Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Eroica second movement

We come to the second movement of the Eroica, the Marcia Funebre. The movement is in C minor, horns 1 and 2 are in C, with Horn 3 in Eb, partly to be able to play the third of the C minor tonic chord, partly to be able to play when the piece briefly modulates into the relative major key.

At bar 9, the horns are part of the texture while the oboe has the tune. Except for bar 41 where the fp is briefly exposed, the horns remain in the background as part of the tutti texture until the third horn's ff passage at bar 135.

Most people think this is a solo. It isn't. You are doubled by both clarinets. In fact, the clarinets take over the tune with the violas in the second half of bar 139 when the tune goes into a new key where hand horns cannot easily follow.

In many recordings, this passage is blasted out with all the force the player can muster, and is sometimes doubled for added weight. This is a case of playing Beethoven as if he were Tchaikovsky. There is no need for it. If Beethoven had wanted this to be primarily a horn sound, there are other ways in which he could have orchestrated it to put more horns onto the passage. The intention is for the horn to be a significant part of the sound, but not to drown the rest of the orchestra. Therefore, in my opinion, it should sing out, so you play as loud as you can manage without adding a brassy edge to your sound.

At bar 173 the horns for several bars have a dotted rhythm on repeated notes make sure you accurately position the demisemiquaver. It isn't as short a note as you might initially think. the passage is piano and part of the texture, but you can make it a bit more noticeable without detracting from the tune in the oboe and clarinet by slightly detaching the notes. That will help the orchestra as a whole keep in tempo.

At bar 184, the 2nd horn has a pedal C for horn in C that is held for two and a half bars. It doesn't matter too much if the note is a bit slow to sound, the entry is covered by the strings playing a forte chord, but you want to me sure that the note and tuning is secure by the end of the bar when the chord ends and the oboes take over the tune with the rest of the woodwind in support.

The next exposed moment is for second horn at bar 230, there is more or less nothing else happening along with the held C slurred to a B.

After that, it is all within the texture to the end of the movement.

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