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Through the lens of freemasonry: the influence of ancient esoteric thought on Beethoven’s late works

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Title: Through the lens of freemasonry: the influence of ancient esoteric thought on Beethoven’s late works
Author(s): Gaona, Brian S.
Director of Research: Kinderman, William A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Vamos, Brandon
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Kinderman, William A.; Buchanan, Donna A.; Browning, Zack D.
Department / Program: Music
Discipline: Music
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: A.Mus.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Beethoven Ancient Esoteric opus 131 opus 111 Bagatelle, Op. 119, No. 7 Piano sonata string quartet Freemasonry Rosicrucian Illuminati Plato Pythagoras
Abstract: Scholarship on Ludwig van Beethoven has long addressed the composer’s affiliations with Freemasonry and other secret societies in an attempt to shed new light on his biography and works. Though Beethoven’s official membership remains unconfirmed, an examination of current scholarship and primary sources indicates a more ubiquitous Masonic presence in the composer’s life than is usually acknowledged. Whereas Mozart’s and Haydn’s Masonic status is well-known, Beethoven came of age at the historical moment when such secret societies began to be suppressed by the Habsburgs, and his Masonic associations are therefore much less transparent. Nevertheless, these connections surface through evidence such as letters, marginal notes, his Tagebuch, conversation books, books discovered in his personal library, and personal accounts from various acquaintances. This element in Beethoven’s life comes into greater relief when considered in its historical context. The “new path” in his art, as Beethoven himself called it, was bound up not only with his crisis over his incurable deafness, but with a dramatic shift in the development of social attitudes toward art and the artist. Such portentous social changes cannot be accounted for through the force of Beethoven’s personality, or the changing role of the Viennese nobility. Many social forces were at work in the late Enlightenment period, but within this context Freemasonry assumed special importance for Beethoven. I attempt to show in this thesis that Beethoven’s musical concepts were deeply enriched through the influence of Freemasonry and other types of ancient philosophical and esoteric thought. The composer integrated these concepts into his world view as well as his music. Evidence of this philosophical/musical synthesis can be seen by comparing his personal writings with certain of his compositions that reflect such thought and attitudes. Three works are examined from this point of view: the Bagatelle, op. 119, No. 7, the Piano Sonata in C minor, op. 111, and the String Quartet in C-sharp minor, op. 131.
Issue Date: 2010-05-19
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/16092
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 Brian S. Gaona
Date Available in IDEALS: 2010-05-19
Date Deposited: May 2010
 

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