Beethoven himself gave a title to String Quartet No.15 in A minor, Op.132 - 3:

A Convalescent's Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Divinity, in the Lydian Mode

From the language and context, and also the particular mention of the mode and not just the key, it is clear that Beethoven's usage of the in the Lydian Mode was not just as a technical boiler-plate title, such as "Symphony in C Minor".

Why did Beethoven include "in the Lydian Mode" in this special title?
A Convalescent's Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Divinity seems quite sufficient.

  • because it was a holy mode. – user71438 Aug 17 at 3:13

Most likely, because writing modal music at that time was completely unheard of. AFAIK this is the only example by Beethoven, and there are none by his contemporaries.

And at a practical level, it's a warning to the performers that the absence of B flats was not just careless copying or engraving of the parts! In fact some published editions contain some cautionary B naturals and C naturals where B flats or C sharps would correspond to the more "expected" major or minor tonality.

Many early editions of string quartets did not include a full score, which was of no use for performance purposes since there was no conductor. Each player could only see their own part, without a global view of the harmonic structure of the piece, and typos in the parts would be more likely to be corrected "by ear" than "by musicology".

The complete movement alternates between the Lydian mode sections and a major key, of course.

| improve this answer | |

The Lydian mode was associated with healing. See Lewis Lockwood's biography, Beethoven: The Music and the Life:

That he chooses the Lydian mode betokens not only a desire to frame this poignant movement with a modal cantus firmus that has an archaic character, but to use the time-honored Lydian mode in one of its historical associations, as the mode associated with healing and recovery.

Beethoven had just recovered from a near fatal illness when he composed this.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Yes. This is the answer I have been meaning to post for months - haven't gotten around to it - that citation from Lockwood's book exactly! Lockwood assumes, whether or not that annotation is from Beethoven's hand, that his intention was to use Lydian for that reason specifically: the time-honored Lydian mode in one of its historical associations – Stinkfoot Jan 8 '18 at 2:27

The reason for the Lydian Mode is something entirely different: This is about “A Convalescent's Holy Song of Thanksgiving...” and Beethoven's idea was to introduce something(s) that indicates "when it appears to be all over there is a continuation": In the Lydian mode (say, in F) the cadenza (IV, V, I) sounds like ending on the V (C), but then continuing after the perceived end (to the F, the Lydian I, e.g bars 25, 110, 204).
Also: A similar idea appears also in the 2nd movement: The unusual accentuation, leading to a bar which seems unexpectedly extended (by an extra beat, e.g. bars 155, 180, 200, 208)

| improve this answer | |

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.