Friday, December 31, 2010

12/31 All men become brothers.

Happy New Year!

In many parts of the world it's common to find a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.  It's a great work of music with a very powerful sonic design - and it has a message of universal brotherhood which is Beethoven's most sincere message to posterity: "Be embraced, This kiss for the whole world!".
The lyrics were originally written by the German poet Friedrich Schiller in 1785, but Beethoven made a few slight changes in his adaptation.  The English translation of the 4th Movement text is as follows (Beethoven's additions in red):

Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather, let us raise our voices in more pleasing
And more joyful sounds!
Joy! (Joy!)
Joy! (Joy!)

Joy, beautiful spark of divinity*
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Into your sanctuary, heavenly (daughter)!
Your magic reunites
What custom strictly divided.
All men become brothers,
Where your gentle wing rests.

Whoever has had the great fortune
To be a friend's friend,
Whoever has won a devoted wife,
Join in our jubilation!
Indeed, whoever can call even one soul,
His own on this earth!
And whoever was never able to, must creep
Tearfully away from this band!

Joy all creatures drink
At the breasts of nature;
All good, all bad
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us, and wine,
A friend, proved in death;
Pleasure was given to the worm,
And the cherub stands before God.
Before God!

Glad, as His suns fly
Through the Heaven's glorious design,
Run, brothers, your path,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.

Be embraced, millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the starry canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.

Finale repeats the words:
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Be embraced,
This kiss for the whole world!
Joy, beautiful spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of divinity

The full German text (in case you want to sing along) can be found HERE.

Leonard Bernstein puts it better than I ever could:

Peace on Earth, Good will To Men.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

12/30 "Beethoven, why are your Folk Songs so Difficult?"

(Roxburghe Collection)
One interesting side-job that Beethoven took was writing arrangements of "folk tunes" for the English market.  George Thomson contacted Beethoven about putting some melodies to small chamber arrangements and surprisingly, B. agreed.  In fact he churned out over 170 of them.  They paid well, and he had a ready audience to receive them into their parlor concerts (I imagine).  When first hearing about these arrangements I was curious as to how much B. put into these things.  Well, in general when he received a melody line (usually without lyrics), he proceeded to add an introduction and a coda, and then expand the melody into a harmonic setting for voice, piano and a string instruments (cello and/or violin).  He took it very seriously.  On at least one occasion Mr Thompson complained that the music was too hard for non-professionals to play.  B. replied that he rarely made changes to his works once he sent them out, but he did do new, simpler arrangements of about 10.
"Behold my Love how green the groves" Pg. 1
"Behold my Love how green the groves" Pg 2
Scottish Folksongs.  3 Songs from Op. 108
-1. Behold my love, how green the groves
-2. Oh, had my fate been join'd with thine
-3. Come fill, fill my good fellow
(Catrin Wyn-Davies, Janice Watson, sopranos/Timothy Robinson, tenor/Thomas Allen, baritone)

Have a sing along...?

"Wife, Children and Friends" (from Irish songs, WoO 152)

"Come fill, fill, my good fellow!" (from 25 Scottish Songs Op.108 (1818))

"They bid me slight my Dermot dear" (Irish Songs WoO 152 - No. 18)

Thanks to the Digital Archive at the Beethoven-haus Bonn you can peruse this autograph manuscript:
43 popular song arrangements for voice, violin, cello and piano, from WoO 152 to WoO 155 Corrected copy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

12/29 Different Keys/Different Strokes...No. 27 / Op. 27

One of the many great things about Beethoven's music is the basic integrity and beauty of his work can shine through (or withstand) many different interpretations.  Even Beethoven himself rarely played a sonata the same exact way each time, and on occasion he was known to remark something to the effect of "Well, I never imagined it being played in such a manner - but I like this even better!" (especially if it was an attractive young female interpreter....).  Factors such as tempo, dynamics, phrasing - these are all things which can be personalized by the performer, thereby making a performance a true dialogue between composer and interpreter.  Though I heartily disagree with Maria João Pires that the notated score is not even 1 percent of the music...

Last week I featured a set of unique interpretations by Fazil Say.  Here are a couple double performances to compare side by side - so to speak.

Sonata No. 27, Op 90, Mvt. 1

Wilhelm Kempff:

Emil Gilels:

It still sounds like the same piece - but the personality of the performer comes through quite clearly.

In this example, however it gets a bit more ..extreme.

Sonata No. 13, Op. 27, No.1 "Quasi una fantasia", Mvt. 1

Daniel Barenboim:

Glenn Gould:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

12/28 Eroica Variations Autograph Battle

15 Variations and a Fugue in Eb 'Eroica Variations' Op.35 (1802)

 The Front Cover already has some "forebodings"...

 Things start out fairly peacefully

 Tensions creep in..

 The battle is joined!

 Counter-attack successful

All's well that ends well.

Full Autograph score here.
Previous post on the Eroica Variations (with Glenn Gould)

I might as well throw in this old chestnut as well.
In response to no demand whatsoever, here's another of my guitar arrangements using Synthfont, this time of the Eroica Variations:

Monday, December 27, 2010

12/27 Vienna in 1800

Monday after Christmas weekend - Would you be interested in a motivic and harmonic Schenkerian analysis of the Hammerklavier fugue...or some holiday-looking pictures of Vienna at the turn of the 19th Century?
I thought so.... ;)
St Michael's Square (Burg Theater far right)
The Kohlmarkt.  Beethoven's publisher, Artaria is on the right.
How come Vienna drawings always looks like they're straight out of a Christmas card?  Only thing missing is some snow on the ground....and some Salvation Army Santas..
Possibly the Naschmarkt?
(would have preferred the Hammerklavier)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

12/26 Fidelio (1963, Berlin with Christa Ludwig)

(Christa Ludwig in Fidelio conducted by Klemperer, 1962)
I posted about Beethoven's only opera in the past but today being a weekend post I'm putting up the whole opera in one, long, 2 hour playlist - generously uploaded by Youtuber "1964fidelio"...
Happy Holidays!

I advise downloading the German-English libretto here to follow along...
(or if you just want to read the English translation go here.)

Beethoven: FIDELIO: 1963 Berlin (BW).Total length: 2 hours, 3 minutes

Christa Ludwig: Leonore
James King: Florestan
Walter Berry: Don Pizarro
William Dooley: Don Fernando
Joseph Greindl: Rocco
Lisa Otto: Marzelline
Martin Vantin: Jaquino

Arthur Rother - Chor und Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin, 1963


There also happens to be a full Fidelio conducted by James Levine at the MET from 2003 on YT - You can see a linklist of that performance HERE.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

12/25 Happy Holidays from Beethoven

Happy Holidays!
Hope everyone got some nice presents!

The 8-bit version of the 5th Symphony, 1st Movement.

Tomorrow is a huge program, set aside a couple hours ;)

Friday, December 24, 2010

12/24 Piano Trio 3 w Szeryng, Kempff and Hölscher

Holiday colors.
Christmas Eve with some classic Beethoven...

A slightly reserved rendition and the 4th movement has a playlist break in the first theme - but still pretty dynamic playing....

Beethoven - Trio op.1, No 3 in C minor 
Kempff, Szeryng, Hölscher in Rehearsal and Performance (22 min)


I really hate that the last movement gets a playlist break right in the beginning!
If that annoys you too here's an uninterrupted Finale movement, with a bit more "vigor":
Recorded Feb. 2003. Beethoven piano Trio No.3
played by Civic Orchestra of Chicago members (2002-2003)
Piano-Patrick Godon,
Violin-Jessica Hung,
Cello-Brian Stucki

Thursday, December 23, 2010

12/23 Einige Vorschau mit Beethoven (Some Trailers with Beethoven)

I've mentioned a couple times before how Beethoven's music seems especially suited to modern film.  Here are a few movies (trailers, actually) which used a good helping of LvB...

Immortal Beloved Trailer (hmmm..who should we get to score this one?)

The Fall (2006) trailer (7th Symphony Allegretto AGAIN!)

In L'Âge d'Or (The Golden Age), a 1930 surrealist film directed by Luis Buñuel (written by Buñuel and Salvador Dalí) there are a couple scenes with Beethoven's music. This one uses the Eroica slow movement about at about 5:24.

Die Hard with a Vengeance (Ode to Joy)
(thanks to Paul from Super-Conductor for reminding me about Die Hard)

Not a trailer but a really cool video using NYC photography:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

12/22 Keeping Score with Beethoven on Youtube

Following along to the score adds immensely to the experience of listening to Beethoven (or any classical music, really).  For most pop or rock music I can just put it on and bop around while doing some household chores (and you can happily do that to the 2nd movement of the 9th as well) but in B.'s music it's also quite cool to see the wheels and cogs at work in these things.  I've posted a couple times before (here and here) about some methods to throw on some Midi files and follow then through software, but for really low maintenance, casual score-following, these Youtube vids are very handy.  Also they are performed by real people on real pianos, that never hurts....Saturday I already posted one of these "Sonata-scores" (Pathetique by Annie Fischer) so here's a few more....

11 Bagatelles, Opus 119 (various composition dates) by Alfred Brendel (13 min)
(except No.8)


Bagatelles 7-11 (performed by Roland Pöntinen at Stockholm Konserthaus, since Bagatelle 8 was missing in "Big Al's set")

Piano Sonata No. 2 Op. 2 No. 2 (Murray Perahia, pt 1-4)


Of course nowadays there's Mario Paint, I suppose to get the kids interested?
"Moonlight Sonata"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12/21 Tempestuous Fazil Say

Fazil Say is one very unique musician.  His interpretations really stretch what's in the printed score and his tempos are typically much faster than just about anybody else's.  He's not afraid to use "prepared piano" in a repertoire chamber piece. Perhaps it's because he's a composer of some substantial output.  Regarding his Beethoven one could say he's completely irreverent and self-indulgent in his interpretations - or he is reinvigorating old classics for a modern audience and breathing new life into classic texts.  I'll leave that to the individual to decide....

Piano Sonata 17 "Tempest" 3rd Movement (Allegretto)

Piano Sonata 23 "Appassionata" 3rd Movement "Variations" (Allegro Ma Non Troppo)

Fur Elise (Jazz Version) with Patricia Kopatchinskaja on Violin

Fazil Say's personal Cadenza to Piano Concerto 3

Piano Sonata 21 "Waldstein" 1st Movement

Monday, December 20, 2010

12/20 Beethoven's Jingles

Art, meet Commerce.
Beethoven's music has been effectively used to sell everything from cars, wine, sex and as a deterrent against TV piracy....

BMW - See How It Feels (UNKLE remix of the 2nd Movement of the 9th Symphony)

Reebok Commercial (2nd Movement of 7th)

Orson Welles, Paul Masson 1978 (5th)

Classic "976" Party Line Commercial from the 1980's (5th)

German Dinner - NBC TV (Namibia 2009) (2nd Movement of 7th)

This is Youtube user "Destrega2097"'s personal full cg project about the Audi R8 - incredible work.  And Beethoven turns into Iron Man in the second half...which actually works. (Moonlight Sonata)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

12/19 Furtwängler's Beethoven in Wartime

Wilhelm Furtwängler is kind of like an anti-Toscanini.  His tempos are elastic and he definitely likes his ritardandos...sometimes he takes things a bit too broadly for my tastes - nonetheless his renditions of Beethoven's orchestral works, especially in the 40's is near-apocalyptic in its savagery.  Perhaps it had something to do with something called World War 2, and how it stood against all things Beethovenian.  People used to criticize Furtwängler for not fleeing Germany during the Hitler years, but apparently he helped many Jews during such awful times.  Anyways, motives aside, his Beethoven is unique, deep and moving.

Here's Furtwängler's 1947 Egmont Overture:

Here's his 1943 Coriolan Overture:

and finally his notorious 1942 Beethoven 9th...this is the 1st movement starting in the middle. I like this clip because about 40 seconds in is probably the greatest timpani part ever written...

OK, what the heck, it's a Sunday - here's the full Furtwängler 1942 9th (74 MINUTES).  Considering that his audience was made up of many in the Nazi party at the time, it seems an incredible act of bravery to perform such an life-affirming work.  The musicians here perform as if these were the last notes they were ever going to play....

Playlist HERE

Sadly there are not that many videos of live Furtwängler conducting.  There's a few recordings of his Beethoven where you can actually hear anti-aircraft fire in the background.  Maybe it wasn't the right time for the "lights, camera, action" thing....

I should also mention the movie "Taking Sides" - a fascinating film based on a play based on a true story of Furt's "de-Nazification" investigation in postwar Germany.  Harvey Keitel plays the investigating American...pretty intense and recommended.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

12/18 Alpha/Omega: The Pathetique...and the Last Sonata

Here are a couple of Beethoven's most important and engrossing piano sonatas, the first "titanic" sonata Beethoven ever wrote, followed by his solo sonata "swan song", Opus 111.  It's fascinating to see what a wide span of musical landscape lies in between these 2 harmonically profound obelisks....

Sonata No.8 Op.13 Pathetique (1798) (by Annie Fischer, with score - one of my favorite interpreters...)   (18 Min )


And here's Richter's Opus 111, two versions, since one can never get enough of Opus 111!
Sonata No.32 Opus 111 (1822) (47 min)
Sviatoslav Richter (2 performances)
1st time (Tokyo, early 1974, pt 1-2)
2nd time (Moscow, 1975, pt 3-5)


And finally, here's Opus 13 AND Opus 111 both performed by Eric Heidsieck (there's some minor audio glitches - sadly that's the way it is...):

Friday, December 17, 2010

12/17 The 100 Days Project / Herrmann 'Psycho' Remix

Graphic artist/designer Jessica Svendsen is in the middle of very cool project:  100 variations on a poster of a Beethoven concert from 1955 by Josef Müller-Brockmann.  I can relate to a daily blog project, that's for sure! :)

The original poster:

Some "iterations":

Ms. Svendsen's main 100 Days page HERE.

Fantastic work.

UPDATE: See here...

Speaking of remixes, this video I made below myself has nothing to do with Beethoven, except that it features my second favorite composer, Bernard Herrmann.  I checked with the blog editor (i.e. - myself) and it was approved for inclusion in today's Daily Beethoven.  Back in 2001 I made a "techno" remix of Bernard Herrmann's Main Title theme of Alfred Hitchcock's film "Psycho". It includes excerpts from Hitchcock's monologue in the film trailer.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12/16 Happy 240th Birthday Beethoven!

Today marks Beethoven's 240th Birthday.  Actually there's no paper evidence that says he was born on December 16, 1770, but there is a certificate that he was baptised on the 17th, and children were baptised the day after birth.  Either way, he was born into this house:
Back garden (from museum webcam)

in this room:
..which you can visit in this "virtual tour".
The house now hosts the Beethoven Haus Bonn museum.  The Beethoven Haus website provides a great overview of the house including this page.

240 years later and still the best!

Apparently WDAV radio is having an all day LvB fest

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12/15 Beethoven and Ashkenazy, a Lifetime Fascination

Vladimir Ashkenazy is a huge Beethoven fan.  Interestingly, he did not get into B. until much later in his studies, when he came to the west.  Apparently in his youth in Russia he only really studied Glinka, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev...then B came along and BLEW.HIS.MIND (I'm using a "Jack Black" voice there ;) ).  Here's a survey of A. and B. through about 40 years....

Ashkenazy rehearsing the 5th Piano Concerto with Edo de Waart and discussing Beethoven at around age 30 (1968)...

Ashkenazy performing the 3rd Piano Concerto at age 37:

Age 48 he discussing the inexpressible nature of Beethoven's music and how it seems to be inexhaustible...(I love this interview)

And in 2005, at age 68 conducting the 9th Symphony! 
He really got with the program, eh?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12/14 Piano Sonata 3, Annotated Breakdown

(Would Beethoven have used an iPad?)
Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 3 In C, Op.2, No.2 (1795) is one of my favorites of his early sonatas.  It's got power and wit to spare.  I did a casual annotated breakdown with help from Donald Tovey's notes in the video below.

Beethoven: Sonata No.3 in C Major, Op.2 No.3 - I. Allegro con brio.
Elena Kuschnerova's performance at the 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition, first round.
Ms. Kuschnerova is a fantastic pianist who I just discovered from Youtube.  Looking forward to checking out her other recordings, especially as this is 20 years old now...

Theme 1
  Pt 1 - Main motif
   Pt 2 - Hammerblows add dramatic energy
Modulating bridge based on 2 sets of sequences
Theme 2 - contrasting theme in dominant key
Cadence Section 
  Pt 1 with hammerblows 
  Pt 2 reprises main Motif from Theme 1

(Exposition Repeat - skipped in this performance)
  Pt 1 - Main motif leads to modulations
  Pt 2 - Modulating with huge scalar runs
  Pt 3 Theme 1 Motif Variations

Theme 1
  Pt 1 - Main Motif
  Pt 2 - Unexpected Syncopated Variation
Modulating bridge based on 2 sets of sequences
Theme 2 - contrasting theme in home key
Cadence Section 
  Pt 1 with hammerblows 
  Pt 2 reprises main Motif from Theme 1

  Pt 1 - Sudden Evasion of closed cadence signals Coda
  Pt 2 - cadenza-like fantasia
  Pt 3 - Main motif returns to wrap up the sonata wittily.

Monday, December 13, 2010

12/13 Beethoven in Outer Space

(Rarest Beethoven record ever.)
In 1977, two Voyager space probes were launched into the greater universe, and with each of them was a "Golden Record", basically a message to aliens attempting to prove that we're intelligent (and worthy of gifts).  It includes everything from chemical formulas to Ancient Sumerian greetings to a message from Jimmy Carter.  It also includes 90 minutes of music including "Johnny B Goode", mariachi music, Pygmy girls' initiation songs and of course, Beethoven. In fact the final track on this "Earth's Greatest Hits" is from Beethoven's String Quartet Opus 130, the "Cavatina" movement. This is the piece that Beethoven said caused tears to well up in his eyes just thinking about it. For the next 40,000 years (or so) this record will be Beethoven's "das lied von der erde" (that's of course a reference to Gustav Mahler's "Song of the Earth").

I've tried analyzing it a couple times and I was originally going to post some annotations but - this is one time where analysis seems to be missing the point. I'll just summarize by saying that I think it's basically in A,A1,B,A2 form and that the sections kind of meld together, so it's very difficult to divide the measures up into "sections". The B section is the "up" part and picks up some energy before reverting back to cosmic profundity...

String Quartet 13 in Bb, Op.130 (1826) Movement V: Cavatina: Adagio molto espressivo
The Guarneri Quartet

Music on Voyager's Golden Record - TRACKLIST.

If you want to hear the actual music on this Golden Oldie go HERE and click on the spacecraft, then the small Gold record, then the big Gold Record, then the circle-thingy on the upper left (I'm assuming that's a design for a space turntable).

Go HERE to see an interactive Flash presentation about Voyager's Golden Record.
Voyager main page with loads of interesting info.
Video Collage by bloconovo:

Was Beethoven an alien?  ;)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

12/12 Remembering Jacqueline du Pré

Jacqueline du Pré was a brilliant cellist who sadly was laid low at a relatively early age from sickness.  I first heard her on Elgar's Cello Concerto and I remember thinking. "who IS this?".  Ms. du Pré recorded B.'s 5 Cello Sonatas as well as some of his Piano Trios (such as the Ghost Trio which I posted about earlier this week).  However here is a documentary I just stumbled across about her and which features some fine performance footage of several different works and composers besides Cello Sonata Op.69 and the Ghost Trio...

Update: Sadly Remembering Jacqueline du  Pré has been deleted - instead check out:

Also THIS POST has alot of Ms. du Pre.

More about Jacqueline du Pré HERE.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

12/11 Brendel's Hammerklavier (Beethoven Sonata Op.106)

(Infused with the energy of the Hammer-Piano!)
Beethoven's greatest piano work is "arguably" Opus 106, the "Hammerklavier" Sonata.  Literally, Hammer-Piano.  Of course that's not what is really means, it's just Beethoven's attempt to use German words in musical terms, as opposed to the traditional Italian terminology.  Nonetheless, I find it pretty "hammering".  Since this is a weekend post (i.e.- concert/documentary post), I'm not going to drone on about how brilliant and epic this work is, except to say that the 4th movement contains a "grande fugue" which many consider to be one of, if not the, most complex of Beethoven's piano works. It also rocks the house.

There are 4 movements:
1. Allegro ("virtually impossible")
2. Scherzo: Assai vivace ("a dark interlude")
3. Adagio sostenuto ("the apotheosis of pain")
4. Introduzione: Largo - Fuga: Allegro risoluto
         ("dramatic fury and dissonance...terrifying... strangely unstable")
(quotes from the purely-objective folks at Wikipedia)

Anyways, now I'm getting an itch to analyze this behemoth but I'm supposed to take it easy today!
Piano Sonata #29 In Bb, Op.106, "Hammerklavier" (1818)
Performed by Alfred Brendel and recorded in 1970.

I believe I posted this before but it seems appropriate to repost the 1st part of this Barenboim-Bax Hammerklavier Masterclass.  It's mostly about the fugue movement.  The rest can be found on Youtube...7 parts altogether.

Friday, December 10, 2010

12/10 Beethoven's Journey Around the World

(The World in 1800)
Actually it's Urian's Journey Around the World.
One of the interesting songs Beethoven set to music in his early days was "Urians Reise um die Welt (Urian's voyage round the world)", the first song in the 8 Lieder Op.52 (1793?).  Around this time Beethoven had recently left Bonn to visit Vienna for the first time (1792), and soon undertook several concert tours through Prague, Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin (1796).  Perhaps these experiences motivated him to put such a "light" piece to music...or the other way around.

Basically the text is 14 refrains of "Urian" telling the story of his travels to the North Pole, Africa, China, America, Mexico, Tahiti, etc...and how everyone is as foolish as the people back home :).  When I first heard this song I thought it was kind of repetitive - until I read the translated text...a very big help to the enjoyment of this song!

Watch this video I threw together for the full text in German and English and have a sing-along..
..sorry if the text is a bit blurry - too many lyrics to type out!  Watch at 480p if you can.


Finally, everytime I hear about a music "journey around the world" I always flash back to my days as a Stockhausen fan and listening to his avant-garde opera "Licht".  He has a piece called Michael's Journey Around the World.  Is it possible he cribbed from Beethoven? Here's a blog with video..interesting stuff but not for the faint of heart...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

12/9 Auditioning for Beethoven / Archduke Finale

(Ludwig Cramolini,
B. lived in his mother's house)
Here are a couple touching anecdotes about performing chamber music for the Maestro himself:

Ludwig Cramolini, tenor and later producer at the Vienna Court Opera, tells about his last visit to Beethoven:
I saw Beethoven just one more time, at the urging of my mother. It was the 15th or 16th of December 1826. I had already been singing for two years as a tenor at the Imperial and Royal Court Opera and was engaged to be married to Nanette Schechner, an excellent singer. After a performance of "Fidelio", which Nanny sang and acted beautifully, my mother said, ‘I would never have believed the old crosspatch could write such heavenly music, music which quite squeezed the tears out of me.’ My mother had never had an opportunity to hear any of Beethoven’s music until then. ‘You should go call on him; perhaps Beethoven will remember us both. It would be ungrateful of him not to, but I can hardly believe he would be; for someone who feels so deeply, as his composition of "Fidelio" proves he does, must have a kind heart, and I have never doubted that he has.’ Nanny also urged me to go, and expressed the desire to make his acquaintance herself on the occasion. I finally agreed, and spoke to Schindler who was then the musical director of the Theater in der Josefstadt, begging him to remind Beethoven of Frau Cramolini’s son Louis, who had so often tormented him, but who was now mature enough to recognize and admire his immortal works. 

A few days later Schindler told me that Beethoven was prepared to receive us, Nanny and me, but we would have to excuse his receiving us lying in bed. We should also bring some music with us, for he wanted to hear or at least to see us sing. Thus we drove out to see him on the afternoon of that December day. When we entered the room the poor man was lying on his sick-bed seriously ill with dropsy. He looked at me, his eyes wide and glowing, then held out his left hand and said, ‘So this is young Louis, and already engaged’ Then he nodded to Nanny and said, ‘A handsome couple and, so I hear, a couple of able artists too. And how is your dear mother?’ He handed us paper and a pencil, and we carried on the ensuing conversation in writing, while he sometimes spoke rather incomprehensibly. Then he asked us to sing for him. Schindler sat down at one of the two pianos that stood side by side in the middle of the room, and we stood facing Beethoven. I wrote that I would sing his ‘Adelaide’, with which I actually made my initial reputation as a singer. Beethoven nodded affably. But when I tried to begin, my palate and throat had become so dry from anxiety that I could not sing. I asked Schindler to wait a few moments until I could collect myself. Beethoven asked what had happened and why I was not singing, and laughed out loud when Schindler wrote down the reason. Then he said, just sing, dear Louis. Unfortunately I can hear nothing; I only want to see you sing! Finally I took courage and sang, with true fervour, the song of songs, Beethoven’s divine ‘Adelaide’, When I finished, Beethoven motioned me over to him, pressed my hand cordially and said, ‘From your breathing I can see that you sing correctly, and in your eyes I have read that you feel what you sing. It has been a great pleasure for me.’ I was overjoyed at the great man’s judgment and had to dry away a tear. When I tried to kiss his hand he withdrew it quickly, saying, ‘Kiss the hand of your good mother and remember me often to her, and tell her what a joy it was for me that she still recalls me and has sent her little Louis to see me.’ 

Then Nanny sang Leonore’s aria from "Fidelio", with such intensity that Beethoven repeatedly began beating time and absolutely devoured her with his wide-open eyes. After the aria, Beethoven held his hand over his eyes for a long while, and then said, ‘You are a masterful singer, with a voice possibly somewhat like Milder’s, but she did not have the depth of feeling at her command that you do, which showed clearly in your face. What a pity I cannot .... ’ He probably wanted to say ‘hear you’, but he stopped abruptly and then went on, ‘Thank you, Fraulein, for a lovely hour, and may you both be very happy together.' Nanny was also deeply touched and pressed his hand to her heart. There was a short silence. Then Beethoven said, ‘I feel quite exhausted after all.’ We made ready to go, but before leaving we wrote our thanks and begged his pardon for disturbing him, adding the wish that God might restore him to health soon. With a smile Beethoven said, ‘Then I will write an opera for the two of you. My greetings to your father and your dear mother, and if I do regain my health I will ask Schindler to bring them to see me. Adieu my little Louis, and adieu my dear Fidelio. He pressed our hands again, looked at us sadly but amiably, and finally turned his face to the wall. We went out quietly so as not to disturb him, and were driving back towards town when Nanny broke the silence and said, ‘We have probably seen that godlike man for the last time'. The same thought had struck me. I gave Nanny my hand and we wept bitterly.
(Kerst, Frankfurter-Zeitung No 270, Sept 1907)
Read more HERE.

Touching but a bit of a downer...I hate to leave on a sad note!  This one is a bit more upbeat.

Franz Lachner on Beethoven and Nanette Streicher:
I had the privilege of making Beethoven’s acquaintance at the Streichers. Their home was the meeting place of all the leading figures in music; and so it happened that I found access, although I was merely an organist and a practising performer on the piano. One day I was there alone, and sat at the piano next to Nanette Streicher who was studying the Trio in B-Flat Major, Op. 97 (Archduke), by Beethoven. Suddenly Beethoven (on whose household affairs Frau Streicher had considerable influence) entered the room just as we had reached the beginning of the last movement. He listened for a few moments, using the ear-trumpet he always carried with him, but soon showed that he was not in agreement with the too gentle execution of the principal motive of the Finale. He leaned over Nanette and played it for her, after which he left straight-away. I was so excited and thrilled by the loftiness of his aspect, his forceful action and the immediate proximity of his imposing personality, that it took some time until I was again in a tranquil state.
(FRBS, HC Robbins)

Here's the movement Lachner speaks about above - clearly these performers are using the appropriate brio....
Previn,Mullova,Schiff on Beethoven's Piano Trio No.7 Op.97 Archduke Finale

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

12/8 The Appassionata Sonata

Beethoven's most powerful piano sonata may be the "Appassionata", Sonata #23, Opus 57.  It has a couple of interesting stories attached to it (though the "Appassionata" name was given by the publisher and not Beethoven himself).

Ferdinand Ries on a walk with Beethoven:
Beethoven took a pleasure in wandering along lonely, often pathless ways through the forests, valleys and mountains. (One day) we set out happily together and soon found ourselves in a lonely woods on the beautiful mountain slopes of Baden. I observed that Beethoven was much absorbed in private meditation and that he was humming to himself; I knew from experience that at such moments he was in the most powerful throes of creation and so I took good care not to disturb him, but walked along with him in silence...After having walked for about an hour, we sat down to rest in the grass. 

Suddenly, from the slope on the other side of the valley, the sound of a shawm (medieval oboe) was heard, whose unexpected melody under the clear blue sky, in the deep solitude of the woods, made a remarkable impression on me. Since Beethoven was sitting next to me I could not refrain from calling his attention to it: sunk deep in thought he had heard nothing. He listened, but I observed from his expression that he did not hear the sounds, although they continued. It was then that for the first time I was convinced his hearing was impaired...In order not to sadden him, I made believe that I too could not hear anything anymore. 

After awhile we set out again, the tones accompanying us for a long time on our solitary way through the woods, without Beethoven's taking the least notice of them. The sweet fascination which these tones had exercised on me at first now turned into profound sadness. Almost without realizing it, I walked along silently, sunk in sad thoughts, at the side of my great master who, as before, occupied with his own inner meditations, continued to hum indistinguishable phrases and tones, and to sing aloud. When after several hours we returned home, he sat down impatiently at the piano and exclaimed: "Now I shall play something for you." With irresistible fire and force he played the Allegro of the great F Minor Sonata (Appassionata). The day will forever remain unforgettable to me. (Kerst, HC Landon).

There are actually a couple other accounts of the above story with some variations, but that one has the most poignancy for me.  The other famous story about the Appassionata is that Prince Lichnowsky asked B to perform for some French soldiers who were visiting and B would have none of it.  He was staying at Lichnowsky's Gratz summer house and stormed out into the rain, preferring to walk back to Vienna instead of waiting for a horse carriage.  The score of the Appassionata got a bit wet as you can see below:

Page 1
Page 2
Page 1 from the 2nd Movement.
Notice that the first staff and a half has been pasted on as a correction!
This was before Finale and Sibelius software...
Page 2 from the 2nd Movement
Sviatoslav Richter (he's a favorite of mine obviously) playing the Appassionata 1st Movement:

Unknown 13-year old playing a blazing 3rd Movement...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

12/7 "Kreutzer" Violin Sonata, Mvmt 1 (Annotated Analysis)

I've posted about this Kreutzer Violin Sonata performance by Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich before but the video I found back then had the 1st movement in 3 parts. I found that a bit annoying so I joined them together into 1 video.  Since I did that, I figured I might as well add some brief annotations....which turned out to be substantially more work than I expected - but very rewarding!

Violin Sonata No.9 in A, Op.47 'Kreutzer' (1803): I. Adagio Sostenuto - Presto

Violin Sonata No.9 in A, Op.47 'Kreutzer' (1803): Movement I. (Adagio Sostenuto/Presto)

Introduction in 3/4 time, Adagio Sostenuto
A - Violin enters with thickly chorded fanfare, melancholy
A1 - Piano replies, followed by violin 2-note rising motif
A2 - violin and piano trade 2-note motif in sympathy

Theme 1
A - Exclamatory statement of main theme, meter changes to 4/4.Presto
A1 - builds to 8th note shimmy motif
A2 - syncopated violin accents lead into ostinato-like 8th note patterns
Theme 2 - Lyrical contrasting theme dominated by whole note chords
Theme 1 Motif Variations
Cadence Section
Pt 1 - Based on Theme 1-A w Syncopated plucked strings
Pt 2 - Furious 8th note passages end the exposition
a pause for breath leads into...

Exposition Repeat

Pt 1 - Motif from Cadence Section
Pt 2 - Piano cuts loose.
Pt 3 - Back to Cadence motif, sensual, then playful
Pt 4 - forceful burst of energy erupts, then subsides back to lyricism
Pt 5 - rising, then falling scales
Pt 6 - Theme 1 motif reprise
Introduction Theme 2 reprise

Theme 1
A - Exclamatory statement
A3 - Modulating variation leads to A1 shimmy motif
A2 - syncopated violin accents lead into ostinato-like 8th note patterns
Theme 2 - Lyrical contrasting theme dominated by whole note chords
Theme 1 Variations
Cadence Section
Pt 1 - Based on Theme 1-A w Syncopated plucked strings
Pt 2 - Furious 8th note passages end the exposition

Pt 1 - shuffling piano arpeggios disguise the tonality
Pt 2 - modulating Theme 1 fragments
Pt 3 - Time stands still for a moment...
Pt 4 - a final burst of Theme 1 ferocity!

Monday, December 6, 2010

12/6 Schubert Loses his Cool. Trout. Ghost..

The famous composer Franz Schubert was a big fan of Beethoven's.  Here are some interesting reports of his relationship with Beethoven according to Anton Schindler:
It was a dark day for Franz Schubert when, in 1822, he called on Beethoven to present a copy of the Piano Variations for Four Hands which he had dedicated to the master. Despite the company of Diabelli, who acted as the interpreter of Schubert’s sentiments for the master at the meeting, the shy and taciturn young composer played a role disagreeable to everyone including himself. His courage, which had held fast as far as the house, deserted him completely at the sight of His Musical Majesty. And when Beethoven expressed the wish that Schubert himself should write down the answers to his questions, the latter’s hand seemed to be chained. Beethoven looked through the copy hastily and came across an error in the harmony. He drew the young man’s attention to it with kindly words, adding immediately that it was not a mortal sin. Schubert, however, was utterly disconcerted now, perhaps as a result of Beethoven’s soothing remark. Not until he had left the house did he pull himself together, and then he cursed himself in the most common terms. He never had the courage to try to make the master’s acquaintance again.

Since the illness, to which Beethoven finally succumbed after four months’ suffering, made his customary artistic activity impossible from the time it began, we had to think of some diversion for him in keeping with his intellect and his interests. And so it happened that I showed him a collection of Schubert’s songs, about 60 in number, many of which were then still in manuscript. It was not my sole purpose to provide him with pleasant entertainment, but rather to give him the opportunity of becoming acquainted with the real Schubert, of forming a favourable opinion of his talent, which had been made suspect for him by those exalted beings who have doubtless done the same for others of their contemporaries. The great master, who until that time had known less than half a dozen of Schubert’s songs, was astonished at their number and could not be made to believe that Schubert had by then [February 1827] already written more than five hundred. But if he was astounded at the number, he was even more amazed when he came to know their content. For several days he could hardly put them down, and every day he spent hours at a time with Iphigenia’s monologue, the Grenzen der Menschheit, Allmacht, the Young Nun, Viola, the Mullerlieder and others. Again and again he cried out enthusiastically, ‘Truly, there is a divine spark in Schubert!’-- ‘If I had had this poem I would have set it to music too!’ he said of most of the poems, the subject and content of which, together with Schubert’s original setting, he could not praise enough .... In short, Beethoven gained such great respect for Schubert’s talent that he now wanted to see his operas and piano pieces too; but his illness had advanced to the point where he could no longer satisfy that desire. But he spoke often of Schubert, prophesying that ‘he will cause a stir in the world,’ and regretting that he had not corne to know him earlier.

And here's a letter from Anselm Huttenbrenner to "Professor Luib":
I know for certain that Professor Schindler, Schubert and I paid a visit to Beethoven’s bedside roughly a week before he died. Schindler announced us both and asked Beethoven which one of us he wished to see first. Beethoven answered, ‘Let Schubert come in first’.
(Kersr 1, 276. TDR V, 480)

Well, here's a nice 55 minute documentary/concert about performing Schubert's "Trout" Quintet with  Itzhak Perlman, Daniel Barenboim, Jacqueline Du Pré, Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zukerman (I can't believe how YOUNG they look!).

And now segueing back to Beethoven - here's some of the same people performing Beethoven's "Ghost" Trio...
Jacqueline du Pré, cello
Pinchas Zukerman, violin
Daniel Barenboim, piano
Piano Trio 5 in D, Op.70, No. 1 "Ghost" (1808)

More about the Ghost Trio in previous posts HERE and HERE.
Today's post has some longer video features which I would normally save for a weekend post often does one get to put 'Schubert', 'trout' and 'ghost' in one post header ;) .