Beethoven was especially fond of variation in his late period. Through variations, he has found a limitless ways of exploring music elements and personal moods aesthetically and intellectually. The way regular sonatas work, by emphasizing contrasts between fast and slow, heroic and serene, although effective in immediately captivating and familiarizing audiences, fails to provide an infinite degrees of subtleties in human feelings.
These, by far, can also reflect how I view the advancement from Hudson River School to Tonalism in the second half of 19th century in America. The tonalism school painters abandoned the ideas that paintings as a another medium for moral rhetoric or intellectual prowess. The landscape should not be idealized for the sake of grandeur; similarly the technique should not be polished to eliminate traces of human labor. Above all, they focused on expressing the utmost deep emotions for themselves. They accepted the brush strokes as a way of earnest yearning for something unattainable by just imaging or portraying the likeness. If Frederic Church, in his magnificent canvas, showed what god sees America, tonalism painters humbly yet non-hesitatingly told how they felt of the surroundings themselves.
It is said Beethoven composed his middle period string quartets with the ideal listeners in his mind; but his late quartets, with extreme forms, sonority and harmony, were written for his own silent world. Upon the manuscript of his Missa Solemnis in D major, he wrote the following words: From the heart! May it go back to the heart!
Thus, I feel a kind of intimacy in front of small paintings by those Barbizon and Tonalism painters even though they may be dark toned, even toned or indistinct, for I know these are the treasured memories from the hearts. After all, no matter how splendid the landscape may be, it only lasts emotionally in one’s heart.