Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy 241st Birthday Beethoven!

Dear Maestro Beethoven,

Happy Birthday!

I couldn't let your 241st birthday go without some kind of blog post, right?

I haven't written anything blog-wise about Beethoven since July, the completion of the year-long Daily Beethoven project, but in the meantime I've been pretty deep in Ludwig-mania anyways.  Many of my activities have been recorded in the "Updates" section of my blog profile, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to make it into the "official record".

My projects arranging B.'s music for guitar and/or rock band are largely complete, I've successfully generated "mock-ups" for the symphonies, string quartets, overtures, concertos, lieder, violin and cello sonatas, bagatelles, masses, variations, and a good cross-section of other chamber works including the ever-popular Op.20 septet.  At every turn I was amazed at how B.'s ideas transferred themselves so naturally to the "electric language" of our modern times.

Guitar Arrangements of Beethoven, Bartok, Shostakovich, Debussy & More

The other main project (on the very cusp of being completed) has been the "Color-Coded Analysis" videos which I personally find very useful in following the "story" B. tells in each of his masterpieces.  Ever since Leonard Bernstein described classical form as a kind of "journey" through remote key areas, I've been fascinated about actually charting these crazy odysseys in some kind of audio-visual technique and these videos are still my favorites for that kind of thing.  At this point the symphonies, string quartets, piano sonatas, masses and some select favorite chamber works are out there.  Here are also some of my favorite symphonies (Rene Leibowitz conducted) and piano sonatas (with Annie Fischer).

Color-Coded Analysis of Beethoven's Music

The highlight concert-wise was seeing the Missa Solemnis performed at Lincoln Center with Sir Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.  That was jaw-droppingly awesome.  If you were there and saw someone in the 3rd row following along with the score, then that was me you saw.

Some recent books I've recently acquired include Emily Anderson's 3-volume "Letters of Beethoven" (the most complete collection of B. letters ever published), "The Critical Reception of Beethoven's Compositions by His German Contemporaries Vol 1 & 2" by Senner & Meredith (fascinating reviews of Beethoven's concerts and works as they were being premiered!), "Beethoven's Only Beloved: Josephine!: A Biography of the Only Woman Beethoven ever Loved" (Klapproth), "Letters to Beethoven and Other Correspondence Vol 1-3" (Albrecht), "Talks About Beethoven's Symphonies, Analytical Essays with Diagrams" (Stock), and "Ludwig Van Beethoven : Autograph Miscellany from circa 1786 to 1799" by Kerman.  This sketchbook facsimile is MASSIVE and holds a ton of miscellaneous musical ideas which B. would jot down for future reference.  Some sketches are just "riffs" or "licks" which he could use when he would improvise or use during one of those piano duels he'd have to engage in.  Other more elaborate sketches include the Symphony in C which was never completed.  There is a huge variety of writings and scribblings and there is also a printed transcription so you can actually read what he wrote!  Really fantastic.

Well anyways Happy Birthday, Ludwig, and judging from the fact that your face was on the cover of Gramaphone magazine only just a couple months ago (October) it seems you are doing quite well despite your "antiquated ways" haha!

Monday, July 18, 2011

7/18 A Year of Ludwig van Beethoven

And so I've come to Day 365 of the Daily Beethoven project. It's been a long journey and I've certainly learned alot.  The original idea behind starting this blog was just to put my favorite Beethoven links in one place, and somehow along the way I started getting into analyzing his compositions, posting pictures of historical artifacts, visiting his place of business (Vienna trip) and even making videos of my own "rock" transcriptions of his works.  I believe there are a couple dozen of you regular readers who have stuck with this blog all this time.  Thanks!  I have certainly met a few cool Beethoven fans out there through this blog.

In the short term, I'll probably just add to the posts already here, since there are now a completes set of 365 articles, one for each day of the year.  The Index of Works is already getting quite unwieldy (28 references to the 5th Symphony!) so to make new posts about Razumovsky No. 1 (again) seems a bit redundant.  However I will try to keep an eye on the videos that I've posted from other peoples' channels (in case they get deleted) and try to keep this site a 1-stop spot for finding live complete performances of all of Beethoven's major works. Eventually I'll probably start adding new posts if some new earth-shattering insights come up.  I'll also continue to add videos to my Youtube Channel, especially once I start doing wave-form analyses again of the remaining piano sonatas and symphonies (Update: symphonies and string quartets are now done).

My main focus at this point as you can probably tell are the transcriptions of Beethoven's music into modern instruments like guitar and drums.  The posts related to that kind of thing will be the first ones to be expanded, and at some point I hope to post some live renditions of these transcriptions in place of the sequenced versions...

"Beethoven broke all the rules, and turned out pieces of breath-taking rightness. Rightness – that’s the word! When you get the feeling that whatever note succeeds the last is the only possible note that can rightly happen at that instant, in that context, then chances are you’re listening to Beethoven. Melodies, fugues, rhythms – leave them to the Tchaikovskys and Hindemiths and Ravels. Our boy has the real goods, the stuff from Heaven, the power to make you feel at the finish: Something is right in the world. There is something that checks throughout, that follows its own law consistently: something we can trust, that will never let us down."
- Leonard Bernstein on Beethoven


The Raven read by James Earl Jones + Moonlight Sonata

Link

Moonlight 3rd Movement with..?

Link

Sunday, July 17, 2011

7/17 Beethoven's Symphonies and Overtures for Guitarists and Experimental Music Lovers

Picasso, "Woman with Mandolin" 1910
The symphonies of Beethoven are to me the greatest artistic creation in the history of mankind.  So of course it's pretty ambitious to transcribe these for rock instruments.  I resisted for a long while, but once I figured out a way to do the concertos, it was a natural next step.  The first couple symphonies took to a new instrumental arrangement relatively painlessly, but then things started getting sticky.  By the time I got to the 8th, the whole thing started sounding like avant-garde music from the future!  Taming the 9th was a journey in itself.  Nonetheless, here's the fruits of those labors, and I'm sure I'll come back to these again and again with "improvements"....

Symphony No.3 in E flat major, Op.55 'Eroica' (1805)



Symphony No.7 in A major, Op.92 (1811)



Click for the 9 Symphonies of Beethoven for Rock and Roll Addicts

Overtures here:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

7/16 The Compleat String Quartets for Guitarists and Experimental Music Lovers

I've posted about my sequenced "rock" transcriptions of Beethoven's string quartets a couple times before but this time I've gone back and remixed/remastered them a bit, with some simulated "turntable" visuals.  Basically I added more drums, reverb and compression.  They'll probably still drive any purists insane with cries of sacrilege, but for anybody with a background in rock and avant-garde music approaching my own, these might be entertaining and perhaps even illuminating.

While arranging/transcribing Beethoven's various types of music (quartets, concertos, symphonies, etc...) into these somewhat similar rock arrangements, I could more clearly see the different composing approaches he used between these genres.  The concertos seem the most straightforward from a melodic and structural standpoint, though the solo part gets all the "adventurous" stuff.  The quartets have the most complex and labyrinthine horizontal/melodic material, and the symphonies take a middle ground of having dense vertical constructions but simpler thematic material.  These are just gross generalizations of course...

String Quartet 10 in Eb, Op 74 "Harp" (1809)



String Quartet 11 in Fm, Op.95 "Serioso" (1811)



Full Quartets Below:
Early Quartets: Opus 18
Middle Quartets: Opus 59, 74, 95

Late Quartets: Opus 127, 130, 131, 132, 133, 135

Symphonies tomorrow....

Friday, July 15, 2011

7/15 The Weirdest Piano Concerto Arrangements You'll Love Vol.2

Remember when I posted the "The Weirdest Piano Concerto Arrangements You'll Love Vol.1"? Well here's Volume 2...hope you enjoy listening, these were a blast to put together!

Piano Concerto 1
I: 0:04 II: 12:29 III: 20:32

Link

Piano Concerto 2
I: 0:05 II: 13:15 III: 20:36

Link

Piano Concerto 4
I: 0:04 II: 16:44 III: 20:20

Link

Triple Concerto

Link

Next post is going to be delayed because I'm just BARELY keeping up in these last few mega-posts and Youtube just yanked my unlimited time-limit video rights for no apparent reason - which means I may have to redo a whole lot of already completed videos. Sad face.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

7/14 String Quartet Op.59, No.2

http://www.lvbeethoven.com/Lieux/AllemagneLeipzig.html
One more string quartet before the final lap...

String Quartet No.8 in E minor, Op.59, No.2 ('Rasumovsky' 2)
Recorded live at the Taos School of Music, July 22, 2007
Alexandra Osborne, violin; Wojciech Kardewicz, violin; Elizabeth Kuefler, viola; Bronwyn Banerdt, cello


Linklist

Allmusic:
Beethoven began drafting the score of the first of the Opus 59 quartets on May 26, 1806, although there is evidence that he started to sketch them in the fall of 1804; by November 1806, all three were complete. Because Rasumovsky was to have exclusive rights to the pieces for a year, their publication was delayed until January 1808. Beethoven sold the rights to not only the Bureau des Arts et d'Industrie in Vienna, but also to Clementi and Co. in London. As a tribute to Rasumovsky's heritage, Beethoven planned to use Russian folk themes in each of the three quartets, but did so only in the finale of the first and the slow movement of the second. All three are in four movements, the third augmented by a slow introduction to the first movement.

The opening of the first movement of the String Quartet in E minor is actually more evocative of the Symphony No. 3 than it is the beginning of Op. 59/1. Two widely spaced chords introduce the piece, which immediately begins a presentation of the theme. However, the movement lacks the expansiveness of its two siblings, creating a very tight, nervous atmosphere and calling for a traditional repeat of the development section. The prominence of the Neapolitan, both the pitch F natural and the harmony of F major, creates a palpable pathos. The large coda takes a path as harmonically adventurous as the development section.

Carl Czerny (1791-1857), a former student of Beethoven, noted that the composer was inspired to write the slow movement of Op. 59/2, in E major, while contemplating a starry sky. The chorale-like opening of the movement looks forward to the Heiliger Dankgesang, Op. 132. The recapitulation of the hymn-like theme features an active cello line and a second violin part that sails above the first violin's melody.

As in the first movement, the E minor scherzo emphasizes the Neapolitan F major. The Russian theme appears in the E major Trio, where it is given extensive contrapuntal treatment, appearing first in the viola, followed by the second violin, cello, and lastly, first violin.

The finale again flirts with F major, this time primarily through C major (the dominant of F), which is found throughout the first 50 measures. Marked Presto, it is generally light and jovial, featuring a carefree main theme, rather atypical of the composer's style at this time. The second subject leads to a development section, after which the themes reappear to suggest a Rondo. Overall, this movement has much charm and rather parallels in spirit the finale in the previous quartet. This one, however, seems to fit in better with the character of its preceding three movements.

Mily Balakirev's Arrangement of the 2nd movement for solo piano:
Balakirev Centenary Celebrations Concert, Nicholas Walker - Pianist
Mr. Walker also performed the piano arrangement of the Op.130 Cavatina..

Link

Finally. the 1st movement in a guitar arrangement (Oregon Guitar Quartet):
Link

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

7/13 String Quartet Op.127

http://www.lvbeethoven.com/MeetLvB/GermanyBonnBeethoven-Haus.html
Beethoven's String Quartet No.12 in Eb, Op.127, has been sadly overlooked here in favor of the personal "hits" like the Grosse Fugue and the Heiliger Dankgesang.. however it's an absolutely sublime and daring work in its own right.

!st Movement performed by the Jasper String Quartet:

Link

Here's a vintage recording of the complete work, featuring the renowned Busch Quartet (from 1936):

Linklist

Allmusic: This work may well be the most mild-mannered and conventional of Beethoven's late quartets. It is ironic that he originally had more grandiose ideas for it, intending it to contain six movements, including one subtitled "La gaieté" and an Adagio apparently of darker character. In any event, Beethoven settled on this less ambitious, but still effective scheme of four movements, with an Adagio theme and variations second movement, followed by a scherzo and a jovial finale.

What is unusual about this quartet, however, is not its traditional qualities—rare enough in Beethoven—but its lack of muscularity and conflict in the first movement. One hears little nervous energy and angst here, but plenty of lyricism in the main Allegro section that makes up the bulk of the movement. The introduction is marked Maestoso and presents a fanfare that builds up, imparting some expectation of drama and drive, if not of Beethovenian heroic fury. What follows is a lively theme of gentle, lyrical character. In fact, all the thematic material in this movement is nearly free of tension and grit. There is some contrapuntal activity in the fabric of the main theme (and its variants), and the fanfare of the opening returns just before the development, but merely yields once more to the cheerful main material. If there is anything unusual about this movement, it is the development, which resembles a succession of variations. The recapitulation maintains the generally peaceful tenor of the movement, and the coda turns sweet and caressing.

The aforementioned second movement theme-and-variations (Adagio ma non troppo e molto cantabile) presents a lovely, songful melody and six variations. Yet the movement has a thematic structure similar to a typical ABA scheme, with the third variation comprising the middle section. But one may hear it as separate variations as well. It has been asserted that the main theme does not appear conducive to thematic offshoots, owing to its mellifluous character and seeming uniqueness (and lush beauty), but Beethoven manages to mine its depths to find the six very attractive variations and a coda. The third variation's prayerful character imparts a religiosity that seems to highlight, if not define, the mood of the entire Adagio.

The third movement Scherzando vivace breaks with the gentler moods of the music thus far. It begins, like the first movement, with a fanfare, but here on pizzicato strings. The main theme appears on the cello, and is bandied about amid a fugal treatment that starts, stops, and starts again. The middle section is colorful in its dance-like music and constantly changing ideas. On the whole, this movement offers splendid contrast to the lyricism of the preceding pair.

The finale returns to the mood of the first two movements, with lively but unhurried music that shows no sign of that Beethovenian nervous energy. This is music of folk character, with the main theme sounding a bit oafish, but cleverly so. Its slightly odd character and husky rhythmic accompaniment impart a rural air to the proceedings. The thematic material of the second subject is in much the same mode. There is a short development section, followed by a reprise (which comes after a deftly wrought false reprise). This quartet was first published in Mainz in 1826. The composer dedicated it to Prince Nikolai Golitsin, who had commissioned him to write it and the two quartets that followed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

7/12 Violin Romance in G, Op.40

(www.lvbeethoven.com)
Beethoven's second Violin Romance actually has a lower opus number than his first, but it immediately sounds more bold due to it's wiry unaccompanied violin entrance...Renaud Capuçon gives a somewhat unique performance - I do believe he's using an updated ur-text?

Romance for Violin and Orchestra No.1 in G, Op.40 (1802)
Renaud Capuçon violin / Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig, Kurt Masur conductor

Link

Allmusic: Often described as a "preparation" for the Violin Concerto, Op. 61, of 1806, the Romance in G stands as a fine work in its own right, clearly demonstrating Beethoven's mastery of the high-Classical style of Mozart and Haydn. Furthermore, Beethoven creates subtle connections between disparate sections of a work.


Cast in a two-episode rondo format (ABACA coda), the Romance in G is not imbued with sonata-form characteristics, as are many of Beethoven's later rondo movements. The rondo theme (A) is in two parts, each performed first by the soloist then repeated by the orchestra. Descending sixteenth notes in the solo part mark the beginning of B, in which the orchestra is relegated to a purely accompanimental role, creating unity by including figures from the rondo. Section B spends a significant amount of time on the dominant (D major); however, this does not represent a modulation but a preparation for the return of the rondo in G major. Again, the soloist performs both segments of the A section alone, this time including a running eighth note accompaniment under each of the literally repeated themes. Beethoven set the second episode, C, in E minor. The minor mode, dotted rhythms, and staccato passages give the section a "gypsy" music tinge. The foray into a new key area ends with the return of the G major rondo theme, again played by the soloist, but with accompaniment by the orchestra. Beethoven forgoes the repetition of each of the two parts of the rondo and ends the work with a brief coda featuring a lengthy trill in the solo violin. The three fortissimo chords that close the piece seem oddly, possibly comically, out of place in this generally quiet work, but they do resemble the orchestral string parts at the end of each rondo section.

Monday, July 11, 2011

7/11 Tchaikovsky's Beethoven

© All Rights Reserved by MikeBarnett

Having posted previously about composers "rewriting Beethoven" (Bartok, Rachmaninoff, Hindemith, Liszt), I submit Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to the list...courtesy of :
"One of his student orchestrations, Tchaikovsky scored Beethoven's famous violin sonata up to the end of the exposition of the first movement. There apparently is a recording of this on the Melodiya label, but I have not been able to acquire it yet. The current performance was made using the Garritan Personal Orchestra."
 
"Kreutzer" Violin Sonata (excerpt) (orch. Tchaikovsky) (1863-4): 
"Roll over Beethoven, And tell Tchaikovsky the news"
Created by .

Link

Sunday, July 10, 2011

7/10 String Quartet Op.18, No. 3

Klinger's Beethoven sculpture postcard (www.lvbeethoven.com)
I haven't yet posted a complete live String Quartet No.3 in D, Op.18, No.3, mainly because I couldn't find one on the "Tube of You"...however here are movements 1 and 4...

1st movement -The Stolyarsky String Quartet

Link

4th movement

Link

Allmusic:
The number of quartets comprising his Opus 18 is but one of Beethoven's nods to tradition, for sets usually included six works. In his Opus 18 quartets we find Beethoven both mastering the styles of his predecessors and forging into new territory. For instance, the independence of the four parts is much greater than in the works of his predecessors, which may be attributable to the fact that Beethoven developed his skills during a time freed from the hitherto ubiquitous basso continuo. Despite the numerous recent models, and despite the fact that the String Quartets, Op. 18, are clearly a product of their time, they could not have been written by any composer other than Beethoven.

The quartet in D major (No. 3) was the first composed. Its opening, with nearly all of the motion in the first violin supported by sustained harmonies, resembles the beginning of Haydn's Quartet, Op. 50/6, also in D major. The first movement begins with an emphasis on the dominant-seventh chord, while the second theme group flirts with the minor dominant, allowing an unusual excursion into C major. The rest of the quartet comprises a conventional movement pattern, but the Presto finale is a sonata, not a rondo. Although it is not labeled as such, the third movement is a minuet, albeit with some unusual, forward-looking touches. For example, the return of the minuet after the trio is not the standard da capo repeat, but is completely written out, with additional repetitions of and variations on the original material.
2nd Movement
3rd Movement

Saturday, July 9, 2011

7/9 A Few Remaining Piano Sonatas (No. 15, 22, 25)

Beethoven composes the 14th sonata (www.lvbeethoven.com)
Looking over my "Works Index" there are a few gaps in my list, so I'll try to fill those in the next few days...

Pt 1-3: Piano Sonata #15 In D, Op.28, "Pastoral" (1801) (Sahun Hong)
Pt 4-5: Piano Sonata #22 In F, Op.54 - (1804) (Jan Moeyaert)
Pt 6: Piano Sonata #25 In G, Op.79 (1809) ('Cuckoo') (Matthias Soucek)


Linklist

Piano Sonata No.15 in D, Op.28 ('Pastoral')
Allmusic: A remarkable feature of this work is that each movement establishes its own insistent, dominating rhythm at its outset. The first measure of the opening Allegro, for example, is simply three quarter notes on the tonic note D, a figure that both establishes the work's 3/4 meter and commences the first subject. The flowing, carefree second subject, based on the same rhythmic pattern, derives from a series of rocking chords in both hands. The overall effect is one of cheerful contentment, though the development builds to a considerably dramatic climax.

The second movement, Andante is a not-very-slow slow movement in ABA song form. Here, Beethoven creates a serious, lyrical theme in D minor from a series of chords over an insistent left hand in sixteenth notes. The middle section, in the major mode, alternates syncopated chords with descending right-hand triplets, material that makes a plaintive minor-mode return in the coda.

The Allegro vivace Scherzo, again in 3/4, rises from a sardonic series of descending single notes, one to a measure and an octave apart, after which the right hand jumps both above and below the left with the theme. The Trio section, reviving the minor mode, is a series of rocking triplet figures.

Like the first movement, the Allegro, ma non troppo finale at once establishes a rhythm and commences with the main theme. The movement is in 6/8; the alternation of quarter note and eighth note rhythms provides a syncopated "rambling" feel. Beethoven finds fresh variants for every repeat of this theme, all the way to the brilliant coda.

Piano Sonata No.22 in F, Op.54
Allmusic: Playable on a five-octave keyboard, this little sonata lures amateurs and then snares them in unexpected technical complications. Billed as minuet, the first movement takes a measured, deliberate tempo, the simple, pleasant, ruminative theme lifting up from the bass. However, just when the student pianist starts enjoying the somewhat complacent mood of this beginning, the trio storms through with nasty octaves in both hands. This development, which really feels like a strange interruption, seems inexplicable. Returning in a slightly more ornate form, the stately opening utterance leads, once again, to the ill-tempered trio, then appears again, goes through transformations which include some dissonant chords, and ends. 

The second of the two movements, an Allegretto, is one of Beethoven's typical perpetual-motion rondos. This one has a dark edge to it, veering into the minor and keeping up the flood of sixteenth notes, thus seriously limiting the individuality of the various episodes. Amateurs generally must give up entirely by the time they reach the strenuous coda, in which the two hands race each other to the final bar.

Piano Sonata No.25 in G, Op.79 ('Cuckoo')
Allmusic: The G major Sonata No. 25 contains an opening Presto, an Andante slow movement, and a finale marked Vivace. The first movement also has the qualifying term alla Tedesca, or "in the German style." From the outset, the work arouses a strong and positive impression, as a result of its sharply chiselled rhythmic formulae and a certain direct (if not to say at times abrupt) candor and spontaneity. 

That feeling of directness and clarity of expression also informs the following movement, a brief but eloquent Andante in 9/8 meter and simple ternary form. This not only re-affirms Viennese tastes, both in terms of the directness already referred to, but also in the pronounced feeling of "naturalness," at times approaching pastoral straightforwardness that is an unmistakable characteristic here. 

Simplicity and directness are also crucial in the brief and witty finale, a fully formed Vivace rondo, lasting fractionally under two minutes. This sonata is sometimes given the nickname "The Cuckoo," because of the distinctive pattern of falling intervals and repeated note groupings that permeate the score at various points, never more obviously than during the final movement. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

7/8 Clockwork and a Calendar

From a "Beethoven Calendar"
Remix time...
Marc Heatley: Created as part of Sound Affairs' 2008 "Ludwig" tour - "A tribute to Beethoven in music and film."  I was asked to create original work in response to the music. This piece (to accompany the Orlando Gough composition "Dead White European Male") is based on David Pelham's iconic 1972 Penguin cover to the Anthony Burgess' classic "A Clockwork Orange".
"Dead White European Male" (Symphony 7 Allegretto remix)

Link


Coriolan Overture (Dance Style)
(wykonanie Krashgul)

Link

If 1907 comes around again this will be handy:

A Beethoven Kalendar from 1907...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

7/7 String Quartet Op.132, "Song of Thanksgiving"

Beethoven and the blind woman, F. Armin (www.lvbeethoven.com)
Beethoven's String Quartet Op.132 is most famous for the 3rd movement "Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lydischen Tonart" (A Convalescent's Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Divinity, in the Lydian Mode) which I wrote at length about in a previous post.  But today I present the entire work:

String Quartet 15 in Am, Op.132 (1825) 
(Blair String Quartet)

Link

(Link to an alternate performance by Brown University students in 5 parts) 
Performers: June Yoon (vln I), J.D. Andrade (vln II), Miranda Forman (vla) and Martha Niemiec (vlc)

Allmusic: The work carries the nickname "Heiliger Dankgesang" because of the note written in the score (actually in French) by Beethoven that pertains to the third movement. From this note, as well as from the time of the work's composition, one can safely deduce that the crisis one clearly hears in the music is related to the lengthy illness Beethoven suffered from April 1825 until August of that year. The composer makes no attempt to depict his feelings during the illness; rather, he reflects on them and gives thanks in this score for his recovery, for the vanquishing of the pain and suffering that he must surely have felt were symptoms of a life-threatening illness.

The first movement, marked Assai sostenuto, Allegro, has an odd but ingenious structure: Beethoven presents a four-note motif that proves to be the central force throughout, developing it in between three separate expositions. There are two main theme groups, the first of which apparently represents the composer's physical suffering, the latter his sense of hope to overcome it. These subjects transform brilliantly as the movement progresses, with the theme of suffering finally appearing as a joyous hymn at the close.

The second movement is a Scherzo marked Allegro ma non tanto. While the mood of the music here is happy, its slightly restrained character suggests the recovering composer is a bit leery about venturing into too much activity. 

The third movement, marked Molto adagio, is the work's emotional centerpiece. A slow, hymn-like theme of religious character dominates the proceedings, appearing in different guises throughout, in the end arriving at its definitive, celestial version. The form of this movement is unusual, consisting of five sections and progressing from depictions of the sick composer's hopes, to his feelings of recovery and returning strength, and finally to his recovery and thankfulness to God.

The fourth movement is comprised of a short march, marked Assai vivace. In certain ways, this is a rather puzzling chapter in the overall scheme of the music, the slightly martial nature of the theme seeming out of focus with the rest of the work. Yet, the music here serves as an effective contrast to the preceding movement, as if to suggest a return from the heavens back to the reality of earth.

The finale is a Rondo marked Allegro appassionato. There is nothing innovative in the form here, Beethoven apparently content to suggest that a return to routine can bring sufficient rewards for his purposes, as it may symbolize that a return to health can make one appreciate the simple things in life. Here the mood is joyous throughout and full of color and sunshine. The composer clearly conveys that the crisis is behind him, that the music does not celebrate triumph here, but rather expresses joy and thankfulness. This work was first published in Paris and Berlin in 1827 and was dedicated to Prince Nikolai Golitzin.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

7/6 Miami Int'l Piano Festival: A couple selections...

Musical Map of "Rage" by James Boyk
The Miami Int'l Piano Festival 's Youtube channel has almost 400 videos of complete performances of classical works on piano and other chamber instruments.  Here's a few Beethoven selections...I decided not to include any of the piano sonatas since I've got so many up here already from the previous piano competitions.

Rondo a capriccio in G Major, 'Rage over a Lost Penny' Op.129
Sijing from China is 15 here. She plays this so called "Rage Over a Lost Penny" as though it were a masterpiece. performed at Broward Center, Fort Lauderdale, FL at The Miami International Piano Festival Master Series 2006.

Link

6 Variations in F, Op.34
March 2008 performance at the Miami International Piano Festival. Kit Armstrong is 16 years old.
Link

Not Beethoven, but a pretty cool arrangement of Bartok's Roumanian Dances
GILLES APAP violin & arrangement
THE TRANSYLVANIA MOUNTAIN BOYS - Christopher Judge, guitar Brendon Statom, double bass
from a May 22, 2011 performance at the Colony Theatre Miami Beach Florida

Link

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

7/5 Jonathan Grows Up

The Chamber Orchestra Kremlin
Jonathan
A while ago I did a post on young and exciting talents and one of the people I mentioned was Jonathan (Okseniuk), who did an AMAZING job conducting Beethoven's final movement to the 5th Symphony. You can see the video HERE.

Since then, Jonathan has skyrocketed in internet fame and even attracted the attention of a real conductor who had him conduct a chamber symphony arrangement of B.'s String Quartet #4, Op.18, No.4.  Here's a short video feature on this amazing little guy.

Link

Another view of the performance can be seen here. Meanwhile back at home Jonathan is still conducting Symphony 6!

The Chamber Orchestra Kremlin can be seen below (with it's regular conductor, Misha Rachlevsky) performing the complete orchestrated string arrangement.
Pt 1-4: String Quartet #4, Op.18, No.4
Pt 5, 6:  String Quartet Op.131
Pt 7-10" String Quartet #4, Op.18, No.4 (alternate performance)

Linklist

Monday, July 4, 2011

7/4 Kreisler's Rondino

Fritz Kreisler
Fritz Kreisler was one of the most important violinists of the 20th century, both for his playing as well as his composing for the instrument. In fact he wrote a Rondino based on an unused theme by Beethoven (from the rejected final movement of B.'s Wind Octet in E flat (1793).


Link

This version is a piano arrangement by Leopold Godowsky, performed by Phillip Sear..which would make this Sear's Godowsky's Kreisler's Beethoven B-side.

Link

Sunday, July 3, 2011

7/3 Marmottes and Beethoven

Marmottes.
I've recently noticed a plethora of arrangements of Beethoven's own arrangement of the traditional air, "La Marmotte".

First, a "straight version:

Link

Now..on accordion:

Link

and electric guitar & synthesizer:

Link

Of course, I did my own arrangement as well...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

7/2 Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Play Beethoven

Robert Louis Stevenson is best known as a writer of books like "Treasure Island", "Kidnapped" and "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" but he also had an unusual side-career of transcribing works for recorder.

Here's a performance of Stevenson's recorder version of a song from Beethoven's "Egmont" score:
Egmont (Clarchen's Lied): Die Trommel gerühret, Op.84b no. 1
Played on tenor recorder by J.F.M. Russell from a Stevenson manuscript at Princeton University as part of a project to record the complete music of RLS.

Link
A regular version of Die Trommel gerühret can be found HERE.

And here's Stevenson's arrangement of
Seufzer eines Ungeliebten - Gegenlieb, WoO.118 (1795)
Gegenlieb interestingly uses a melody which re-occurs in the 9th Symphony...

Played on soprano recorder by J.F.M. Russell from a Stevenson manuscript in the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library as part of a project to record the complete music of RLS.

Link
A regular version of this song can be found in my earlier post HERE.

Friday, July 1, 2011

7/1 Beethoven, The Ventures and a Giant Harmonica

The Ventures are pretty famous as a surf-rock band but here they do some groovy arrangements of Beethoven:

The Ventures play the 5th Symphony

Link

The Ventures play the Moonlight Sonata

Link

And for no logical reason whatsoever I'm going to throw in another 5th Symphony arrangement on what looks like soprano, tenor and baritone harmonicas...

Mendes Harmónica Trio

Thursday, June 30, 2011

6/30 The Eroica Without a Net

Persimfans is one of the few orchestras which perform without a conductor. Judging from a short video documentary about them (link at bottom) they apparently do a good deal of modern, avant-theatrical repertoire.  However in this video they perform Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, the ever-inspiring "Eroica".

I really like the fact that (here at least) they play in a circle facing inwards.  Somehow it reminds me of a campfire jamboree... I believe B. would have approved of this kind of unusual "communal" music-making.

From Youtube:
PERSIMFANS is a symphony conductorless ensemble organized in Moscow by the Music Laboratory of the School of Dramatic Art Theatre in early 2008. Originally PERvyi SIMFonicheskiy ANSambl bez dirizhera (an abbreviation for The First Conductorless Symphony Ensemble) was founded by the violinist Lev Ceitlin in 1922 right after the Civil War. The first Soviet years were marked by collectivist utopia that in the case of PerSimfAns revealed itself in the idea of providing all its members (up to 150 musicians) with the self-managing authority free from baton/scepter despotism, demonstrating, as Nicholas Slonimsky once wrote, that "in a proletarian state orchestra men do not need a musical dictator". PerSimfAns was striving to make familiar the new-born proletariat with the classical and modern pieces, arranging concerts virtually anywhere: concert halls, working clubs and factories, reaching the widest possible audience, inspiring dozens of imitators in other Soviet cities as well as in Paris, Leipzig and New York and wining worldwide acclaim from such collaborators as Prokofiev, Milhaud, Myaskovsky, Zecchi, Petri etc., including even Klemperer. In 1933 despite its lasting fame the ensemble was forced to halt its activity, thus indicating the end of pure socialist idealism and anticipating total dictatorship of Stalinist regime.

As back in the 1920s, today PerSimfAns consists of the highly acclaimed orchestras members and Moscow conservatory teachers, however nowadays its concerts include not exclusively conductorless performance of symphonic pieces, but the reconstruction of the original noise-ensembles adjusted to their authentic repertoire, ballet troupe staging a forgotten Prokofiev "Trapèze" ballet , litmontage, documentary video montage etc. PerSimfAns brings into public focus rare musical pieces (i.e. "First Concert" by A. Mossolov (1927), "Metal March" by G. Lobachev (1928), "On the Dneprostroi" by J. Meituss (1932), "Intégrations" by I. Wyschnegradsky (1969) etc.) as well as bizarre versions of the famous ones (i.e. "Die Zauberflöte Overture" (Soviet edition for cinemas, clubs and variety from 1930) or even compositions by the contemporary composers (such as Pavel Karmanov or "Vezhlivyi Otkaz" (The Polite Denial) rock-band). In 2010 PerSimfAns is planning to perform Beethovens "Third Symphony", one of the symbolic landmarks in the early Soviet repertoire."


Symphony No.3 in E flat major, op.55 'Eroica' (1805)

Linklist

PERSIMFANS PROMO (documentary)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

6/29 Bernard Herrmann's 100th Birthday

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Bernard Herrmann's birth (let's call it his 100th birthday).  I've always cited Herrmann as my favorite 20th Century composer.  In fact he was my introduction to orchestral music in general.  Back when I was deep into experimental music and free jazz, I used to comb through old thrift stores for kitschey records to sample/collage.  One time I found a 99 cent cassette of the original score recording to Herrmann's "The Day the Earth Stood Still".  I was literally blown away at how awesome this score from the 50's was.  For me as an electronic musician, the 2 theremins, electric basses and organs were a perfect entry point into film score music.  From there I collected ALL of Herrmann's works, as well as the best stuff from Goldsmith, North, Steiner, Waxman, Korngold, Elfman, Horner, Morricone, etc...  However Herrmann was still way ahead of every other film music composer in my estimation...one of Bennie's infamous claims is that he did all the orchestrations of his music himself - and that most film composers didn't.  I think that had alot to do with the uniqueness of his sound...his wind writing is almost immediately recognizable.

Main Title from "The Day The Earth Stood Still"
"the score included electric violin, electric bass, 2 theremins* (treble & bass), test oscillators, vibraphone, 4 pianos, 4 harps & approximately 30 brass instruments"

Link

So, thinking about Herrmann recently made me think of some parallels between Beethoven and Bennie...

Both left their original hometown for a new city...
(LvB:Bonn->Vienna / BH:Brooklyn->Hollywood)

Both had big early successes...
(LvB: most celebrated pianist in Vienna / BH:"Citizen Kane")

Both very stubborn and refused to make changes to their scores...
(LvB:Fidelio / BH:"Wuthering Heights", Symphony 1)

Both had and early "derivative period"...
(LvB:Haydn, Mozart / BH: Copland, Elgar) 

Both had strong middle periods...
(Herrmann's middle period was when he worked with Hitchcock and Harryhausen)

Late success...
(Herrmann's last film, "Taxi Driver" was nominated for an Academy Award)

Use of technology......
(LvB: metronome, panharmonicon, extended timpani, trombones / Herrmann used theremin in "The Day The Earth Stood Still", and Moog on "Sisters", "Endless Night" etc..)

Difficulty getting along..
(Herrmann was not shy about putting down his fellow composers, as well as the directors who he disdained.)

Both had an "out of favor" period...
(After his partnership with Hitchcock ended, Herrmann had fewer big productions until very late in his life)

Finally, both had a prodigious talent for writing very simple motifs and "exploding" then into orchestral masterpieces.
(LvB:5th and 6th Symphonies / BH: "Psycho", "North by Northwest", etc...)

Happy 100th, Bennie!

"Vertigo" Main Title:

Link

"Death Hunt" from "On Dangerous Ground"
(Esa Pekka-Salonen with the L.A. Phil)

Link

Transcript of a lecture given by Bernard Herrmann at the George Eastman House Museum in October, 1973.

Bernard Herrmann Society (News, Forum, articles)

Herrmann Works Listing

Analysis of "Vertigo"

Here's a fine article about Herrmann's best scores from Film Music Review:
http://www.americanmusicpreservation.com/BernardHerrmannCentennial.htm

Here's a link to the New York Philharmonic's archive of Herrmann-related performances:
http://archives.nyphil.org/index.php/search?search-type=singleFilter&search-text=Herrmann

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

6/28 Violin Concerto 3rd Movement (Chee-Yun Kim)

Chee-Yun
I usually make it a rule not to post a work unless all the movements are available (or at the very least the 1st movement) so when I came across a performance of Beethoven's Violin Concerto Op.61 which was missing the 1st movement I hadn't planned on posting about it - but after watching I was so impressed with this performance I decided that just the 3rd movement alone was worth featuring.  The featured violinist, Chee-Yun Kim, has a great tone and articulation and the orchestra give a committed reading.  Apparently she's also appeared on TV on a show called "Curb Your Enthusiasm"...

Allmusic: "The second movement takes a place among the most serene music Beethoven ever produced. Free from the dramatic unrest of the first movement, the second is marked by a tranquil, organic lyricism. Toward the end, an abrupt orchestral outburst leads into a cadenza, which in turn takes the work directly into the final movement. The genial Rondo, marked by a folk-like robustness and dancelike energy, makes some of the work's more virtuosic demands on the soloist."

Violin Concerto Op.61 in D, 3rd Movement:

Link

The 2nd movement can be found HERE.

Monday, June 27, 2011

6/27 Bagatelles on Guitar, Hand Cannons

Though I have posted a good chunk of my own sequenced versions of Beethoven's works arranged/transcribed for guitar, there are of course many great live performances - among them this fine set of Bagatelles transcribed and performed by David Pavlovits.

3 Bagatelles:
From 11 Bagatelles, Op.119No. 4. Andante cantabile (@ 0:00)
From 11 Bagatelles, Op.119, No. 9. Vivace moderato (@ 1:36)
From 7 Bagatelles Op.33, No. 4. Andante (@ 2:21)


Link

What the heck, here's my arrangement of Wellington's Seige arranged for guitar. Adapted from Wellington's Victory, or the Battle of Vittoria op. 91, for Piano and Two Cannons, Hess 97..

(Shootin' starts at 2:45)

Modified and adapted from an original sequence by Mark S. Zimmer from The Unheard Beethoven.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

6/25 Artur Rubinstein Competition Beethoven Works Pt. 1

The Arthur Rubinstein 13th International Piano Master Competition was recently held and most of the performances were uploaded to Youtube.  Here are some of the best Beethoven performances.  Today will be the early Beethoven works and tomorrow I'll post a playlist of the later works...

32 variations in C minor, WoO 80 (Sijing Ye)
Sonata no. 7 in D major, op. 10 no. 3 (Eric Zuber)
Sonata no. 16 in G major, op. 31 no. 1 (Sasha Grynyuk)
Sonata no. 18 in E-flat major, op. 31 no. 3 (The Hunt) (Ilya Rashkovskiy)
Sonata no. 21 in C major, op. 53 (Waldstein) (Alexandre Moutouzkine)

Linklist (1 hr 39 min)

Friday, June 24, 2011

6/24 Paganini's Caprices and Bartok's Mikrokosmos on Guitar

Nicolo Paganini, by Richard James Lane (died 1872), published 1831
Thought I'd divert from Beethoven today to post some of my guitar sequences of Paganini and Bartok...fun stuff (if I do say so myself).

Paganini - All 24 Solo Violin Caprices on Guitar

Linklist (1 hour)

Bartok on Guitar (and in various "rock-metal" arrangements)
  • Scherzo (Arr. for Guitar)
  • Allegro Barbaro (Rock Arrangement)
  • Mikrokosmos (27 selections arranged for solo Guitar)
  • Mikrokosmos 140 - Free Variations (arr. for Guitar & Drums)
  • Mikrokosmos 122, 146, 113, 147 (Arr. for Guitar & Drums)
  • 3 Piano Works (Arranged for guitar)
  • Mikrokosmos 149 - Burgarian Dance 2 (arr. for Guitar & Drums)
  • Mikrokosmos 148 - Bulgarian Dance 1 (Arr for Guitar & Drums)
  • Mikrokosmos 153 - Burgarian Dance 6 (arr. for Guitar & Drums)

Linklist (1 hour)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

6/23 Sonata No.31 with Hélène Grimaud

It was just a couple days ago that I snuck in a Richter performance of Beethoven's Piano Sontata 31, so here's a more descriptive post with a performance by Hélène Grimaud..

From Allmusic:
Beethoven's piano sonatas grew in complexity and depth as the cycle of 32 progressed. The last dozen or so could be called absolute masterpieces of piano music, with the latter half of that group rising to a level that often inspires awe and wonderment. This work, though sometimes overshadowed by the mighty "Hammerklavier" Sonata, and the last, the C minor, Op. 111, seems quite as impressive as these better-known works. This unusual work, thematically threadbare at the outset, is a great and deeply profound composition, whose fugal finale achieves the highest keyboard art. This composition opens with a gentle, slow idea of strong spiritual character, the music sounding mesmeric, tranquil, chorale-like, intimate. Its fabric consists of many threads, but on the surface there is little of actual substance, at least from the standpoint of musical analysis. Yet this lovely but seemingly unpromising opening contains the seeds of this movement's rich thematic and harmonic material. The latter half of the first subject is borrowed from the Largo second movement of Haydn's Symphony No. 88, in G major. At the time Beethoven was writing this sonata, he was suffering the first bouts of the illness that would take his life six years later. The serene, rather valedictory mood of the first movement (Moderato cantabile, molto espressivo) may reflect his sense of mortality, of an impending doom. The second subject is lively, but in all its elements seems to be on the descent, expressing, perhaps the end of a journey. The development introduces some tension and subtly disrupts the serenity, without, however, essentially altering the general mood of tranquility.

The second movement (Allegro molto) is short and jovial. Or is it? It certainly starts off with a happy demeanor, but that temperament is periodically interrupted by a ponderous ritardando, which finally overtakes the direction and character of the piece. The third movement, marked Adagio ma non troppo, is somber, bordering on the funereal. This ponderous, dark music may reflect the composer's deepest doubts and disappointments. The finale begins without pause after the Adagio. Its theme, almost Bach-like in its contentedness and fugal character, sounds serene, expressing, perhaps, the composer's acceptance of his fate. This is a movement of great subtlety and beauty, and its structure is masterful and original. The middle section is quiet and dark, its mood looking back to the darkness of the Adagio. Suddenly the piano unleashes ten fateful chords in a slow crescendo. The main theme then reappears and struggles for a time with the dominant mood of darkness. Eventually it gains strength, transforming the movement into a triumphant, ecstatic, radiant utterance. 

Piano Sonata #31 In Ab, Op.110 (1822)

Linklist

(A slightly better video of this performance can be found here)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

6/22 Beethoven Loves Doris

Written in 1793 at age 23, this is a charming piece by the young Beethoven.
(Text by Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim)

Ein Selbstgespräch (Soliloquy), WoO.114 (1793)

Ich, der mit flatterndem Sinn
Bisher ein Feind der Liebe bin
Und es so gern beständig bliebe,
Ich! Ach! Ich glaube, daß ich liebe.

Der ich sonst Hymen angeschwärzt
Und mit der liebe nur gescherzt,
Der ich im Wankelmut mich übe,
Ich glaube, daß ich Doris liebe.

Denn ach! Seitdem ich sie gesehn,
Ist mir kein'andre Schöne schön.
Ach, die Tyrannin meiner Triebe,
Ich glaubte gar, daß ich sie liebe.
 
I who, fickle of mind,
have been hostile to love until now
and who would like to remain so,
I, ah! I think I´m in love.

I who once denounced marriage
and only made fun of love
and who is well-practiced in inconstancy,
I think I´m in love with Doris.

For ah! since I first saw her,
no other beauty seems as fair,
Ah, the tyrant who rules my desires,
I do indeed think that I love her.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

6/21 The Weirdest Piano Concerto Arrangements You'll Love Vol.1

“Guitar” (1914) ferrous sheet metal and wire" MoMA © 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso
The Weirdest Piano Concerto Arrangements You'll Love Vol.1...or perhaps can "Like Eventually"...

After doing rock versions of Beethoven's complete string quartets, I decided that I wanted to hear how his concertos might sound if the lead instrument were a guitar instead of a piano or violin (or cello).  After a few fruitless attempts at incorporation guitar sounds into symphonic arrangements, I tried to do a guitar and synthesizer version.  Despite a good amount of work I finally had to admit that it just didn't sound that good.  Finally I realized that I should go back to my previous idea with the quartets and make full rock band arrangements for these works.  It took a bit more work since I didn't want to lose a single note, but I managed to get everything down to 2 electric guitars, bass and organ (as well as the lead instrument).

Here's Beethoven's Violin Concerto in a "Rock" arrangement.  Electric guitar replaces the violin solo, as well as the 1st violin part.
1 Allegro ma non troppo: from 0:03
2 Larghetto: from 22:03
3 Rondo. Allegro: from 29:18
Guitar Arrangement sequenced by Ed Chang using Synthfont.

Link

And here's Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto in a similar arrangement, with acoustic guitar as the soloist and electric guitars in the 1st and 2nd violin roles...
1. Allegro con brio: from 0:03
2. Largo: from 14:24
3. Rondo-Allegro: from 21:49
Guitar Arrangement sequenced by Ed Chang using Synthfont.

Link

Piano Concerto 5...the piano solo is divided into Left Hand -> Acoustic, Right Hand -> Electric
I: 0:03    II: 18:44   III: 25:15

Link

I did arrangements for all of B.'s concertos so I'll put up some more soon....

Monday, June 20, 2011

6/20 Listening to Music

One of the most unique (and rewarding) things about Beethoven (and classical music in general) is that it functions as music to be listened to. I mean listened to in the same way that most people read a book, or watch a movie (in a theater). Much of popular music today is really designed for dancing or as "mood" music - that's why there's so much repetition in the drum and bass line, and the song usually doesn't modulate in any kind of way to draw attention to the fact that "it's modulating". The dynamic level is arranged in a way so that it starts loud..and stays that way. This makes it easier to listen while at the gym, or driving in traffic. However classical music was never intended to be listened to as an attention-dividing experience. It's meant to be listened to and followed like a dramatic Russian war epic ("War & Peace"?). In a single piano sonata movement there is often a variety of mood swings and jokey witticisms littered throughout the exposition and development sections. And very often Beethoven will not just repeat the notes in the recapitulation, but add some new, poignant/funny element to keep it unpredictable.

Of course it's perfectly fine to just listen to a Beethoven symphony for the "vibe" - I do it all the time, especially since I have music playing every waking hour. But it's always worth mentioning that Beethoven is not just giving us "notes" - there's human drama and comedy splashed all over those string textures.

Here's a few ideas that have helped me to "read" classical music:

Listen for how each instrumental group (winds, horns, strings, percussion) enters
the piece. Then follow how B. uses each of these groups. In general, the strings are the lead instrument and the horns are used for extra "oomph".

Listen for the main motif or melody and break it up into it's "parts". By parts I mean the antecedent/consequent (call/response) nature of a theme melody. It's fun to listen to a melody and see how it gets echoed by other instruments and altered in different ways. My research on my blog post on homophonic forms was pretty handy to learn about theme structures.

Listen for the larger structure of the work - notice when the exposition repeats, how the development develops, and how the recap retransitions into the original theme. These are all signposts saying things like "You are now entering the State of Lyrical Theme in Dominant Harmony". If the work is in variation form, compare how Beethoven develops and twists the original theme.

These all may sound like school homework assignments I suppose, but after awhile this kind of "active listening" becomes as easy as recognizing when a commercial comes on during a TV show and it all just adds to the experience.  When an action movie slows down for some "romance", you don't have to think "oh it's the lyrical part".  But you do recognize it as a change in the mood and pace and this is exactly the kind of thing Beethoven wants us to feel during one of his symphonies.

The idea for today's post on "listening" came from an article about how reading and doing crosswords can block your ability to hear.

Piano Sonata #31 In Ab, Op.110 (1822)
Sviatoslav Richter

Link