Beethoven and Sigue Beethoven : The Sonata-Form Structure of Galdós s La desheredada Vernon A. Chamberlin - PDF

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VOL. 3, NUM. 1 WINTER/INVIERNO 2006 Beethoven and Sigue Beethoven : The Sonata-Form Structure of Galdós s La desheredada Vernon A. Chamberlin It has been demonstrated that while creating the novel Tristana,

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VOL. 3, NUM. 1 WINTER/INVIERNO 2006 Beethoven and Sigue Beethoven : The Sonata-Form Structure of Galdós s La desheredada Vernon A. Chamberlin It has been demonstrated that while creating the novel Tristana, as well as the first volume of Fortunata y Jacinta, Galdós did clearly follow the musical pattern known as sonata form. 1 This musical design is most frequently used as the basic structure for the first or last movement of a sonata (and sometimes also for the first movement of a symphony, as in the case of Beethoven s Third [Eroica] Symphony). In creative fiction it has served as a model for such well-known authors as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, and Anthony Burgess. 2 Because Galdós suggests in two consecutive chapters, Beethoven and Sigue Beethoven, that La desheredada might be read as if it were a sonata, the purpose of the present study is to explore the structure of the novel as sonata form, as has been done with Tristana. Further, we shall suggest why Galdós chose La desheredada to be the first of his sonata-form novels. Musicologist Leonard Ratner has pointed out that one of the most distinguishing features of the sonata form is its similarity to a formal argument or debate, with the main parts being the exposition, development, recapitulation, and coda: The first premise is the home key, represented by thematic material which we shall call A. The second premise is the contrasting key, represented by thematic material which we shall call B. The home key makes its point with A; the point is refuted by the contrasting key with B. This refutation takes longer to accomplish than the initial argument; it also makes its final point with great emphasis. (We are now at the end of the exposition.) The premise of contrasting-key material is undermined by the digressions and explorations of the development. Home-key A material returns (recapitulation) to reestablish the first premise, but in order to settle the argument and reconcile the two contrasting premises, the home key later incorporates the B material, showing that there can be unity, after all, between A and B. To Decimonónica 3.1 (2006): Copyright 2006 Decimonónica and Vernon A. Chamberlin. All rights reserved. This work may be used with this footer included for noncommercial purposes only. No copies of this work may be distributed electronically in whole or in part without express written permission from Decimonónica. This electronic publishing model depends on mutual trust between user and publisher. Chamberlin 12 make its point more powerfully, the home key asserts itself with great emphasis (coda). (240) Galdós s novel La desheredada follows a similar structural plan, and the main correspondences between this novel and a typical sonata form can be outlined as follows: Musical equivalent Galdós s chapters Exposition Volume I, Chapters 1-3 Initial A theme Volume I, Chapter 1 Initial B theme Volume I, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3, paragraphs A theme restated Volume I, Chapter 3, paragraphs B theme restated Remainder of Volume I, Chapter 3 Transition to development Volume I, Chapter 4 Development Volume I, Chapters 5-18 Volume II, Chapters 1-9 Recapitulation Volume II, Chapters Coda Volume II, Chapter 18 Let us now examine the details of Galdós s working out of this pattern. We shall do so in chronological order, beginning with the exposition. Exposition In this opening portion Galdós, like a musical composer, presents (in the customary symmetrical pattern) the main themes he will be working with throughout the rest of the novel. He commences by presenting his A theme illusion and irrationality 4 as the novel opens with a focus upon the extravagant and bizarre behavior of mental patients in the Leganés asylum. The most notable inmate, and incarnation of the A theme, is Tomás Rufete, the father of Isidora, the protagonist. However, before the end of the first chapter, one sees that Isidora, who has come to visit her father on the day he happens to be dying, does not herself live in a world of complete reality. She affirms that Tomás Rufete is not her biological father, and the assistant to the asylum s director, who at this juncture seems grounded in reality and very wise, plays into Isidora s illusion: [Sí], entiendo, entiendo. Usted, por su nacimiento, pertenece a otra clase más elevada, sólo que circunstancias [...] le hicieron descender [...] (I, i, 1: 27). 5 However, this assistant, Canseca, soon becomes unhinged himself; we learn that he has also been a patient here for thirty-two years, and thus may be considered yet another personification of the A theme. After the asylum s director has to tell Isidora that her father has died, Augusto Miquis, a young medical student who happens to be a childhood acquaintance from Isidora s home town, consoles her and offers to accompany her back to Madrid. Together, they leave the asylum, la morada de la sinrazón (I, i, 4: 35), as Galdós concludes the initial presentation of his A theme. After the presentation of the opening A theme, Beethoven characteristically created a connecting episode. Galdós follows suit with a focus upon Isidora s existing thoughts Chamberlin 13 and feelings. This focus continues until her visit the next day to her aunt, Encarnación Guillén, popularly known as La Sanguijuelera. Now clearly following the sonata-form pattern, Galdós s B theme (his answering contrast to the A theme) predominates in chapters 2 and 3. This new theme reality is made manifest by means of the chapter-title protagonists, La Sanguijuelera and Mariano. The former, Isidora s sixty-eight year old aunt, is quite grounded in reality, which is a prerequisite for surviving as an independent shopkeeper in a lower-class Madrid neighborhood. After some getting-reacquainted visiting, the colorful Sanguijuelera takes Isidora to visit her thirteen-year-old brother, Mariano, who is working in a rope factory under the most horrible conditions. Here we certainly see the harsh reality of life as it is, vivified by the all-too-common nineteenth-century exploitation of child labor. 6 Clearly the two eponymous chapter protagonists, individually and in tandem, offer a strong contrast to those who had earlier personified the A theme, as Galdós now completes his initial answering and contrasting B theme. As in the music of a sonata form, Galdós s A theme now comes back to emphasize its previous premise. The author does this (II, iii) as Isidora elaborates on her earlier statement to Canseca in the Leganés asylum: Tomás Rufete is not her father. Moreover, she affirms that she and her brother are children of a marquesa, and she has legal documents to prove her claim. Thus, as is customary in the sonata-form pattern, Galdós s A theme now has returned with greater intensity, while at the same time it presents a number of sub-themes that open possibilities for further development. At this juncture, as in a musical composition, the B theme is given a final chance for rebuttal. La Sanguijuelera, who has a gran sentido para apreciar la realidad de las cosas (I, iii: 55), begins mocking Isidora s aristocratic pretensions with deflating sarcasm. Finally, she grabs a stick and beats Isidora on the head. When the stick breaks, she combines the two parts and is able to strike still harder, even after Isidora falls to the floor. Although Isidora would like to resist, devolviendo cólera por cólera, hubo de rendirse al fin [...]. En sus veinte años, Isidora tenía menos fuerza que la sexagenaria Encarnación (I, iii: 56). Clearly the B theme is much the stronger here, and it has triumphed in its contention with the A theme. Thus we have arrived at the end of Galdós s exposition. The two themes illusion and irrationality versus reality have been presented, rebutted, re-presented, and once again rebutted. Both themes are now ready for further development and interplay throughout the rest of the novel, significantly with the B theme having had the last word in the formal or debate sense and showing so much more strength than the A theme as to make its final triumph at the end of the novel seem likely. Transition to the development section In music and certainly in Beethoven s sonatas there is nearly always a transitional passage (using the A theme) that leads to the development section. In Galdós s novel, a similar transitional passage occurs in chapter 4. Having recovered from the beating by her aunt, Isidora now reveals her thoughts and feelings as she interacts extensively with Chamberlin 14 Miquis during his guided tour of well-known sites in Madrid: El Retiro, El Prado, and La Castellana. Very importantly, Isidora considers herself too highborn and sophisticated for any romantic involvement with the reality-grounded medical student. Then at the climax of the chapter (with transcendent authorial foreshadowing of the novel s ending) Isidora enthusiastically identifies with the [mujeres de] las mantillas blancas (I, iv, 4: 81-82) prostitutes hired to protest the reign of Amadeo I whom she mistakenly believes are aristocratic ladies, worthy of emulation. Thus we see the A-versus-B counterpoint of reality/pragmatism and illusion/fantasy, set forth in yet another variation. Development section Before entering into a discussion of the long development section, let us pause to consider the main features of this part of the sonata form. The purpose of this section, as its name suggests, is to develop the themes set forth in the exposition. The composer is at liberty to unfold and explore the manifold possibilities in each theme, modifying, fragmenting, complicating, and embellishing as much as his talent will permit. This is one of the more challenging segments of a sonata-form structure and a place where the composer may demonstrate his resourcefulness and imagination. However, there is one thing a composer must do: he is obliged to undermine gradually the key of the B theme (which had appeared the stronger, more triumphant at the end of the exposition) so that its ultimate surrender and subsequent fading away, near the end of the entire sonata-form section, will seem logical and readily acceptable to the listener. Ratner states that as a rule, the section called the development goes far afield harmonically, creating a great deal of instability; toward the end the harmony settles so that a cadence to the home key of the A theme is first promised, then accomplished at the recapitulation [the section following the development and preceding the coda] (238). Let us now see how Galdós creates his own novelistic parallel to a musical development section (I, v-ii, ix). Basically he is unfolding and exploring various possibilities of his contending illusion and reality themes, illustrated through a beautiful young provincial woman who disdains working for a living and attempts to reside in the Spanish capital and pursue an irrational lawsuit. The latter is part of a completely unrealistic quest to become acknowledged as a biological member of an old aristocratic family. As the contending themes continue to interact, a number of sub-themes (initiated already in the exposition) are also given attention. These include Isidora s haughtiness, her love of luxury, her belief that her brother can be educated, and her financial irresponsibility. With chapter 5 opening the development section, the A theme predominates as Isidora reacts to the fact that a handsome aristocrat, the Marqués viudo de Saldeoro, has left his calling card. This causes her to feel so superior to Miquis that she breaks off an engagement to attend the theater with him. Thus she can devote the entire evening to her fantasies, even imagining in great detail how each of the next four days and evenings will transpire. Not included in her fantasies are the everyday events of her brother and his associates. Thus the B theme can and does predominate as chapter 6 realistically features boys at Chamberlin 15 play. Climactically the realistic elements turn violent with Mariano killing another boy and being arrested (I, vi, 3: ). Meanwhile the A theme is continuing (chapter 7) as Isidora goes shopping in Madrid. First she stops for Mass, but the service for her is only a backdrop for reverie. Now it is revealed that her notion about being the as-yet-unrecognized daughter of a marquesa comes from novels she has read: Yo he leído mi propia historia tantas veces (I, vii: 123). Her weakness for luxury and superfluous items, as well as her inability to be practical with her money, are repeatedly demonstrated in this chapter, entitled Tomando posesión de Madrid. Thus, when she arrives home, cargada de compras (I, vii: 127), and learns of her brother s arrest, she has difficulty even scraping together enough money for cab fare to visit him in jail. In chapter 8 Galdós introduces three new voices of his A theme. The first is José Relimpio, a blood relative of Tomás, Isidora, and Mariano Rufete. As such, this hombre que no servía para nada (I, viii, 1: 130) carries the same hereditary traits that predispose the family towards irrational thought and behavior. So also does his son Melchor, whose manifestation of the family weakness is seen in repeated, completely unrealistic get-richquick schemes. Of a different sort is Melchor s mother, Doña Laura. Although a representative of reason vis-à-vis her delusionary boarder Isidora (I, viii, 2: 141), Laura reveals herself to be out of touch with reality concerning all aspects of the life of her unemployed son, Melchor. An important innovation of an entirely different kind occurs in chapters 9 and 10 as Galdós gives a purposeful authorial clue to the sonata-form structure as pattern for the entire novel. 7 In chapter 9 ( Beethoven ) he presents the grandson of the Marquesa de Aransis actually playing a piano sonata, while simultaneously Galdós grants a look at the Aransis family history. Galdós s descriptions of the intricacies of Beethoven s artistry (I, ix, 1: ) display the author s ability to pattern a work of his own using musical techniques and analogies. The narrator says (in part): Una idea sola, tan sencilla como desgarradora, aparecía entre el vértigo de mil ideas secundarias y se perdía luego en la más caprichosa variedad de diseños que puede concebir la fantasía, para aparecer al instante transformada. [...] De modulación en modulación, la idea única se iba desfigurando sin dejar de ser la misma, semejanza de un historión que cambia de vestido. Su cuerpo subsistía, su aspecto variaba. (I, ix, 1: 158) External evidence also indicates that Galdós s knowledge of Beethoven s sonatas was sufficient to enable him to follow the latter s structural designs. Rafael Moragas indicates that Galdós s mastery of Beethoven s music was achieved by strenuous application: [D]on Benito descifraba trabajosamente las sonatas de Beethoven en un armonium que tenía cuando vivía [...] en Madrid (qtd. in Verdaguer 176). A letter from Manrique de Lara confirms Moraga s suggestion that Galdós worked hard at analyzing Beethoven s compositions. Apologizing to Galdós for having to miss an appointment, Lara remarks, Confío en que mañana podré hacerlo y no sólo podremos concertar el andante de Beethoven, sino hacer un primeroso y detenidísimo estudio de la harmonia (qtd. in Chamberlin 16 Sopena Ibáñez 26). The letter also suggests that Lara was serving as a consultant to Galdós, for he notes, Tenga la seguridad de que para mí es una honra muy grande y un verdadero placer el ser de alguna utilidad para Vd. (qtd. in Sopena Ibáñez 26). Yet another friend who knew that Galdós was interested in the analysis of Beethoven s works was the pianist and composer Joaquín Malats, who wrote to Galdós: Ahora estoy estudiando la sonata op. 111 de Beethoven [...] ya verá Vd. Es sencillamente monumental (qtd. in Sopena Ibáñez 136). And Galdós himself said in 1902 in the prólogo to Alma y vida: Tracé y construí la ideal arquitectura de Alma y vida, siguiendo por espiritual atracción, el plan y módulo de la composión beethoviana, y no se tome esto a desvarío, que el más grande de los músicos es quien mejor nos revela la esencia y aun el desarrollo del sentimiento dramático. (900) However, in chapter 10 of La desheredada ( Sigue Beethoven ) Galdós, who was both a consummate pianist and organist, acknowledges how challenging a Beethoven sonata can be. Even as Isidora is visiting the Aransis mansion and fantasizing about possessing its luxuries, the narrator s friend, Dr. Miquis, attempts to play one of the sonatas in the book left on the piano. Before long he has to acknowledge his insufficient talent: Pobre Beethoven mío! exclamó el estudiante, dejando de tocar y haciendo un gesto de desesperación. Qué lejos estabas de caer entre mis dedos! (I, x: 171). In chapters 9 and 10 Galdós also continues with his customary A-theme/B-theme contention. Isidora voices the A theme as she identifies with the luxuries of the Aransis mansion and persists in the illusion that they will soon be hers. Juan Bou, the realitybased proletarian from the other extreme of Spain s social structure, is the contrasting B- theme representative. Additionally, one might even postulate an A-theme/B-theme interplay concerning the Beethoven sonata itself. The narrator talks about the difficulties of playing Beethoven (theme B); Miquis tries to play it and fails (theme A, optimism and illusion, overcome by theme B, his inability to play it well). The latter also contrasts with the inherent beauty of Beethoven s music when played well (theme A). In contrast to the second sonata player, Galdós himself shows no evidence of any difficulties in following his own structural plan, for in chapter 11 ( Insomnio número cincuenta y tantos ) he again presents his A theme, now with unrelenting vigor. Isidora s fantasies are now so intense that each night they keep her awake hour after hour. Not only does she believe that she will be rich, but also that the Marqués will marry her. Her one realistic insight into her personal circumstances occurs near the end of the chapter and concerns her health: En mi cabeza hay algo que no marcha bien. Esto es una enfermedad (I, xi: 176). A respite from such intensity, and a complete change of pace, occurs in chapter 12 ( Los Peces [Sermón] ) as Galdós leisurely introduces the Pez family. Only at the climax of the chapter does it become clear how much this political family incarnates the B theme, since they are interested in helping Isidora only because her uncle (el canónigo) in La Mancha is Chamberlin 17 their local representative. Certainly they do not see any validity in Isidora s aspirations: Esto es novela. [...] Admitámoslo en las novelas pero en la realidad...! (I, xii, 3: 190). Even more suggestive, Isidora s beloved marqués (Joaquín Pez) is only interested in seduction. Thus it is understandable that the A and B themes collide head-on in chapter 13 ( Cursilona ) as Joaquín Pez attempts to obtain sexual favors. In exchange for financial support, he offers to install Isidora in a house of her own. Although greatly tempted, Isidora resists and Pez loses his composure, labeling her cursilona (I, xiii: 197). After Pez and Isidora reconcile, Galdós intensifies his narrative appropriate at this juncture for a novel whose first volume will be published separately by bestowing upon his B theme the vigor of a musical cadential drive. That is, he has harsh reality predominate through four chapters (I, xiv-xvii), which include all but the final chapter of volume I. Thus in chapter 13 ( Navidad ) the misery of Isidora s situation is emphasized through juxtaposition with the Relimpio family s Christmas Eve merrymaking. Isidora and her brother, Mariano, are forced to eat alone in her room. With good humor, Miquis (always a representative of the B theme) pops in to deprecate her fantasies. She, howeve
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