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Similarities between Symphony no. 40 and Beethovens 5th

Which of these symphonies do you like better?  

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  1. 1. Which symphony do you like better?

    • Symphony no. 40 by Mozart
      3
    • Symphony no. 5 by Beethoven
      0


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So if you don't know already, here are my 2 favorite all time symphonies:

Beethoven's 5th

Symphony no. 40

And I have noticed some similarities between these 2 symphonies. And it isn't just that they are both in minor keys with flats. There is a lot more to the similarities than that. These 2 symphonies are like cousins, obviously related in some aspects but completely different in others. Here, I will in each category start with Symphony no. 40 and then show how that is similar to Beethoven's 5th.

Motivic Development

So here is the motif from Symphony no. 40:

2049874685_Symphony40motif-1.png.612ed3c15493813bdd693300873d69b9.png

There is Mozart's motif. Now here is the symphony with the motif highlighted:

Symphony no 40 with motif highlights.pdf

As you can see, pretty much all of the first movement is based on that 1 little motif. But it isn't really used anywhere else in Mozart's Symphony no. 40.

Beethoven takes this to the next level with his fifth symphony. Here is the motif:

motif1.png

The very famous Fate Motif. It is probably the most famous motif that exists. It has been used for a long time after Beethoven as either an homage to Beethoven(even I use it this way) or as a parody of Beethoven's 5th. Here is how much Beethoven uses it so that you can see how similar and different it is to Mozart's motif in terms of frequency:

Fate Motif Highlights.pdf

As you can see here, every movement has a significant amount based on the Fate Motif, but especially the first movement and finale. I might have missed some instances of the Fate Motif but most of those were scalar instances where it isn't all that obvious that it is rhythmically based on the Fate Motif.

Dissonance Treatment

This is another similarity between the 2 symphonies. They both have instances where the dissonance is not resolved right away but is instead a rearticulated suspension, building up tension until finally a huge sign of relief as it resolves. Mozart only rearticulates the dissonance a few times. Beethoven rearticulates the dissonance a lot more. Mozart's dissonance also isn't as tense as Beethoven's dissonance even if it is played once.

The Obvious Similarities

They are both in a minor key with flats. Mozart's has fewer flats which leads to less tension. Beethoven's has more flats which leads to more tension. Also, the beginning theme of the Scherzo of Beethoven's 5th is directly taken from Symphony no. 40's second movement. Both begin with what is called a Manhiem rocket. Beethoven's is left unharmonized which is the major difference from Mozart. The orchestra is almost exactly the same but Beethoven added piccolo, trombone, and contrabassoon parts to his finale.

Here are videos of the 2 symphonies:

Are there any similarities that I missed between these 2 symphonies? And does Mozart's motif appear in movements besides the first movement?

PDF

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I see this as a nice brief begin of a bigger analysis.
The analysis is pretty shallow. I suggest you study both pieces and then come up with more notes.

That is a good exercise.

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On 6/2/2019 at 11:56 PM, caters said:

Motivic Development

So here is the motif from Symphony no. 40:

2049874685_Symphony40motif-1.png.612ed3c15493813bdd693300873d69b9.png

Fate Motif Highlights

 

Where do you have that Mozart motif example? It's not at all the notes that are used.

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7 hours ago, bryla said:

Where do you have that Mozart motif example? It's not at all the notes that are used.

 

I got it by searching Symphony no. 40 motif on google images. And I figured that finding the rhythmic motif would be more important. And the fact that it has the same melodic shape as what Mozart actually uses just reinforces that despite it being the wrong notes, it is clearly the motif, rhythmically and melodically, that Mozart uses.

There was another image that showed the motif as it is used in Symphony no. 40 but it was showing like the entire first phrase and I was only needing an image of the motif itself.

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On 6/2/2019 at 4:56 PM, caters said:

 They are both in a minor key with flats. Mozart's has fewer flats which leads to less tension. Beethoven's has more flats which leads to more tension.

I don't think I follow this line of logic. If more flats leads to more tension, then why does Debussy's Claire de lune, with five flats, sound largely tension-free while his Pour le piano, with no flats, sound extremely dissonant? Dissonance and tension are brought about by the relative position of notes with each other, not their absolute position. The chords Bbdim7/C and Ebdim7/F have the same amount of tension even though they're a fifth apart from each other (like G minor and C minor). No key signature is inherently more or less dissonant than another.

True, often one key signature is chosen over another due to its playability by the instruments performing it. (It is far easier, for example, to achieve double and triple stops on string instruments if the open strings can be played, limiting the key to C/G/A/D/E. That's why most violin and cello concerti are in one of those five keys.) Another factor is the range of the instruments. The lowest a violin can play without messing with its tunings is a G below middle C. If your key signature has you needing the violins to play an F below middle C—well, transpose your key up a major second (or—here's a novel thought—give the melody to the violas!).

I say all of this to challenge your statement about the inherent tension in G minor and C minor. Beethoven didn't choose to put his 5th symphony in C minor because it's a 'tense' key. My guess is he was tinkering around on the piano in the key of C minor and happened upon the great fate motif... and the rest is history!

Kudos to you for analyzing these two great symphonies, though! I hope my explanations help.

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1 hour ago, Tónskáld said:

I don't think I follow this line of logic. If more flats leads to more tension, then why does Debussy's Claire de lune, with five flats, sound largely tension-free while his Pour le piano, with no flats, sound extremely dissonant? Dissonance and tension are brought about by the relative position of notes with each other, not their absolute position. The chords Bbdim7/C and Ebdim7/F have the same amount of tension even though they're a fifth apart from each other (like G minor and C minor). No key signature is inherently more or less dissonant than another.

True, often one key signature is chosen over another due to its playability by the instruments performing it. (It is far easier, for example, to achieve double and triple stops on string instruments if the open strings can be played, limiting the key to C/G/A/D/E. That's why most violin and cello concerti are in one of those five keys.) Another factor is the range of the instruments. The lowest a violin can play without messing with its tunings is a G below middle C. If your key signature has you needing the violins to play an F below middle C—well, transpose your key up a major second (or—here's a novel thought—give the melody to the violas!).

I say all of this to challenge your statement about the inherent tension in G minor and C minor. Beethoven didn't choose to put his 5th symphony in C minor because it's a 'tense' key. My guess is he was tinkering around on the piano in the key of C minor and happened upon the great fate motif... and the rest is history!

Kudos to you for analyzing these two great symphonies, though! I hope my explanations help.

 

For me, increasing tension with increasing flats only really happens with 1-5 flat key signatures and more specifically minor keys. Here are the feelings I feel from 1-5 flats in minor keys when I myself am improvising:

  • D minor - Sad but just a little bit, sadness can easily be neutralized
  • G minor - Anger becomes an intrinsic emotion, second most variable of the keys
  • C minor - Most variable in emotion out of all the keys, but most often sounds either sad or tense
  • F minor - Saddest of all the keys, The Key of Death, most of the factors that affect C minor's emotion don't do so for F minor
  • Bb minor - Angriest of all the keys, especially at a fast tempo

As you can see, with the exception of F minor, each successive minor key often feels more tense than the last until you get to Bb minor, which has the most tension of all. The corresponding major keys to me sound, with the exception of F major, nocturnal in nature with Db major being the dreamiest of them all and Bb major sounding like a moonlit night.

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Interesting... the different key signatures don't do that for me. I've heard a wide range of emotions from various pieces in the key of F minor, for example. Chopin wrote a rather 'happy' waltz in that key that doesn't sound very sad or much like death—at least not to me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsReRbazbfg And a very sad nocturne in the same key. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3yrEEM5j_s  And a very angry etude, also in F minor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0umohcLS1I

Maybe you have a form of synesthesia (which is really cool if so) that links these absolute pitches to various emotions. For me, most of the emotion in music is conveyed by the relative note intervals, the tempo, the rhythm, the voice, etc. My guess is that you're associating these key signatures with momentous works in the same key signature that evoke the feelings you mentioned above. I could be wrong, of course.

 

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