Analyzing Beethoven’s Eroica Sketches: A Form-Functional Perspective on the First Movement Exposition

Abstract: This dissertation studies Beethoven’s compositional process to the first movement of his third symphony, Op. 55, the Eroica, through the analysis of its sketches. Using the complete transcription of the Eroica sketchbook developed by Lewis Lockwood and Alan Gosman (2013a; 2013b), the single-voice exposition sketches are reconstructed by interpreting their implied harmonies and bass voices. Thereafter, the reconstructed sketches are analyzed with a theory of formal functions (Caplin 1998; 2013) and Beethoven’s developing compositional intentions are interpreted. What results is a new approach for Beethoven sketch studies that grants insights into his compositional process for the Eroica.

Throughout this study, Beethoven’s continuity sketches are viewed as viable alternatives rather than problematic experiments. This perspective reappraises commonly held views about Beethoven’s compositional process for the piece that were advanced by Gustav Nottebohm in the late nineteenth century. In essence, this dissertation reframes the analytical objective from one that uses ill-defined sonata theories and the final piece as a type of procrustean bed to find weaknesses in the sketches, to one that uses the well-formed and aesthetically neutral categories of the theory of formal functions to search for, and explain, their strengths. Such a perspective affords a more complete view into Beethoven’s workshop that improves our understanding of his compositional process and style.

Suggested Citation (Chicago 17th ed.)

Posen, Thomas. “Analyzing Beethoven’s Eroica Sketches: A Form-Functional Perspective on the First-Movement Exposition.” Ph.D. Dissertation, McGill University, 2022.