I read an essay in school--I think a survey course on British literature--that compared the music of Beethoven to the soliloquies of Hamlet; the essay said that Beethoven's music is "spoken" privately, not knowing it has an audience, while Rossini's music is paradelike.

Any idea what this might be?


Could this possibly be:

Edgecombe, R. S. (2011). The deictic in “diese Töne”: Thoughts on the finale’s proem in the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven. Musical Times, 152(1917), 31–44.

This article is written from a musical point of view rather than literature. It is primarily about Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, but it does mention both Hamlet and Rossini in the context of silence and speech and how in-your-face the music is. Here are a couple of relevant excerpts.

Charades, dumbshow, Hamlet:

When the chaos blast of the Ninth's proem (a double-exposure of tonic and flattened submediant) recurs in The sleeping beauty's pas de six, it figures as a mordant harmonic spice rather than a screech. By the same token, while Mahler and Scriabin break into symphonic song without a by-your-leave, Beethoven had carefully and ceremoniously to prepare the ground for a reunion of voice and orchestra. And what better way to have effected that union than through the lead-in of proximate speech (the string recitatives) upon which an actual utterance supervenes in a double act of clarification. After the persisted failures to secure meaning, actual words come as a relief, the start having functioned less as a game of charades (pace Cooper) than as a dumbshow, designed, like its counterparts in Renaissance drama, to elucidate and condense a complex action. Dumbshows get the plot out of the way so that the more important concerns of theme and character can leap into prominence. Just as Hamlet provides a voice-over for 'The mousetrap', so too does Beethoven's baritone provide one for the musical pageant that has passed before our ears — but with one crucial difference: he gives us the story of the symphony rather than its plot, its temporal sequence rather than the causality of the failed search that Tovey and others have ascribed to the work. (Edgecombe, 2011, pp. 42-43)

Swaggering march, Rossini:

Just as the oboe solo in the Fifth resembles a recitative more than it does a cadenza . . ., so the reverse obtains in the cadenza-like recitatives of the Ninth. Indeed, Beethoven's first draft of the baritone's intervention demanded a tessitura and fioriture beyond the competence of his soloist, and had to be curtailed. Thereby hangs a tale, for the floridity nudges these prosaic 'speech' passages of the symphony back in the direction of the baroque recitativo accompagnato . . . and forward — such is the generous inclusiveness of Beethoven's gesture — to those hybrid arias, halfway houses between declamation and melody, that Rossini had made his own ('Una voce' — Il barbiere di Siviglia — would be a case in point). And while Rossini is in the picture, I should like to remark en passant on another 'rossinisto' touch that I believe to be present in the symphony, the so-called Turkish march sung by the tenor. This, devoid of the shrillness and that strumming habit we find in The ruins of Athens and from Mozart's K331, seems much closer to the sort of swaggering march at the ends of Il barbiere and La Cenerentola and with which Rossini would still be 'sinning' in his old age (the 'Cuius animam' of the Stabat Mater). (Edgecombe, 2011, pp. 33–34)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.