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In Bar 48 of the fourth movement - "Ode to Joy", Symphony no. 9, opus 125, in this extract from the piano transcription by Franz Liszt, there are three counterpoint melodies, marked in the blue box.

I am puzzled by the motivation of the arrangement in the middle of the red box?

What logic/reasons explain:

  • the chord progression?

  • this particular contrary motion in counterpoint (the red box melody somehow has a tension with the remained melodies.)

  • More precisely, how A3(red) and B4, then B3(red) and A4, have the whole-tone AB and AB, go back to back. Why does Beethoven mean to do with this arrangement?

enter image description here

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  • Can you elaborate on what puzzles you? Have you studied counterpoint? Are you familiar with contrary motion in counterpoint? What's your understanding of four-part harmony and voice leading? May 27, 2023 at 4:00
  • I am only learning "four-part harmony" now. Could you explain how the voice leading justifies what is doing here in the red box?
    – wonderich
    May 27, 2023 at 11:55
  • I think the best justification is it sounds good. What about the notes in the red box makes them different to you from all the other notes? Why do you want those notes "justified" and not all of the other notes justified? The exact same notes are at the end of measure 46. Do you also want those justified? May 27, 2023 at 12:38
  • More precisely, how A3 and B4, then B3 and A4, have the whole-tone AB and BA, go back to back. Why does Beethoven mean to do this arrangement?
    – wonderich
    May 27, 2023 at 13:39

2 Answers 2

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The three voices correspond to the orchestral original as follows:

  • m. 48 (Liszt) = m. 139 (Beethoven) (IMSLP, CCARH edition, PDF page 9, system 2 [see image below])
  • Top voice = Violin 2
  • Middle voice = Bassoon 1 & 2
  • Bottom voice = Double bass

Beethoven Symphony No. 9, Mvmt. 4, Allegro Assai mm. 133 – 140

The voice leading here is melodic rather than harmonic. Beethoven is moving from a first inversion D major chord that ends the previous phrase to a root position D major chord that begins the next. To do this, he uses a scalar pattern in each voice according to where that voice ended and where it's headed.

The strings are in parallel (compound) thirds, which is run-of-the-mill, and the bassoon moves in contrary motion, giving texture to the passage.

This sort of contrapuntal, non-chordal movement, can be found commonly in Bach, for example. Consider his Fugue in C major from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 (BWV 846). Here is measure 4.

WTC I, Fugue in C Major, m. 4

Bach is heading toward C major (the final notes of the excerpt shown), but getting there is a linear process in which not all of the vertical moment comprise analytically meaningful chords.

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  • Thanks so much! What logic/reasons explain: - the chord progression? - this particular contrary motion in counterpoint (Violin 2 - the red box melody somehow has a tension with the remained melodies.)
    – wonderich
    May 27, 2023 at 11:53
  • I see you've modified the question. I'll update when I can.
    – Aaron
    May 27, 2023 at 16:05
  • @wonderich Please let me know if the update clarifies the answer.
    – Aaron
    May 28, 2023 at 1:43
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If I was interpreting those three 8th notes as chords, I might say the first one is a IVsus2. Regarding the outer voices, the second one might be heard as a I chord without the root or, less likely, a iii chord. The B is like a resolution of the sus2 from the previous chord. Going far out there, someone might call it a Bm7 with no 3rd, but I probably wouldn't say that. The third chord is a vii*6. Overall, the voice leading is what is creating this "progression". Each of the three voices is a common cadential line leading to a Dominant function. The function is basically IV-(I)-V. The notes that seem "wrong" add more dissonance and tension to the cadence, but they're legitimized because they're smooth, familiar melodies which lead to the more familiar vii*6 chord. The counterpoint creates these chords, and that's often how composers have done things.

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