dominants extensively with some chromatic harmony to allow the tonality to go to different keys.

Continuing from the home key of the sonata which is Bb major at the end of the exposition, the development begins with a Bb major tonality, the dominant relation to the tonic Eb. The three voice contrapuntal texture begins at bar 66, resulting in tonicisation to various related keys through the use of suspensions and sequences. After going through the cycle of fifths, the tonal centre stabilises at C. From bar 80, Haydn manages to increase the harmonic rhythm to once every bar as compared to the exposition’s slower harmonic rhythm typically found in Classical period pieces.

Here, the composer stabilises the new tonal centre of C by extending the C motive and always visiting the dominant of C minor (which is G major) back to C minor, which is the supertonic of the home key Bb Major. From bars 84 to 85, Haydn highlighted the melodic minor run down with the flattened 6th and 7th notes. Hence, this implies a C minor tonality. In bar 87, Haydn playfully replaces the C note listeners would be expecting with a Db, thwarting listeners’ expectations and serve as a modulation to Ab major. He again manipulates the tonality towards the parallel minor of Ab major, F minor through secondary dominants.

In bars 94 to 95, Gb also serves as a secondary dominant to modulate into Db major. From bars 96 to 100, Db major tonality is being reinforced by alternating between I – V every bar and the great polarity between them further confirms the temporary key Db major before it goes to C minor. The harmony in this section sometime serves to delineate the motives. The motives, though presented and manipulated extensively, are not mixed to the extent where they are undistinguishable from one another. The harmony provides separation between motives and also often creates anticipation for the sudden changes in register, timber etc.

For example, at the end of bar 79, where motive C is about to take over motive F, the tonality modulates from Eb major to C minor, signalling the change in motive. Also, an example to illustrate how harmony creates anticipation for sudden changes would be in bar 100, the chromatic diminish progression (Db – C – B? – Bb) in the bass line creates the anticipation for the timbre change in bar 103, where the previously alberti bass in the L. H. changes to the inverted alberti bass in the R. H. This sudden change of timbre is signalled by the increasing instability of the bass line, brought about by this chromatic diminish bass line.

In addition, harmony also serves another important function towards the end of the development – it creates anticipation for the returning of the recapitulation. One can see that Haydn utilizes chromatic chords and applied chords to bring about controlled dissonance in his chord progressions, particularly towards the end of the development. This is so that the harmony will generate tension and hence bring about anticipation. For example in bars 117 to 121, various notes are flattened to create dissonant harmony that generates tension which causes listeners to anticipate its resolution towards the last bar of the development.

Scoring and pianistic writing Haydn had composed this piece in 1789 which was already the mid classical period. Therefore, clavichord or fortepiano was very likely to be instrument he intended this sonata to be performed on. Back then, the pianoforte was unable to sustain notes and remain audible for a long duration as compared the modern piano. Also, this sonata is one of the last sonatas Haydn wrote for piano and they contain many elements of pianistic writing that he had acquired in London. Harmony and register complements each other in pianistic writing.

When both changes at the same time, it amplifies the contrast the composer intends to achieve. For example in bar 110, the harmony has a V – I progression which is of opposite polarity in terms of tonality. One would expect the resolution or rather the tonic to be in the same register as the cadential chord. However, Haydn shifts the resolution two octaves down the keyboard to amplify the contrast between the cadential chord and the resolution. Also, the variations in register, which is a characteristic of pianistic writing, create points of interests for the listener.

As the fortepiano is not able to sustain notes for a long duration, the motives and themes may seem boring and uninteresting after a while. Shifts in register can compensate by constantly attracting the listeners’ attention to details and hence keep their interest in the music. For example in bars 95, the shift from the lower F to the higher F in the R. H. grabs the listeners’ attention and keeps them listening. Another part of the development which demonstrates Haydn’s pianistic writing would be the cadenza at bar 131, which is used to showcase the pianist’s virtuosic capabilities.

The scalic and chromatic passage is intended for the performer to showcase his virtuosic skills. These elements of pianistic writing are present in the development section of this movement. In conclusion, various techniques such as such as repetition, sequences and fragmentation are being employed to develop motives while the harmony delineate the motives and creates the anticipation for sudden changes in the register or timbre. The pianistic writing and scoring of this development section further attracts the listeners’ attention and causes listeners to anticipate the return of the recapitulation.

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