Wednesday, October 20, 2010

10/20 Schuppanzigh, In Praise of the Fat One

One of Beethoven's most valuable collaborators was the violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh.  He was one of Beethoven's first friends when he arrived in Vienna, and bore B's coffin at his death.  Many of Beethoven's string quartets were premiered by Schuppanzigh and his quartet, many times in the service of Count Razumovsky as well.  Beethoven was apparently friendly enough with 'Zigh that he wrote some a funny little ode called "Lob auf den Dicken (In Praise of the Fat One) Musical Joke WoO 100 (1801). I posted this piece a couple months ago in my "27 B tracks in 10 minutes" post in August.  I guess B used to get a little chortle when he made ol' Ziggy climb up all those stone stairs to his apartment.  There's a dramatization of just that in the 1936 film "The Life and Loves of Beethoven".  I can't actually recommend that film tho, since it's in French and I kind of got bored reading subtitles....

Here's a fine Wikipedia entry:

Ignaz Schuppanzigh November 20, 1776 – March 2, 1830, was a violinist, friend and teacher of Beethoven, and leader of Count Razumovsky's private string quartet. Schuppanzigh and his quartet premiered many of Beethoven's string quartets, and in particular, the late string quartets. The Razumovsky quartet is considered to be the first professional string quartet. Until the founding of this quartet, quartet music was played primarily by amateurs or by professional musicians who joined together on an ad hoc basis.

Schuppanzigh was born in Vienna, son of a professor of Italian at the Theresian Military Academy. Before the age of 21, he had established himself as a virtuoso violist and violinist, as well as a conductor. He gave violin lessons to Beethoven, and they remained friends until Beethoven's death.

Schuppanzigh's dedication to quartet playing played a pivotal role in the transition of quartet performance and composition. Prior to Beethoven, the quartet repertoire could be performed competently by good quality amateurs and by professionals with few rehearsals. Beethoven's quartets introduced many new technical difficulties that cannot be completely overcome without dedicated rehearsal. These difficulties include synchronized complex runs played by two or more instruments together, cross-rhythms and hemiolas, and difficult harmonies that require special attention to intonation. When Schuppanzigh complained to Beethoven about a particularly difficult passage, Beethoven is said to have remarked, "Do you believe that I think about your miserable fiddle when the muse strikes me?"

Schuppanzigh was reported to be a handsome youth, but in adult life became seriously obese. Toward the end of his life, Schuppanzigh's fingers reputedly grew so fat that he was unable to play in tune.

Anyways the "raison d'etre" of this post is that I found a funny little historical comic about 'Zigh. Apparently by folding and unfolding the paper you can make Ignaz take on some weight.   Click for a bigger picture..

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