Thursday, July 29, 2010

7/29 Beethoven : Play by Play (A. Rich)

One of my favorite books when just starting to listen to B's major works is Alan Rich's "Beethoven - Play by Play" (Harper/Collins). I bought it for $1 'like new' on Amazon. Best deal of the year.

Basically it is a detailed guided tour of the Eroica Symphony and the Egmont Overture. It includes a CD recording of these 2 works conducted by Sir Georg Solti w the CSO and it gives track times in the analyses so you can easily match the text with the time on your CD player.

Here's a random quote:

"Heading for C minor, the music veers instead to a deceptive cadence on A-flat (Track 2, index 8, 12:28). A quiet new theme (F) in A-flat (T2/i8, 12:44) leads to a reprise of (B2) (T2/i8, 13:22) in the 'proper' key of C minor but then to a complete collapse (T2/i8, 13:34) as fragments of themes (A) and (B) turn to sand..."

(from the chapter on the Marcia Funebre).

Actually that was a bit dry - so much for random. It's in general more exciting than that.

The first part of the book is 79 pgs of a general overview of B's life and work (relatively decent considering it's brevity), then the detailed run down of the Eroica and Egmont in 35 pgs. Finally (and this is the part that I refer to the most) structural analyses of 16 of B's most famous works in 36 pgs:

Symphonies 5, 7, 9, Missa Solemnis, Mass in C, Moonlight, Pathetique, Appasionata, Grosse fugue, Archduke Trio, Kreutzer & Spring Violin Sonatas, Piano Concertos 4 & 5, etc....

These also come with recommended recordings and timings for each section. For someone who is not experienced at discerning melodic and structural form in large scale works these were extremely helpful in developing my sensitivity to structural dynamics in B's music.

Here's an example:

Sonata 23, Op 57 (Appassionata) (Alfred Brendel, Phillips 411470-2)
Track 7 Assai allegro - Sonata Form

0:00 Exposition: first theme
0:59 Second theme
1:21 First theme (variation)
1:58 Third theme
2:27 Development: First theme
3:30 Second theme
4:52 Third theme
4:57 Recapitulation
5:59 Second theme
6:59 Third theme
7:30 Coda

Listening to something over an hour long like the Missa Solemnis with orchestral score in hand can be pretty exhausting for someone not used to score-reading, but with a breakdown like the one in Mr. Rich's book it can at least be approached with these "signposts".

Of course you still have to search out the "recommended recordings" if you want to follow the track timings.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Mr. Rich nor Mr. Brendel.

Oh wow , Mr. Rich just passed away this past April. RIP and thanks for a great book Mr. Rich!

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