Thursday, September 30, 2010

9/30 Symphony No. 2, Pt 2 (Analysis, Järvi)

(Blue Chrome Kandinsky)

Continued from yesterday, Symphony 2, Movements 3 and 4....this flat out rocks!

Summary of Annotations
M3 – Scherzo allegro ¾
    A, A1
    A, A1 2nd time
    B 2nd time
    C, C1
    C 2nd time
    C, C1
Repeat Scherzo
    A, A1
    A, A1 2nd time

M4 – Allegro molto 2/2
    Theme 1
        A, A1, B
    Theme 2
        A, A1
    Theme 1
        A, A1, B
    Theme 2
        A, A1

Performed by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen with Paavo Järvi, 2006.
(Analysed with the assistance of Robert Greenberg's Teaching Company Wordscore guide.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

9/29 Symphony No. 2, Pt 1 (Analysis, Järvi)

(Rusty Kandinsky)
Today is part of a continuing series of structural analyses of Beethoven's 9 Symphonies.  Last week I did the 1st Symphony and so this week is the 2nd Symphony (logic dictates that next week will feature the 3rd Symphony but my vacation plans may dictate otherwise).

SYMPHONY No.2 in D major, op.36 (1803),
I. Adagio - Allegro con brio

Summary of Annotations
Introduction – Adagio molto ¾
Exposition – Allegro con brio 4/4
    Theme 1
        A, A1
    Modulating Bridge
    Theme 2
        A , A1, B, C
Exposition Repeat
    Theme 1
    Modulating Bridge
    Theme 2
        A, A1, B, C

II: Largetto

Summary of Annotations
    Theme 1
        A , A1
        B , B1
    Theme 2
        A, A1
        B, B1
    Theme 1
        A, A1
        B, B1
    Theme 2
        A, A1, B, B1, C

Performed by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen with Paavo Järvi, 2006.
(Analysed with the assistance of Robert Greenberg's Teaching Company Wordscore guide.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

9/28 Online Books about Beethoven's Music

A little while ago I posted about all the "tell-all" Beethoven books available to view (in their entirety) on the internet.  Today's round up is a selection of books about B's music.  I actually have some of the books below in physical dead-tree form, but for search-ability and the ability to cut and paste (since I actually hate typing, believe it or not) these resources are very handy for daily blogging about Beethoven.

From Google Books:

Beethoven and his 9 Symphonies (Grove)
This is a very readable book with plenty of very brief music examples.  Sir George gives a good overview of the important themes and outstanding rhythms of each movement of the 9 Symphonies.  You only need a little music background to appreciate this.

Beethoven (Kinderman)
This version of Kinderman's book is the first edition. It has since been revised (which is why this version is available for free here I imagine).  A few degrees more technical than the Grove book, Kinderman does a great job of concentrating on the music in greater depth and covers all the important works including the string quartets, piano sonatas and other chamber works.  To savored slowly.

There's alot more here.

From The Internet Archive:

Beethoven Studies (Misch, 1953)
A pretty interesting collection of topics about B's music - individual essays covering specific works and concepts, haven't read it yet but looks pretty good.
Here's the TOC:
i The Grand Fugue 3
ii Alia danza tedesca 14
in Two B Flat Major Themes 19
iv The Finale of the C Major Quartet 3 2
v The "Problem" of the D minor Sonata 3 9
vi T*wo Comments on the A Flat Major Sonata 54
vn The Thematic Treatment of the Egmont Overture 76
vni Pseudo and Riddle Canons by Beethoven 106
ix Why Did Beethoven Write the Fourth Overture to Fidelio? 139
x The Battle of Victoria 153
xi Annotations on Some Piano-forte Sonatas 163
xn "The Upper Pitches of the Voices ...." 167
xiii Beethoven Studies
xm Non si fa una cadenza 1 7 1
xiv Fidelia : an Ethical Confession 179

Beethoven's Pianoforte Sonatas (Elterlein)
A somewhat dated overview of each of B's piano sonatas, each sonata gets it's own chapter.  Actually how dated can it be, Beethoven can't exactly make revisions now can he?  Not too technical, more descriptive.No music examples.

Analysis of form in Beethoven's Sonatas (Harding)
This is an awesome book for structural analysis, like the kind I do on this blog.  Harding charts out the structure of each piano sonata with accompanying notes.  Why is this not in bookstores?  Next to the Tovey "Guide to the Pianoforte Sonatas" this is the one to go to.  Not cut-and-paste-able unfortunately (otherwise I could practically do an HOURLY Beethoven blog).

Here you find a whole truckload of Beethoven books.  Even the one by Wagner(Spoiler alert - if you ever come across Wagner's account of how he met Beethoven - it's a fantasy.  Interesting read tho).

Read all those books and you can start your own daily Beethoven blog!

Monday, September 27, 2010

9/27 Beethoven's "Creatures" (Ballet)

Beethoven only composed one complete ballet, "The Creatures of Prometheus".  It's the only orchestral work of his that has a harp in it, I have no idea why.  It's also his only work which has a bassett horn.  That I can understand.  Written in 1801, there's no surviving notes on the choreography but what typically happened in those days is that shorter music pieces in a "dance style" were used to accompany the stage action.  The producers weren't interested so much in large themes or any kind of symphonic development so this ballet really comes across more as a 19th century jukebox collection.  It's admittedly far from his greatest work, but it's still fascinating and is fun to listen to.  The story itself is pretty interesting.  When I first read the title "Creatures of Prometheus" I expected scenes of giant monsters fighting in volcanoes.  Not quite.

Basically Prometheus created Man, and gave Man his skills in creativity and logic, everything a civilization needs.  Zeus got jealous of these upstarts and took away Man's fire.  Prometheus stole some fire from another god and smuggled it back to Man.  Zeus later punished Prometheus with some gory animal-inflicted punishment.  So the titular characters of the ballet, the "Creatures", are actually Man!  Pretty cool (tho a bit disappointed about the lack of fire-breathng dragons).  The ballet itself portrays a man and woman being given these artistic/technological gifts and learning to play music and dance from various gods whom Prometheus introduces them to.  I think.  Who knows?

Beethoven wrote an Overture, an Introduction and 16 pieces in 2 Acts.  Most importantly the Eroica theme, used in the Finale to the Eroica 3rd Symphony as well as the Eroica Variations Op.35 (not to mention one of his German Dances WoO.14) can be found in the finale to this ballet.  According to the playbill the story goes something like this:
"...the ballet presents two animated statues who, by the power of harmony, are made susceptible to all the passions of human existence. Prometheus takes them to Parnassus, to receive instruction from Apollo, god of the arts, who commands Amphion, Arion, and Orpheus to teach them music; Melpomene and Thalia, tragedy and comedy. Terpsichore aids Pan, who introduces them to the Pastoral Dance, which he has invented, and from Bacchus they learn his invention—the Heroic Dance."

Here's a possible rundown:
Ouverture – Adagio – Allegro molto e con brio – attacca:
ACT I: Introduction. (La Tempesta) Allegro non troppo – attacca: (C Major)
    Heavy accents represent stormy nature
No 1. Poco Adagio – Allegro con brio – Poco Adagio – Allegro con brio (C Major)
    Prometheus uses fire to light the hearts of 2 statue-like humans, which slowly come to life.
No 2. Adagio – Allegro con brio (F Major)
    The humans do not "get" the fire and Prometheus gets frustrated and almost destroys these stupid creatures.
No 3. Allegro vivace (F Major)
    Prometheus gets an idea - take them to the land of the Gods!
    The gods Euterpe, Amphion, Arion and a couple others play music using harp, flute, cello etc and this slowly awakens "reason" within the human pair.
    Terpsichore and Bacchus enter and engage in a "warlike" dance, which the pair participate in.
    Then Melpomene appears and the mood gets very somber.  See below:
No 4. Maestoso – Andante (D Major) (arrival in Parnassus)
No 5. Adagio – Andante quasi Allegretto (B♭ Major) (Euterpe and Amphion's duet)
No 6. Un poco Adagio – Allegro – attacca: (G Major) (Humans react with joy)
No 7. Grave – attacca: (G Major)
No 8. Marcia. Allegro con brio – Presto (D Major) (War dance)
No 9. Adagio – Adagio – Allegro molto (E♭ Major) (Melpomene)
    This is followed by Prometheus getting punched by Melpomene, the humans getting some kind of "comic masks" and then the pastorale ensues. 
No 10. Pastorale. Allegro (C Major) (rustic dance)
No 11. Coro di Gioja. Andante – attacca: (C Major) (entrance of solo dancer)
No 12. Solo di Gioja. Maestoso – Adagio – Allegro (C Major) (comic dance solo)
No 13. Terzettino - Grotteschi. Allegro – Comodo – Coda (D Major)
No 14. Solo della Signora Cassentini. Andante – Adagio – Allegro – Allegretto (F Major)
    (sinfonia concertante for basset horn and oboe)
No 15. Coro (e) Solo di Vigano. Andantino – Adagio – Allegro (B♭ Major)
No 16. Finale. Allegretto – Allegro molto – Presto (E♭ Major)
    (uses Eroica theme)

There you have it.  Though I have no idea if any of the above description helps or hinders the enjoyment of this ballet...
The Creatures of Prometheus, Op.43 (1801), I.Overture.Allegretto. Finale.
Willem Mengelberg, Orchestre du Concertgebouw d'Amsterdam, enr 01-11-1942.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

9/26 Zander's Beethoven 5

One of the most exciting conductor/educators around today is Benjamin Zander.  He's the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra (since its inception 25 years ago) as well as a lecturer to both music organizations and business corporations.  I first saw him in a video masterclass on conducting and I found it riveting, even though I didn't know a thing about conducting.  His lectures to corporate/government-types are usually of the "positive thinking" variety, but are actually pretty good. 
The other thing I love about Zander is that he takes Beethoven at warp speed.  That is, he follows the metronome marks that are in the score.  Frankly, it may actually be too fast even for me, but it's pretty bracing to see it once in a awhile.

Here Maestro Zander talks about and conducts the 1st and 4th movements of B's 5th Symphony with the "Youth Orchestra of the Americas".  The sound is not the best but it gets better.  Put on your seat-belt...

Here's a show where he entertains a non-musician crowd.  What a ham!  But excellent throughout.

Davos Annual Meeting 2009 (gets businessmen and government suits to sing in German):

He's a pretty "unbuttoned" dude.

Here's a selection of more Zander, all of it funny and educational. 
Conducting Masterclass in London (55 Min) (this is the first Zander video I saw)

Zander on Music Education on Teacher's TV (14 min)
Interview with Zander (20 min, he talks a little about Beethoven about halfway thru)
Zander also has a bunch of CDs where he conducts a symphony and includes a commentary as a bonus track.  These are a bit controversial (at least according to "anti-Zander" David Hurwitz), but what great speaker isn't?

Benjamin Zander's Website

Saturday, September 25, 2010

9/25 The Triple Concerto

Triple Concerto, in C, Op.56 (1805) for Piano, Violin, Cello and Orchestra

Beethoven's Triple Concerto is unique.  Here we have not one soloist such as in a piano or violin concerto, but three!  This makes for some exciting interplay.  No other concerto or orchestral work gives me such a strong impression of playful oneupmanship between musicians, especially in the 3rd movement.  One could also think of this as a concerto for Piano Trio, but the soloist parts seem geared towards soloistic and duo confrontations/collaborations.  In fact as I mentioned in an earlier post, Herbert von Karajan and Mstislav Rostropovich "ganged up" on Sviatoslav Richter and Davis Oistrakh in one performance (as told by Richter in the Richter Enigma doc).
"Karajan: First we take Austria..."
(best game of RISK ever)
They seem happy enough on the album cover tho.

Here's a high-powered meeting between some modern stars, Daniel Barenboim, Yo-Yo Ma and Itzak Perlman.

Friday, September 24, 2010

9/24 If Beethoven Played Guitar V1

One thing that I miss in Beethoven's music is that he doesn't have much music for guitar. To remedy this unfortunate state of affairs, I've been making arrangements of B's music for guitar and guitar ensemble.  Here's a few of them (performed on the "Qwerty-string guitar" ;).

"If Beethoven Played the Guitar Vol 1: Early Works"

9 Variations On A March Of Dressler, WoO.63 (1782)

10 Variations on 'La stessa, la stessissima' from 'Falstaff' by Salieri, WoO.73 (1799)

Rondo a capriccio in G Major, 'Rage over a Lost Penny' Op.129 (1795)

These are just some of B's earlier pieces, not too hard.  The Diabelli Variations however are another story...
Ranges of musical instruments...

...not including the guitar boat tho.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

9/23 Symphony No.1, Pt 2 (Analysis, Järvi)

(Kandinsky recolored)

Analyzing/annotating the 3rd and 4th movements of Beethoven's Symphony 1 in C....continued from yesterday.

Symphony No. 1 
Movements 3 (Menuetto. Allegro molto e vivace) and 4 (Adagio - Allegro molto e vivace)

Summary of annotations:
Movement III:
  A - A
  B - A1 -B - A1
  C - D - C1 - D - C1
Minuet (Repeat)
  A - A
  B - A1 -B - A1

Movement IV:
  Theme 1 (A, B)
  Theme 2 (A, B)
Exposition Repeat
  Theme 1 (A, B)
  Theme 2 (A, B)
  Theme 1 (A, B, B1)
  Theme 2

Performed by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen with Paavo Järvi, 2006.
(Analysed with the assistance of Robert Greenberg's Teaching Company Wordscore guide.)
For some more analysis this is a pretty interesting write-up..

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

9/22 Symphony No.1, Pt 1 (Analysis, Järvi)

(Kandinsky is very musical.)
OK, I'm going to post some structural analyses of the symphonies from time to time.  This is a series of posts which will no doubt get updated and revised well after it's first posting....

First I'd like Maestro Paavo Järvi to introduce the Beethoven Symphonies:

Thanks Paavo!  OK, I'm going to present these structural analyses in the form of Youtube "annotations" - my new toy.  The nice thing is I can also present some of my favorite video performances even if the analysis part is boring for you!  If you don't want to see my theme annotations you can just turn them off.  Or watch it twice?

Symphony No.1 in C Major, Op.21 (1800)
Movement 1 - Allegro con brio
Summary of annotations:
  Theme 1 (A, A1, A2)
  Theme 2 (A, A1, B, A2)
Exposition Repeat
  Theme 1 w variation (A, A1, A2)
  Theme 2 (A, A2, B, A2)

Movement 2 - Andante cantabile con moto
  Theme 1 (Fugato)
  Theme 2 (A, A1, B, B1)
Exposition Repeat
  Theme 1 variation
  Theme 2 (A, A1, B, B1)
Performed by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen with Paavo Järvi, 2006.
(Analysed with the assistance of Robert Greenberg's Teaching Company Wordscore guide.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

9/21 Beethoven's Fidelio ("Er Sterbe")

Since yesterday was about Beethoven's music in today's movies, how did he actually use music in his own movie?  They didn't have movies of course, but they did have opera and B only wrote one, "Fidelio".  Fidelio has a long and tortuous history and frankly opera was not B's strong point in my opinion.  However I think he felt pressured to write one because opera was considered the true mark of a composer in those days, and also because Mozart had done so many great operas (and B greatly admired Mozart). 
First a personal note about opera - I hate opera.  Actually I don't hate it, but of all classical music styles this is the hardest for me to really enjoy.  Part of it is because of all those "fat lady in a Viking helmet" stereotypes, and partly because operatic singing is so alien to popular singing styles of today.  Upon first listening it just sounds so forced and artificial.  The sound of a string quartet can be fairly innocuous, but Maria Callas at full throttle is hard to put on as background music so it's not as ubiquitous.  Fortunately the two B's, Beethoven and Bernstein, slowly helped me to appreciate opera (to some degree anyways). At the bottom of today's post I'll add the Leonard Bernstein Fidelio appreciation TV show.  One thing to mention that I learned from Lenny is that opera is the only musical artform where more than one person can be talking (singing) and still make sense.  In fact because several people can be singing at once, you can get an amazing and unique collage of emotion and sentiment.  One person can be singing about how she loves the guy, the guy can be singing about how he loves some other girl, and the girl's father can be singing about how he doesn't trust the guy - all this singing at the same time.  It sounds confusing when described, but in actuality it's pretty magical and feels totally organic.

Back to Fidelio.  Fidelio went through several versions and the first version was a huge flop, mainly due to Napoleon's occupation of Vienna.  Years later it was re-composed, re-arranged and re-staged and was a success.  The whole story of Fidelio's production could be a book by itself.  The story of Fidelio the opera however is basically this:

Leonora's husband Florestan has been jailed for political reasons, so Leonora dresses as a man and calls herself Fidelio so that she can get hired as an assistant to the jail manager, Rocco. The main baddie who arrested Florestan, Pizarro, decides that Florestan must be executed before a certain minister comes and exposes him.  Just as Pizarro is about to shoot, Leonora tries to stop it.  The minister's announcing horn sounds just in the nick of time to stop Pizarro from shooting Leonora and Florestan.  That's it in a very small nutshell, like saying the Lord of the Rings is about some short guys taking a trip to a volcano and they meet people on the way.

So, here's the confrontation scene with Christa Ludwig as Leonora/Fidelio in glorious B&W, the emotion is scalding and just can't be ignored:

Leonard Bernstein's Young Person's Concert episode about Beethoven's Fidelio helped me tremendously to understand and appreciate Beethoven's only opera.  I should save this for a weekend feature since it's pretty long, but what the heck.
Here's part 1 of 5:

You can watch the whole program here in 5 parts (about an hour):
Youtube link

Also here's some very cool Fidelio postcards!

Monday, September 20, 2010

9/20 Beethoven vs the Lord of the Rings

One of the things I love about Beethoven's music is that it feels so timeless.  By that, I mean that B's music feels like it could fit with today's world very easily.  And by THAT, I mean that it can be used in modern film soundtracks.  In fact, it according to IMDB, B's music is used quite alot in film and TV.  There are 474 entries for Beethoven, not including actual concert films.  Many of these uses are as "source music" (music actually played on screen) so are not necessarily film score in the strictest sense, but there are cases where its use is so effective it actually makes scene worthwhile (though perhaps not the whole film..).

Here's IMDB's Beethoven listing.

And here's a recent and very memorable use of the Allegretto 2nd Movement from the 7th Symphony.  It's from the end of the film "Knowing" so if you don't want to know how it ends I'd recommend watching the film first.  Its not a terrible film (but could have been better).

Here's String Quartet Opus 131 - Adagio quasi un poso andante, as used in the episode "Why we fight" from Band of Brothers.  Almost brings a tear to my eye....

And apparently String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 18 No. 4 was used in "Mission Impossible III" and the Kreutzer Violin Sonata Op. 47 was used in "Hellboy II - The Golden Army".  Good luck with your mission if you choose to accept it.

I hate to give the impression that B's music is used in sub-standard films but apparently modern producers are not very familiar with the Coriolan Overture or the Egmont stage music.  That music would fit right in with a Ridley Scott film....

...Putting money where mouth is, here's my quick attempt to put B with Tolkien and Jackson:

(I know it's not perfect, but I need to leave some work for me to do when Hollywood calls me up and hires me to score all their movies, right?  FYI - I used the allegro from the Pastoral "Storm" movement and an edit of the Coriolan Overture)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

9/19 Rehearsing Beethoven

A lot of detail goes into preparing a Beethoven symphony which a casual listener might not be aware of.  Watching a good rehearsal by a good conductor can give the listener an intimate and revealing look at how dynamics, phrasing and many other elements are shaped by the conductor's own vision of what the music should sound like (watching 2 conductors rehearse the same piece is even more revealing but unfortunately I haven't found any videos of that yet).  A musician who worked with Toscanini said that the Maestro's rehearsals were more exciting than the actual performance, since by the time of the show most of the hardest work was already done.   It's worth mentioning that the New York Philharmonic has open rehearsals throughout the season, some for free and the rest for less than $20.  It's a great deal and you can sit anywhere you want!

Here's an excerpt of Dr. Karl Böhm rehearsing Beethoven's 7th Symphony.  The flutist at the beginning of the exposition really gets it!

Here's an interesting rehearsal/documentary with Alicia de Larrocha, Michael Tilson Thomas and Dudley Moore.....this one's a bit "lighter"....(Piano Concerto 1)

Leonard Bernstein is probably the greatest music educator of the 20th century, at least on TV.  I wish I could offer a video of him rehearsing a Beethoven work, but Brahms will "have to do"...

Bernstein on Conducting Pt 5 (Omnibus)

(the starts the rehearsal at about 5:30)

Here's the whole program if you're interested. It's excellent of course.
Wow, they just don't make 'em like this anymore.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

9/18 Masur's Beethoven 9th

One of the greatest works of music ever written.  The performance here by Kurt Masur is downright apocalyptic....looks like a slightly reduced orchestra, which maybe gives it more of a chamber feel (?).  In any case, enjoy this great performance.

Also cool castle wall backdrop, that never hurts for this kind of thing...

Mélanie Diener : soprano
Marie-nicole Lemieux : Alto
Franz-josef Selig : Basse
Jorma Silvasti : Ténor

Choeur de Radio-France
Maîtrise des Bouches du Rhône

Orchestre National de France
Kurt Masur : Direction.

Lieu : Théâtre Antique d'Orange

And of course you're welcome to follow along with the autograph score...

...and to be completely inappropriate, get your "Beethoven was a DJ" shirt here...

Friday, September 17, 2010

9/17 Beethoven "Tell-All" Books

Josephine von Brunsvick-Deym
(possible Immortal Beloved?)
There are many books about Beethoven, probably over a thousand even if you only count ones published in English, German and French.  Fortunately, there are quite a few available to read for free from the internet, and some you can download.

Here's just a few written by Beethoven's contemporaries.  Some of these tend to be of the "biographical romance" style, so may not be EXACTLY honest.

Beethoven Depicted by his Contemporaries 
 "Beethoven was dressed in a jacket and trousers of long, dark goat's hair, which at once reminded me of the description of Robinson Crusoe I had just been reading. He had a shock of jet black hair (cut d la Titus) standing straight upright. A beard of several days' growth made his naturally dark face still blacker. I noticed also, with a child's quick observation, that he had cotton wool, which seemed to have been dipped in some yellow fluid, in both ears."
By Ludwig Nohl (this has a good variety of different writings, probably the best overall).
Giulietta Guicciardi

Furioso; or, Passages from the life of Ludwig van Beethoven
"He looked round. It was Adelaide. He looked at her with an unutterable expression. Was she not the goal of all his dreams? And she was alone. His heart beat fast, while his breath seemed to fail him.

He sprang up with a deep blush, and putting his hand to his brow seemed to struggle for utterance. But tongue and lips refused their office. His limbs failed him. Then falling upon one knee, he seized the girl's hand, covered it with kisses, inarticulately murmuring, " I love!"

The young countess screamed with terror, and struggled to free her hand from his grasp. A side door suddenly opened. The count and the countess rushed in. Their indignation knew no bounds. The count threw himself between them, thundering forth, " Madman! away, out of my house!" "
 By Franz Gerhard Wegeler (written by B's childhood friend, except that his friend was really old when he wrote this, so not sure how trustworthy this might be.  Fun reading tho.)

An Unrequited Love: From the Diary of a Young Lady
" May 27th.—He was with us the evening before last, but his conduct is at times so very moody and unfriendly that I feel shy with him, and dare not venture to be on the intimate terms that we all so much enjoyed in the winter. Circumstances are in fault, I have no doubt; but the hope I once indulged in, that Beethoven might become our devoted friend, can scarcely be realised now that he cools towards us at the very first misunderstanding."
By Fanny Giannatasio del Rio (one of B's lady friends, not as steamy as you might was 'unrequited' after all).

Beethoven: A Biographical Romance
"Beethoven answered not a word. He was pale as death. Thick drops of cold sweat rested upon his forehead. His eyes stared, fixed with horror, and his features took in the stiffness of marble. Within, with a horrible pain, came up the cry, " The cloud! the black cloud !" Beethoven, Beethoven, man of tone, thou shalt hear nothing more! thou shalt hear nothing more! Great God, thou art growing deaf!"
By Heribert Rau (didn't read this one yet, looks pretty "dramatized")

The Life of Beethoven 
"...I was walking with him over the Graben, when we met M. Schenk, then far advanced between sixty and seventy. Beethoven, transported with joy to see his old friend still among the living, seized his hand, hastened with him into a neighbouring tavern called the Bugle Horn, and conducted us into a back room, where, as in a catacomb, it was necessary to burn a light even at noon-day. There we shut ourselves in, and Beethoven began to open all the recesses of his heart to his respected corrector. More talkative than he often was, a multitude of stories and anecdotes of long by-gone times presented themselves to his recollection, and among the rest the affair with Haydn ; and Beethoven, who had now raised himself to the sovereignty in the realm of music, loaded the modest composer of the Dorfbarbier, who was living in narrow circumstances, with professions of his warmest thanks for the kindness which he had formerly shown him. Their parting, after that memorable hour, as if for life, was deeply affecting; and, in fact, from that day, they never beheld one another again."
by Anton Schindler (the notorious Schindler who was B's friend and assistant for much of B's later years.  Too bad he forged so many of B's letters. This link actually points to a different book, but it reprints the Schindler book in its entirety as part of it.)

Beethoven, The Man And The Artist: As Revealed in His Own Words 
"They are incessantly talking about the C-sharp minor sonata ("Moonlight", op. 27, No. 2); on my word I have written better ones. The F-sharp major sonata ("To Therese", op. 78) is a different thing!"
By Friedrich Kerst, Henry Edward Krehbiel  (Forgotten Books reprint(Project Gutenberg book)
(fascinating collection of quotes by B himself.  From the horse's mouth, so to speak)

There are dozens more "e-books" floating around the web, some other time I'll round up the music-related ones....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

9/16 Wind Octet Op.103 - Finale (& More)

Octet for 2 Oboes, Clarinets, Horns & Bassoons Op.103 (1792)
String Quintet in E flat major Op.4 (arr of Wind Octet Op.103)(1795)

Here's a less well-known Beethoven piece, the Wind Octet Op.103 from before 1792, very Mozart-ean and lots of brio.  These wind players really had their work cut out for them....It's followed in the video by the String Quintet arrangement, Op. 4 from can hear how B made significant modifications to the octet, and then deemed that version the more ready for publication.  It's clearly more "Heroic", especially the extended development section.

Wind Octet Op.103 - Mvmt 4 Finale, Presto (1792), followed by
String Quintet in E flat major Op.4 (arr of Wind Octet Op.103) (1795) (starting at 3:30)

Since we're on wind octets today, here's the Fidelio Overture in an unusual wind octet arrangement. (Octophoros)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

9/15 The "Pathetique" Piano Sonata

(Follow this analysis or be haunted by the Ghost of Rubinstein forever)
Piano Sonata #8 in Cm, Op.13, "Pathétique" (1798) - 1. Grave, Allegro Di Molto E Con Brio

As promised yesterday, today's post will focus on doing a form analysis on the first movement of the Pathetique piano sonata.  This sonata was the first to have an introduction section, but other parts are already stretching the definition of a "strict" sonata form...
Here's an analysis based on a recording by Sviatoslav Richter from the fabulous 50's: 
Youtube link

Introduction (Grave/slow)
Exposition (allegro di molto e con brio)
  • 1st Theme in Cm, (Authentic Cadence)
  • Modulating bridge
  • 2nd Theme Group in E flat minor/major (3 parts)
  • Codetta (uses 1st theme material to head into repeat)
Exposition (Repeat)
  • 1st Theme in Cm, (Authentic Cadence)
  • Modulating bridge
  • 2nd Theme Group in E flat minor/major (3 parts)
  • Codetta
Development (Grave, Allegro Di Molto E Con Brio)
  • Uses mostly introduction (subdued variation) and 1st theme
  • Begins in Gm, modulates to Em
  • Retransition (setup for the Recapitulation "home" key)
Recap (allegro di molto e con brio)
  • 1st Theme in Cm (Authentic Cadence)
  • Modulating bridge (var of 1st M.B.)
  • 2nd Theme Group in Fm/M and C minor, (Authentic Cadence)
Coda (Grave, Allegro Di Molto E Con Brio)
  • Introduction and 1st theme variations

It must be said that there's no "absolute" analysis - in other words, where a transition begins and ends can be open for debate.  Beethoven NEVER used the above as some kind of composition "recipe", he just wrote what he thought sounded good.  We just use the above divisions as a way of interpreting the dramatic flow of the whole piece.  I just call them signposts, like "Rest Stop Ahead" or "Speed Zone".  In the 70's Charles Rosen wrote a book called "The Classical Style" where he tried to imply that sonata form was a myth (and then 10 years later he wrote a book called "Sonata Forms"...Huh?).  As you can see B deviated from this form even as early as Opus 13, and later on he pretty much took it apart (before putting it back together).....

OK, here's a more detailed analysis, be prepared to "get your Schenker on"..
A Formal Analysis of Beethoven’s Pathetique

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

9/14 Sonata Form

Needing form definition.
For someone like me who doesn’t play piano or in an orchestra, it may be difficult to follow the larger structure of a piece. Coming from a largely non-classical background, when I first started listening to Beethoven I would tend to lose focus during longer pieces, mainly because my ears were not accustomed to hearing these kinds of instrumental changes. In rock/pop music, the verse, chorus and guitar solo are pretty easily defined, but a 15 minute symphony movement (or even an average length string quartet adagio) can result in “attention-drift”. I really needed to train my ears to fully appreciate a piece. This is where music form and analysis helps. One of the reasons for this blog is to post my own audio-visual notes to structural analysis in connection with the work of Beethoven. Today I’ll try to run down classical sonata form so if you know it already then you may as well skip the rest….
Of course there's no reason you can't enjoy Beethoven without knowing any of this, it just adds to the  experience  - like enjoying football more if you know the rules.

The most important form (structure) to know in Beethoven’s music is “sonata form” (or “sonata-allegro form”). I should probably mention that B himself never heard of “sonata form”, it was just musicologists later on who needed to categorize these things for people like me. Anyways, the 1st movement of a piece such as a symphony, string quartet or sonata is usually in sonata form, and is usually at the ‘allegro’ (fast) tempo. Here’s a simplified explanation:

EXPOSITION – This is where the main theme and the secondary theme are presented. The first theme is in the tonic key (for example A major) and the second theme is usually in the dominant key (or 7 pitches higher, such as E major). The second theme can be other related keys as well, but usually it’s the dominant. If the main key is minor, the relative major is used instead of the dominant. Never mind. The main theme is usually faster and more “in-your-face”, while the second theme is more “laid-back” in contrast. In pop music there’s verse and chorus. This is like that a little.

EXPOSITION REPEAT – Repeat of what just happened. Optional.

DEVELOPMENT – Here’s where things get really exciting! The development is where the piece is showing off how many cool things can be done with the themes from the exposition. Here’s some tricks: changing the key, changing the length, cutting themes in half, repeat a phrase in ascending keys (sequencing), change the chord harmony but keep the melody, etc….it’s endless and these acrobatics are meant to tell a story (or a good joke). Beethoven did things in his development sections which were considered in “bad taste” because they were so outrageous. He was a real punk rocker in a sense. Also I sometimes think of the development as the “guitar solo” part (you know, the “showing off” part).

RECAPITULATION – The recap is a repeat of the exposition, except that there might be some variations in the harmony and also the second theme is usually in the tonic key. In other words, since both the first and second themes are both in the “home” key, we feel “at home”. In pop music the last chorus is usually “louder” – this is the same kind of feeling.

So basically the structure is A-A-B-A’. Pretty easy right? OK now we get to a more detailed sonata form chart:

  • May or may not contain themes from the exposition

  • 1st theme (can be several smaller themes but in the same key, ending in authentic cadence)
  • Modulating bridge (to get from the tonic key to the dominant/relative major)
  • 2nd theme/group
  • (modulating bridge, 3rd theme)
  • Cadence with 1st theme material (feeling of closure, sometimes called codetta)

EXPOSITION REPEAT (with possibly different codetta)

  • Modulations, Variations, Fragmentation of previous themes
  • New themes (optional)
  • Modulating bridge to recapitulation (retransition)

  • 1st theme (possibly a variation)
  • Non-modulating bridge
  • 2nd theme (possibly a variation)
  • (3rd theme)
  • Cadence with 1st theme material

  • Variation of previous themes, or partial motives
  • New theme?

That’s basically the kinds of things to listen for in a sonata form movement. Rarely will you get everything I listed but you should be able to find most of it.  Beethoven’s earlier pieces stuck pretty close to this formula (when it was actually sonata form and not a different form), but his whole career was spent stretching and bending the above formula. One of the great pleasures of knowing form in B’s music is knowing what to expect – and then being surprised. This experience of surprise never gets tired even after repeated hearings, in fact it actually gets fresher for some reason. After a while you get used to recognizing harmonies and tonic-dominant relationships, and when a piece goes off into some "crazy modulation", it’s like following an exciting chase scene from a movie.
Good form.
From Alan Belkin, composer:

"…Sonata form is thus an elaborate, suspenseful, narrative structure, with rich potential for digressions, elaborations, and complex emotional balances. It also provides the opportunity to explore material in different formal contexts.
It is very useful for long pieces because of its inherent suspense. It is adaptable to many harmonic styles, since the basic principles -balance through varied reprise; contrast and suspense in themes/motives and construction; intensive development of material, showing it many different formal contexts; connecting contrasting characters through elaborate and varied transitions - fulfill the psychological requirements for maintaining interest and intensity over an extended time period."

The other movements of symphony usually go something like this:
2 – Adagio (in ternary form)
3 – Scherzo (minuet/trio form)
4 – Finale (sonata form or rondo form)

I’ll go into these some other time…..tomorrow I'll post one of my usual audio-analyses using most of the above.

A few (of MANY) web resources to learn more about sonata form:

I also highly recommend Leonard Bernstein's Young Persons Concert episode "What is Sonata Form?" - check your library....the Youtube version seems to have disappeared....

Monday, September 13, 2010

9/13 Beethoven's Musical Clock

Rimbault Musical Clock
(Oxford Clock Company)

5 Pieces for Musical Clock, WoO.33 (1799?)

Here's something you won't hear at Carnegie Hall anytime soon...Beethoven's original "ringtones"....or you could say these were the first mp3s in history...

From  Classical Archives/AllMusic:
"These five pieces surfaced after Beethoven's death, bringing with them several very puzzling mysteries. Most challenging of them all was the instrument for which they were written. Piano, strings, harp and most other common instruments were instantly ruled out, building on the perplexing mystery and adding to the frustration. Eventually, Albert Kopfermann set forth a convincing argument that their strange scoring seemed a perfect fit for the Flötenuhr or Spielühr, a mechanical organ or clock. He observed that the notation in No. 1, in F, matched that in Mozart's K. 608 Fantasia (for Flötenuhr), the score of which Beethoven possessed. Other circumstantial factors pointed to the Flötenuhr as the instrument Beethoven designed these pieces for.  None of these five pieces was published until the twentieth century, and, not surprisingly, all are rarely heard."
© All Music Guide

All Music/Robert Cummings:
"While the musical clock of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries might seem like a toy to the twenty first century ear and eye, its owners -- usually members of the aristocracy -- regarded it as a quite sophisticated device, not least because it was the only way to hear music away from the concert hall and parlors (MP3!!!). Its chime-like tones may have limited its expressive range, but composers like Beethoven took compositions for the musical clock quite seriously...They were a popular mechanical device over the past four centuries, serving as a sort of aristocratic counterpart in pre-twentieth century times to today's stereo and high-tech playback equipment."

The recordings I have of these pieces are all on organs.  Unfortunately these are for musical CLOCK.  So with the magic of modern MIDI, and some Soundfonts, I present the first 2 pieces in "authentic" musical clock transcriptions...with a bonus "steam-punk" version of No.2.
Beethoven - Pieces for Musical Clock
No 1 0:00
No 2 5:31
No 1 (version 2)  6:55

(And if you're wondering what the heck that spaceship-looking thing is in the last part of the video - check this out)
James Cox Musical Clock
(Oxford Clock Company)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

9/12 Gardiner on Beethoven

Here's a South Bank program on Beethoven with John Eliot Gardiner and his period orchestra.  He discusses his approach to Beethoven and how French nationalistic music possibly influenced Beethoven.  Not sure if I agree with everything he says, but Gardiner is without doubt a fascinating conductor who is not afraid to try new things.  A little less than an hour.  First half Beethoven's 5th, second half Berlioz' Romeo & Juliet.


From the uploader:
Profile of the conductor John Eliot Gardiner and his work with The Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique. Gardiner travels to the South of France to recreate the spirit of the French Revolution with a local French village choir, and visits the birthplace of Hector Berlioz, the composer of "Romeo and Juliet".  The conductor Gardiner explain how Beethoven was influenced by French Revolution and how its slogan about liberty and revolution appears on his music. Then how Berlioz, as all romantic composers, was strongly influenced by Beethoven's music.


Transmission date: Sunday May 12th, 1996
Country: Great Britain
Duration: 60 mins.
Channel: ITV
Presenter: Melvyn Bragg
Director and Producer: Tony Knox

Oh yeah, this has been making the rounds....this is not a good Xmas present.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 Cello Sonatas No. 1 & 3: Richter & Rostropovich.

Beethoven's Cello Sonatas 1-3

UPDT: Previously all 5 sonatas but #2, 4 and 5 got deleted off YT...

Here's an historic meeting between two of the greatest classical musicians of the 20th century, Sviatoslav Richter ("Slava") and Mstislav Rostropovich (also "Slava", don't ask me why).  There's plenty of info about them in the web, so I won't go into too much biographical detail.  However one thing I find interesting is that both of their repertoires covered everything from straight classical to modern music.  That is, Bach to Bernstein.  Actually for Richter switch Bernstein with Britten.  Apparently Rostropovich was not happy with this live recording and never recorded a video again until he did the Bach cello suites many years later.  There may be a couple rough spots but I think they add alot of character and humanity to the interpretation.  Later on these two played the Triple Concerto with Oistrakh and Karajan and Richter says that Karajan and Rostropovich "teamed up" against Oistrakh and friends in the music business I guess.  
Anyways, this concert is superb and actually better than the studio recording they made, I think.
Cello Sonata 1 in F Major Op.5, No. 1 (1796) = Pt 1-3
Cello Sonata 3 in A Major Op.69 (1808) = Pt 4-7


Friday, September 10, 2010

9/10 Beethoven Rock Reviews

Composing "purely cerebral abstractions of sound"?
Nowadays Beethoven is generally considered one of (if not the) greatest and most influential composer of all time.  But throughout history, from Beethoven's own time to the last hundred years, B still got 'pen and ink' rocks thrown at him from some unenlightened critics. 

Here's an early one I found on the fascinating  Raptus Association Beethoven site (The Magnificent Master):

On 10 Variations on a theme by Salieri, WoO.73: 
With these, one can not be satisfied, at all. How stiff they are and how contrived and what unpleasant passages are in them, in which hard tirades in continuing half-tones against the bass create an ugly relationship and vice versa.  No, it is true, Mr. B. might be able to improvise, but he can not write variations, very well. 

I wonder what they thought then of the Diabelli Variations?  The last review in today's post will give some clue maybe...
The Raptus site has a massive archive of contemporary reviews, but most are actually pretty positive, so for the purposes of this post we must turn to:

Nicolas Slonimsky's "Lexicon of Musical Invective":

"Beethoven's 2nd Symphony is a crass monster, a hideously writhing wounded dragon, that refuses to expire, and though bleeding in the Finale, furiously beats about with its tail erect."
Zeitung fur die Elegente Welt Vienna, May 1804

On the Fidelio Overture:  "...incoherent, shrill, chaotic and ear-splitting...The most piercing dissonances clash in a really atrocious harmony, and a few puny ideas only increase the disagreeable and deafening effect."
Kotzebue, Der Freimutige Vienna 9/11/1806

On Piano Sonata Op.111 m2:  "The greater portion of it is written in 9/16, but a part is in 6/16, and about a page in 12/32.  All this really is laborious trifling, and ought to be by every means discouraged by the sensible part of the musical profession...We have devoted a full hour to this enigma, and cannot solve it."
The Harmonicon London Aug 1823

On the 7th Symphony: "...a great deal of disagreeable eccentricity...Altogether, it seems to have been intended as a kind of enigma - we had almost said a hoax."
The Harmonicon London July 1825

On String Quartet #13:  "To quote an ingeniously picturesque saying from one of our foremost composers...  Beethoven's imagination in the Finale suggests a poor swallow flitting incessantly in a hermetically sealed box, to the annoyance of our eyes and ears."
Blanchard, Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris 4/15/1849

On the Piano Sonata Op.106 Finale (Hammerklavier): "...a raw and undigested mass (mess?)"
Lenz, "Beethoven et ses trois styles" Paris 1855

On the 5th Symphony 3rd movement ending:  "Here you have a fragment of 44 measures, where Beethoven deemed it necessary to suspend the habeas corpus of music by stripping it of all that might resemble melody, harmony and any sort of rhythm...Is it music, yes or no?  If I am answered in the affirmative, I would say that this does not belong to the art which I am in the habit of considering as music."
Oulibicheff   Beethoven, ses critiques et ses glossateurs" Paris 1857 

Ironically, for young modern audiences, these descriptions would probably get them more curious!  

Here's a nugget I came across at a blog called Stalin's Moustache:

"Beethoven’s B flat major Sonata and the Diabelli Variations are ‘acoustical atrocities’ which are ‘ultimately unplayable because they are written for an instrument which has never existed and never will exist’. These two works ‘do not employ real sound but incorporeal, purely cerebral abstractions of sound, borrowing the language of the keyboard only as a rough, basically sketchy alphabet'"
Ernst Bloch, Philosophy of Music, p. 118

I'm not sure if that really could be considered criticism, but it actually sounds pretty cool.

Anyways here's more of the Slonimsky book below, I believe the entire Beethoven chapter is available for preview....

Thursday, September 9, 2010

9/9 Ghost Trio Part 2 & 3

These ghosts didn't make the previous cut.
A short while ago I did a post/analysis of the 1st movement of the Ghost Trio.  Except that I didn't feature the actual Ghost movement!  I rectify that today - here's the remainder of the Ghost Trio, it's too beautiful to leave alone! 

Piano Trio 5 in D Op.70 Nº 1 Ghost (1808)

Movement II - Largo assai ed espressivo (the Ghost movement)
This is the movement where B used ideas from an abandoned "Macbeth" stage score - Shakespearean gothic, you know?

Alternate Youtube link

Movement III - Presto
This movement is alot of fun, I feel like the instruments are having a very witty conversation...

Alternate Youtube link

Timings derived from the Alan Rich's Play by Play book.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

9/8 String Quartet Op. 59 No 3 (Razumovsky #3)

String Quartet Op. 59 No 3 (1806)

Here's another one of B's "Heroic Period" string quartets, his ninth string quartet overall and third one written for Count Razumovsky.  The Count was a cellist and was big fan of B's music.  To have an exclusive quartet written for one's own concert was quite a status symbol.  Kind of as if Wynton Marsalis wrote a saxophone concerto for Bill Cllinton whle he was governor of Arkansas.  Sadly the Count lost almost everything he owned of value in a fire after a late night party, and died a palper.
Andrey/Andriy Razumovsky, [1752-1836] became the Russian Ambassador to the Austro-Hungarian Court in Vienna from 1790. There he also became one of Beethoven's close friends and converted to Catholicism. In honor of this association, Beethoven incorporated some Ukrainian melodies, which would have been traditionally played on torbans, into a number of his chamber works, notably the "Razumovsky" quartets. Andriy had 3 torbans in his collection. One of them is still preserved in Vienna. (

Here's an animated score sample with autograph

You can peruse the FULL 58 PG. MANUSCRIPT or read the commentary article from the Beethoven Digital Archive in Bonn.  You can even buy a copy for a mere 358 euros ($458).  Christmas is just around the corner.....

Oh yeah, you may want to listen to an actual recording of this quartet (bravo if you can follow with the autograph score!):
(The Orion String Quartet)