On Thu, 2007-11-08 at 02:03 +0100, Werner LEMBERG wrote:
> As a composer by myself, it's a mystery to me why so many composers
> love to use 128th and 256th, most time for no good reason.

Let's ask ourselves about that well-known piano hack, Ludwig van
Beethoven.  Later we'll turn to Mozart, who didn't confine himself to
128th notes, but used 256th notes too.  I'm sure you'll start explaining
why you're a better composer than Beethoven and Mozart, at least, you're
not given to such notational distortions as those two well-known fools.

For the rest of us, who think these guys *define* successful piano
writing, we find that such monuments as the Pathetique Sonata, the
Diabelli Variations, the Eroica Variations, and the Mozart C Minor
Sonata, all require 128th notes.

If you don't care about typesetting the highest glories of the
repetoire, that's your business, but you can hardly say it's some sort
of minor issue.

In the Sonata Opus 13, already mentioned, there are two runs notated
with 128th notes.  While some pianists ignore his careful notation,
Beethoven is not just giving "a piacere" runs where you pace it more or
less how you like and just play fast; no, he is expecting you to hold to
the beat.

If he doubled the note values, the piece would be notated in 4/2, which
is (1) extremely uncommon, and (2), likely to confuse the tempo
indication.  The "C" time signature and the "Grave" tempo give exactly
the right sense of the introduction, and any change would materially
alter the interpretation.

For another example, the 24 Variations by Beethoven on Righini's Arietta
"Vieni amore" use 128th notes in the 23rd variation.  The first 22
variations and the theme are noted Allegretto in 2/4 time, except for
the 19th which divides the two beats in thirds, for 6/8 time.  The last
variation is back to 2/4, a bit faster (Allegro), with some tempo games
as Beethoven does some inconsequential little developments.

So what about the 23rd variation?  As is frequent, a slow variation
comes next to last; this one is "Adagio sostenuto."  But it would be an
abuse to change the timing of the measures radically.  He does a
delightful development by timing this adagio in threes, so we must have
a 3/4 signature.  A 3/2 signature would be, as I said, an abuse, and
would indicate something very different from keeping the quarter-note
timing, and marking it 3/4.  Likewise, it would be insane to alter the
whole piece to be mostly 2/2 instead of 2/4.  That would make it an alla
breve feel, instead of the light allegretto Beethoven is working with,
and would radically change the interpretation.

So, in the 23rd variation (I say all this because the Op. 13 is on
everyone's shelf, and this is not, so it's harder for you to check), in
the second time through the second part of the Arietta, the left hand
accompaniment is sixteenth-note detache chords, and the melody consists
of little fillips, four notes to each chord, thus requiring 64th notes.

And--you know, it is Beethoven!--as the melody comes to a conclusion,
the chords in the left hand stop, and the fillips become disconnected
and have some dotted rhythms.  And, bingo, that requires of course the
pairing of a 128th note with a dotted 64th note.


Now we turn to the Eroica Variations, Opus 35.  Again in the slow
variation (number fifteen) we find the 128th notes twice.  As with case
two, the theme-and-variations format constrains one's ability to change
timings in the slow variation because of the need to preserve
consistency between variations.  In this one, the 128th notes are found
in two rapid runs (measures 8 and 31) where again they are part of timed
rapid passages much like in the Opus 13.

Also part of the fifteenth variation (though noted in the last measure
of the fourteenth) is a rapid run in *grace notes* of 128th notes.


The Six Variations, Opus 34, in the "Molto Adagio" section of the last
variation, contain again some examples, again this time in rapid timed
runs as we saw in the Opus 13.  Counting the "Molto Adagio" marking as
measure 1, the runs occur in measures 4, 7, 17.


Perhaps these 128th notes were youthful indiscretions.  Nope, for we
find the same phenomenon in the Diabelli Variations, Opus 120.  Again in
the slow variation (Quel Suprise!), number 31, we find rapid timed runs
in two measures which need 128th notes.


Oh, but now you're saying, one sonata and theme-and-variations?  That
doesn't count!  Nobody respects theme-and-variations!  Of course, the
delightful Fantasia Opus 77 once again shows Beethoven's ineptness.  He
uses the forbidden note for a run in the next to last measure, where it
is clearly necessary, and could only be avoided by setting the timing
wrong on the whole rest of the piece.


We turn now to another fool (in your clear estimation) who didn't know
how to write proper music, one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Unlike
Beethoven, Mozart *likes* "a piacere" fast runs, so we aren't going to
find the same number of 128th notes as we do for Beethoven.  But they
are there.  So we turn to the nine variations by Mozart on Dezede's
"Lison dormait" (K 264/315d) and of course the slow variation?  No, the
*fast* one!  Variation nine, marked Allegro, contains a run with 128th
notes right before the reintroduction of the theme (which serves as a
coda).  This time it's not a timed run, instead, the idea is to show an
acceleration, starting from a half note, then an 8th, a 16th, a 32th, a
64th, and thirteen 128th notes.

Of course, the Adagio variation (number 8) uses them too, once at the
end of a *timed* run of 64th notes where the last six notes are faster
and must be 128th notes; the other time to note a trill termination on a
32d note trill.  And, once more, again in a timed run, towards the end
of the variation.


The Twelve Variations by Mozart on "Je suis Lindor" use 128th notes in
the twelfth variation.  Oh, but not only that.  Mozart uses *256th*
notes in the same variation (measure 10).  Indeed, we find here some
dotted rythms calling again for 128th notes at the very end of the
variation, and really, all throughout. 


Oh, but Mozart, you say, didn't do this in his serious music.  The
variations are but minor fillips, how about the serious stuff?!  Well,
the Sonata in C minor, K 457, features a run of 128th grace notes in
measure 52 of the second movement.


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