Minuets in G – Bach / Mozart / Beethoven

by richibi

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    The Minuet (1866) 

          John Everett Millais

                  _________

having pointed out that the minuet 
and the waltz were historically 
related, let me somewhat 
extrapolate

they are both in 3/4 time, which is 
to say, three quarter-notes to the 
bar, which means that when 
you’re dancing, your beat is one,
two, three, one two three, with 
the accent, usually, on the first 
note

so what happened, how could two
identical frameworks turn out so 
differently 

here’s Bach, 1725, his Minuet in G
the first thing you’ll think is, o, so
that’s what that is, it is an iconic 
number written on our collective
consciousness

the second thing you’ll notice is
that it is choppy, however delightful, 
that it is written for a harpsichord,
and that it’s probably not ready, 
despite it’s 3/4 time, to be a waltz,
too many curtsies

here’s Mozart, 1762, his Minuet in G
though you might not want to admit 
it, I suspect this number is much
more present in your subconscious
than you’d think, see if you don’t 
find yourself later on humming it

but it’s still way too polite to be a
waltz, you can easily imagine the 
partners, hands held high together
around their imaginary maypole,
courting, but there’s a touch more 
fluidity in the progression of the
notes, it is written for a fortepiano,
an instrument that has added the
hold, or the sustain, pedal to the 
harpsichord to increase a note’s
resonance, a loosening of the 
earlier constraints of that 
quintessentially Baroque 
instrument, a cannily apt 
metaphor, take into account, for 
the unfolding cultural r/evolution

here’s Beethoven, 1796, his Minuet 
in Gyou’ve heard this one too

the Revolution has taken place, 
but entrenched in the music of an
earlier era, the beat remains the 
same, this is not a waltz, despite 
it’s 3/4 progression

you’ll note, however, more spin 
to the cadences, more give, more
elasticity, much of this has to do 
with the development of the 
central instrument, which was 
about to become a pianoforte,
instead of a fortepiano, but 
‘nough said about that, I’ll let 
you feel it

here’s Chopin, 1833, his Grande 
valse brillante, Opus 18, written
for itself, the piano, it is indeed 
a waltz, the difference is in the 
piano’s ever evolving flexibility, 
again a metaphorical expression 
of, or an avatar for, the unleashing 
of personal freedom, an idea spun 
ineradicably from the lessons of
the French, and the, incidentally, 
nearly simultaneous, 1776, 1789, 
American Revolutions

for better or for worse 


R ! chard