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Late Style and its DiscontentsEssays in art, literature, and music$
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Gordon McMullan and Sam Smiles

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198704621

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704621.001.0001

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Notes on Beethoven’s Late Style

Notes on Beethoven’s Late Style

(p.191) 12 Notes on Beethoven’s Late Style
Late Style and its Discontents

Michael Spitzer

Oxford University Press

Beethoven’s late style has been paradigmatic of late styles in general, at least in musicology. This chapter explains why and how this has come about. No writer has done more to define our concept of Beethoven’s late style than Theodor W. Adorno. While putting Adorno’s image of late Beethoven in historical and critical context, the chapter demonstrates that modern analytical tools have largely confirmed his theory. It identifies the basic fingerprints of the late style, including a recuperation of Baroque contrapuntal textures, a reification of early classical forms, syntactic fragmentation and discontinuity, and a naturalization of musical contour and gesture, giving specific musical examples. This is contextualized within musicology’s proclivity to theorize ‘style’ as an evolutionary category of musical language relative to the Viennese classical style, as well as the scholarly discourse of periodization in Beethoven’s career. The chapter concludes that ‘lateness’ in Beethoven is stylistic, evaluative, and ontological.

Keywords:   late style, music analysis, critical theory, periodization, musical form, classical style

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