Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I always like getting recommendations from people who I respect when I want to discover some good music. So what would LvB have recommended (out of his own music that is)?
Well, later in life he definitely would not have recommended his Septet, Op.20, which was actually kind of an early hit with the public. "I wish it were burned", he said, according to Thayer. Also in a letter about his Sextet Op.71: "All that one can really say about it is that is was written by a composer who has produced at any rate a few better works". The 2nd Piano Concerto he admitted was "not one of my best" and sold it at a discount. He admitted in one letter that the overtures "Ruins of Athens", "Nameday" and "King Stephen" were not his "best and greatest". He once wondered why so many people were crazy about Piano Sonata No. 14 ("Moonlight"), since he thought "Fur Therese" Op.78 (NOT "Fur Elise") was so much better.
However, he was known to name his 3rd Symphony ('Eroica') and the 9th Symphony as favorites later in life and described the 7th Symphony as "one of the happiest products of my poor talents". At one point his favorite piano sonata was Op.22, then Op.57 ("Appassionata"), and then later still Op.106 ("Hammerklavier").
Before the 9th Symphony came along, he said of the Missa Solemnis, "(it's) the greatest work I have ever composed" (tho I'm not sure if that's a quote from an actual conversation, or a fund-raising letter...). Of the string quartets, his favorite was Op.131 in C-sharp minor (which is usually considered his best by many today). And his 'Cavatina' movement from String Quartet Op. 130 always made him cry whenever he thought about it. He never got tired of his song "Adelaide" Op.46, either for some reason.
So there you have it, if Beethoven were alive today to produce his "Greatest Hits" it would have Symphonies 3,7 and 9, Piano Sonatas "Appassionata" and the "Hammerklavier", String Quartet Op. 131 and Op. 130 and probably the "Gloria" from the Missa Solemnis. Maybe a bonus track would be "Adelaide"....or a remix of the Septet Op.20 with more timpani....?
Here's a transcription of "Adelaide" for guitar and voice, possibly by Anton Diabelli. I dare someone to sing this at the next Lilith Fair...:)
(A traditional arrangement of Adelaide can be found HERE)