Monday, February 28, 2011

2/28 A Turkish March for 16 Hands

Keyboards piled up at the Pearl River Piano factory (BBC)
Marches are good fun, at least musically.  Beethoven hated war of course, and his feelings about Napoleon are no secret, but he still composed quite a few marches, and one of them I covered here before.   While writing about the Liszt piano transcriptions last week, I was reminded of Beethoven's own variations of the Turkish March from his "Ruins of Athens" stage work. 

6 Variations in D major op.76 "Turkish March" (1809)
Sviatoslav Richter (Live 50's)

Sviatoslav Richter plays Beethoven Six Variations, Op. 76

But wait, what if Beethoven had 8 pianists at his house one day, all wanting to show him their performance of the Turkish March, but Ludwig only had 5 minutes?  Maybe it would sound something like this:
Turkish March from "Die Ruinen von Athen" (arr. for 8 pianos, Richard Blackford)
Piano: Gina Bachauer
Piano: Jorge Bolet
Piano: Jeanne-Marie Darré
Piano: Alicia De Larrocha
Piano: John Lill
Piano: Radu Lupu
Piano: Garrick Ohlsson
Piano: Bàlint Vàzsonzyi
Live recording, London - 1974
It gets interesting after the 2:24 mark...(note that I tagged this post with the "avant-garde" label)

Beethoven Turkish March (arranged for eight pianos)

There also happens to be a Turkish March in the finale of the 9th Symphony and probably some other works I can't recall right now... Robert Greenberg claims that "Turkish Marches" had more to do with exotic harmonies and melodies in any form, rather than melodies of a specifically Turkish nature. Frankly I don't know enough about the music of Hungary in the 1800's to agree with Prof. Greenberg or not, but I can see that easily being the case. It doesn't sound anything like Bartok tho...or does it?

Béla Bartók - Allegro Barbaro

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2/27 Beethoven's 2nd and 10th Violin Sonatas

Today seems like a good opportunity to complete my collection of Beethoven Violin Sonatas posts.  There are innumerable performances of the Kreutzer around, followed closely by the Spring sonata.  Sonatas 2 and 10 are far more scarce and I'm not sure why, since they are great fun and quite lyrical.  Sonata 10 stands firmly as one of his most beautiful late-middle period works.

Violin Sonata 2, Opus 12, No. 2 (1798) 
The first movement, Allegro vivace, opens with a quick, mechanical little waltz-like accompaniment characteristic of the keyboard writing of the time—except that here it's taken by the violin, while the piano plays a simple, downward-skipping melody that shortly breaks out in a frantic run, all in a very violinistic idiom!

After this first statement, the instruments effectively trade places, but also continue to trade off melody and accompaniment as true partners. The most memorable phrase of a secondary subject looks forward to Rossini's Largo al factotum; this is followed by a lot of back-and-forth teasing between the instruments, and a creeping, mock-suspenseful episode. The development section suddenly jerks everything into C major, a slightly surprising modulation for the time. The development itself hardly differs from the exposition except in its amusing key transpositions from theme to theme. The coda is extended enough to be mistaken for part of the development, playing as it does on the main subject's appoggiaturas, before petering out to leave the violin's little downward-skipping two-note motif hanging.

The second movement, Andante, più tosto allegretto, is a simple affair. The theme falls into four-bar phrases, with each half introduced by the piano before being appropriated by the violin. This first section is built around a flowing but still guileless melody that eventually becomes sole property of the violin, with the piano offering a modest, staccato accompaniment. The mood darkens in the movement's second half, although neither the thematic material nor the texture becomes any more complex.

The third movement, marked Allegro piacevole, is a relaxed rondo whose recurring theme is a happy whistling tune, with a few wide intervallic leaps and playful turns. Interleaved with this are episodes in much the same character; in fact, the middle section's accompaniment is nothing more than the little cadence from the primary theme's final bar. Beethoven saves one more joke for the end: The instruments move through a decisive-sounding final cadence in full partnership, only for the piano to get in the last word with an "extra" last note.
Violin: Liviu Prunaru, Piano: Lorena Tecu, Recital at the Villa Nestle in Blonay (Switzerland) (18 min)

This is a fine performance - the only thing that's a little bit odd is that it looks like they're playing in 2 different rooms....?

Violin Sonata 10, Opus 96 (1812)
From the outset of the first movement it is clear that the symphonic energy of the "Kreutzer" Sonata is nowhere to be found. Beethoven forgoes the slow introduction and the tempo Presto intensity, creating a more contemplative atmosphere. However, we still find an abundance of material, with numerous thematic elements in the exposition, in the middle of which a hint of B flat major anticipates the "flat key" passages in the recapitulation and the E flat major key of the second movement. The falling, sighing segment of the second closing theme dominates the development section, which subtly trills its way into the recapitulation. As in the first movement of the Op. 47 sonata, developmental treatment of the first theme occurs only in the extended coda. 

The hymn-like harmonic movement of the opening theme creates a sense of repose in the second movement. Marked Adagio espressivo, the sonata-form structure lacks a development section, a typical attribute of slow-movement sonata form. Beethoven indicated there be no break between the Adagio and the ensuing Scherzo. 

Beethoven cast the Scherzo in G minor, followed by a Trio in E flat major. The Scherzo section, with its detached melody and accompaniment, ends in such a way that the transition to G major in the coda is almost imperceptible. The only surprise is that the movement ends in the major, not the minor. 

Pastoral qualities permeate the finale, a set of variations on a simple, eight-measure theme. The variations proceed without interruption, at one point changing from 2/4 to 6/8 meter for a slow lyrical segment that pushes toward E flat major and a literal statement of the theme before moving on to the next variation. A G minor variation that resembles the first theme of the first movement precedes a return to the finale theme on the tonic key. Beethoven closes with a witty, Adagio-Presto coda. (Allmusic)
Fritz Kreisler: violin, Franz Rupp: piano (22 min)


It's hard to beat Kreisler on violin, he more or less wrote the book on violin, but here's a fine live performance by Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis of the 10th Violin Sonata from 1998 as a bonus:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

2/26 Roger Norrington and Hélène Grimaud: A Beethoven Concert

Here comes a Daily Beethoven full-length concert post featuring our old friend Sir Roger Norrington!  Way back in the early days of TDB I posted a video featuring Sir Roger rehearsing Beethoven and dancing like a teenager at a sock-hop - but the video has since gone AWOL.  Fortunately some more concerts of his have surfaced since then and seeing/hearing him conduct is no doubt more engaging in the long today I'll feature a virtual "Norrington Conducts Beethoven" program with the effervescent Hélène Grimaud as a featured pianist:

Beethoven Program
Symphony 3 "Eroica"
Symphony 6 "Pastoral"
Choral Fantasy with piano soloist Hélène Grimaud

Symphony 3 "Eroica" (47 min)
--Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra Japan Tour 2008, Sir Roger Norrington
--Date:Jan 30 2008, --Place:Sunroy Hall (Tokoy)


Symphony 6 "Pastoral" (47 min, from VHS)
London Classical Players conducted by Sir Roger Norrington.  This is Sir Roger's "house band" so to speak at a period when the Maestro was a tad younger....


Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra (Choral Fantasia) (18:05)
Hélène Grimaud - piano
BBC Symphony Orchestra, Singers and Chorus, c. Sir Roger Norrington
BBC Proms 76, September 13th, 2008, 
Royal Albert Hall, London
Pre-show interview with Hélène here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

2/25 Saint-Saëns and Thalberg's Beethoven Souvenirs

Camille Saint-Saëns / Sigismond Thalberg
This past week I covered quite alot of piano homages/fantasies/variations on Beethoven's music by other I might as well finish it out with a couple more to make it a theme (no pun intended).

Camille Saint-Saëns is probably best known for his "Carnival of the Animals" suite with spoken text.  It seems to get recorded alot when a celebrity wants to add a classical album to his discography... I assume the Ozzy Osbourne-narrated recording must be on it's way...  In all seriousness, I am pretty fond of his 3rd Symphony and the Danse Macabre... Anyways I was excited to learn that he composed a piece called "Variations on a Theme of Beethoven in Eb, for 2 pianos, Op.35".  Below is the full rundown from Allmusic:
The eight variations plus a fugue, presto, and coda are based on the Trio from the Menuetto third movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 18 ("Hunt"). It is a fairly strange choice for a theme; its short phrases consist of leaping chords followed by a brief, more melodic figure. On the other hand, it is perfect from a duo standpoint because the chords echo and are easily split between the two performers. Saint-Saëns' variations are comparable to Beethoven's own variation writing in their diversity of style and complete pianism. Saint-Saëns was able to use the two pianos to create almost orchestral sonorities, yet keep the music accessible to moderately skilled players. The variations move from an arpeggiated version of the theme to a filled out lyrical version, a partial inversion, pounding chords, and another arpeggiated version before heading into a funeral march. The march and the following section both feature exotic harmonies that give a more mysterious and Eastern flavor to the music. The fugue, presto, and coda are the meat of the work, requiring a certain amount of élan and a considerable amount of ensemble skill to be done well. Using an earlier master's work as inspiration, Saint-Saëns crafted a classic work for the piano duo repertoire.


Incidentally there actually exists a piano-roll recording/transcription of Saint-Saëns playing Beethoven's Op. 31 piano sonata:
Saint-Saëns plays Beethoven (Op. 31, No. 1, ii - adagio grazioso)
(Piano roll (Welte-Mignon) made in 1905.)

Another work inspired by Beethoven I accidentally stumbled upon is Thalberg's "Souvenirs of Beethoven" - this one uses themes from the 7th and 5th symphonies - I suppose if you're going to take souvenirs they might as well be big ones.
From Allmusic: Souvenirs de Beethoven: Grande fantaisie pour le piano sur la 7' Symphonie de Beethoven, Opus 39 was written in the 1830s and finally published in 1840. It starts with a passage that, in its figuration, seems to justify Liszt's apparent reference to Thalberg as the Chevalier de Tremolo. There are distant suggestions of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, duly transformed, before the emergence of the principal theme of the Allegretto of the second movement, here marked Andante, material which is then subject to pianistic embellishment of increasing brilliance and intensity. The A major section, transformed from its original, follows, before a due return to A minor and further delicate display. Reminiscences of the last movement of the symphony lead to other territory, now the final movement of the Fifth Symphony, but it is to A minor and the second movement of the Seventh Symphony that the Fantasy finally returns.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

2/24 Beethoven's Mass in C (Color Analysis and Rock Arr.)

Beethoven's Mass in C from 1812 is not as popular as the monumental Missa Solemnis from 1823, but it's actually a big favorite with me. It was originally composed for Papa Haydn's old boss, but apparently Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II didn't clap loudly enough and our man B. stormed out in a fury... Frankly I find it's brazen modulations and fiery dynamics to be a kind of "punk-rock" cousin to the's shorter and faster and the orchestration seems to me to be a bit leaner.

Mass in C for Solo, Chorus and Orchestra Op.86 (1812)
Sir Colin Davis with the LSO and Chorus
0:00 1. Kyrie
5:54 2. Gloria (Qui tollis – Quoniam)
16:34 3. Credo
29:00 4. Sanctus (Benedictus – Osanna)
40:36 5. Agnus Dei (Dona nobis pacem)
This work has so many sections that it might be hard to keep the video and the breakdowns all on the same page...may be best to get 2 computers side by side for this post ;)

CHANNEL LINK: Click here to see this video on my YouTube Channel. Once there, click on "...(more info)" to scroll through the text description while the video stays in place.

I. (starting 0:00)
Kyrie - Andante con moto
1st Theme: chorus: "Kyrie": C Major (BROWN)
2nd Theme: soprano solo: "Kyrie" (GREEN)
2nd Theme: solo qrtt/chorus: "Kyrie" (GREEN)
3rd Theme: solo qrtt: "Christe" (BLUE)
(1st Theme variation (chorus: "Kyrie"): E Major  2:55) (BLUE)
2nd Theme (repr.): soprano solo: "Kyrie" (GREEN)

II. (starting 5:54)
Gloria - Allegro con brio (BLUE)
1st Theme: chorus: "Gloria" C Major
2nd Theme: chorus: "Bonae voluntatis" A minor
3rd Theme: tenor solo/chorus: "Gratias agimus" Bb Major
Qui Tollis - Andante mosso (GREEN)
1st Theme: alto solo/chorus: "Qui Tollis" F minor
1st Theme: solo qrtt: "Qui Tollis"
2nd Theme: chorus: "Qui sedes"
Quonium - Allegro ma non troppo
1st Theme: orchestra: C Major (BLUE)
1st Theme: chorus: "Quoniam" (BLUE)
2nd Theme: Fugue: chorus: "Cum Sancto" C Major (MAROON)
Text Painting: solo soprano/chorus: "Amen" (PURPLE)

III. (starting 16:34)
Credo - Allegro con brio
1st Theme: chorus: "Credo" C Major (MAROON)
2nd Theme: chorus: "Factorum" (sequence of keys) (BLUE)
1st Theme variation: chorus: "Et in unum" (MAROON)
3rd Theme: chorus: "Ante omnia" (BLUE)
4th Theme: chorus: "Deum de deo" Eb Major (BLUE)
5th Theme: chorus: "Consubstantialem" Eb Major (BLUE)
6th Theme: tenor/bass solo: "Qui propter nos homines" (BLUE)
Et incarnatus est - Adagio, Part 1 (VIOLET)
1st Theme: solo qrtt: "Et incarnatus" Eb Major
2nd Theme: chorus: "Crucifixus" Bb minor and sequence of keys
3rd Theme: solo qrtt: "Passus"
Part 2 - Allegro ma non troppo (PURPLE)
1st Theme: Bass solo/chorus" "Et ascendit" D Major
2nd Theme: chorus: "Sedet" C Major
3rd Theme: chorus: "Cujus regni" G Major
4th Theme: solo qrtt: "Et in spiritum"
5th Theme: chorus: "Qui locutus est" C Major
Part 3 - (DARK BLUE)
Fugue: chorus: "Et vitam" C Major
Fugue variation: alto solo: "Et vitam" A Major

IV. (starting 29:00)
Sanctus - Adagio
1st Theme: orchestra A Major (MAROON)
1st Theme: chorus: "Sanctus" (MAROON)
2nd Theme: allegro: chorus: "Pleni sunt coeli" D Major (MAROON 2)
3rd Theme: chorus: "Osanna in excelsis" (MAROON 3)
Benedictus - Allegretto ma non troppo (BLUE)
1st Theme: solo qrtt: "Benedictus" F Major
2nd Theme: solo qrtt: "Qui venit"
3rd Theme: quartet/chorus: "Benedictus" C Major
(4th Theme: solo qrtt: "Benedictus" F Major 35:25)
1st Theme variation: solo qrtt: "Benedictus" F Major
5th Theme (reprise of Sanctus 3rd Theme): chorus: "Osanna"

V. (starting 40:36)
Agnus Dei - Poco andante
1st Theme: chorus "Agnus dei" (OLIVE)
2nd Theme: chorus: "Miserere" (BLUE)
1st Theme variation: chorus: "Agnus dei" (OLIVE)
2nd Theme variation: chorus: "Miserere" (BLUE)
3rd Theme: solo qrtt: "Dona nobis" (BLUE)
4th Theme: chorus: "Miserere" (BLUE)
5th Theme: chorus: "Pacem" (BLUE)

(breakdowns from Alan Rich's book, Play by Play!!).

Recall when I mentioned this work being like "punk-rock"?  Welll.....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2/23 Piano Transcriptions (Liszt, Alkan, Beethoven)

"Young Franz"
Transcribing Beethoven's music for alternative instruments is almost a cottage industry in itself.  It was very common for piano transcriptions of B.'s symphonies and string quartets to appear even before the orchestral scores hit the sheet music stores.  In those days, after a performance it wasn't possible to take home the program book, go to Youtube and re-listen to all those brand new pieces.  The best one could do was buy the sheet music for the work and play it at home on one's own pianoforte.  We sure have it good these days!  However, the loss of that practice has largely contributed to the deterioration of musical education/appreciation today (at least that what Roger Sessions says).

Franz Liszt's piano transcriptions of the 9 symphonies of Beethoven are fairly well-known (my personal favorite recording is the set by Cyprien Katsaris) but less famous are Liszt's transcriptions of Beethoven's song-lieder and the Opus 20 sextet.  Youtuber has quite a few performed by Leslie Howard, and so I might as well just make a handly list of these piano arrangements (except the symphonies, they're easy enough to find).

Adelaide op. 46, S466, (1839-1847)
6 Lieder von Gellert op. 48, S467, 1840:
- 1. Gottes Macht und Vorsehung op.48 No 5
- 2. Bitten, op.48 no. 1
- 3. Busslied, op.48 no. 6
- 4. Vom Tode, op.48 no. 3
- 5. Die Liebe des Nachsten, op.48 no. 2
- 6. Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur, op.48 no. 4
An die ferne Geliebte - Song Cycle of Jeitteles, op.98, S469, 1849:
- 1. Auf dem Hugel sitz' ich spahend
- 2. Wo die Berge so blau
- 3. Leichte Segler in den Höhen
- 4. Diese Wolken in den Höhen
- 5. Es kehret der Maien
- 6. Nimm sie hin denn dieser Lieder
6 Lieder on Goethe, S468 (published 1849):
- 1. Mignon, Op.75
- 2. Mit einem gemalten Bande, Op.83 no. 3
- 3. Freudvoll und leidvoll, Op.84b no. 4
- 4. Es war einmal ein König (Mephisto's Flohlied), Op.75 no. 3
- 5. Wonne der Wehmut, Op.83 no. 1
- 6. Die Trommel gerühret, Op.84b no. 1
Septuor in E flat, op.20 (1799-1800), S465 (1841):
- 1. Adagio, Allegro Con Brio
- 2. Adagio cantabile
- 3. Tempo di menuetto
- 4. Andante con variazioni
- 5. Scherzo: Allegro molto e vivace - Trio - Scherzo da capo
- 6. Andante con moto alla marcia - Presto

Liszt was also a big fan of The Ruins of Athens...
March from the Ruins of Athens, S388a (1846) much so that he did his own improvisations on some of the themes...
Capriccio alla turca sur des motifs Beethoven's Ruins of Athens  S388 (1846)
Fantasy on Beethoven's Ruins of Athens S389 (piano version) (1852)
Fantasy on Beethoven's Ruins of Athens S122 (Orchestral version)
Lastly for Liszt, he also wrote a cadenza for Beethoven's Piano Cto 3 Op 37, S389a - tho I couldn't find a recording of that one sadly...

Which brings me to Charles-Valentin Alkan, whose transcription of Piano Concerto 3 for solo piano (with his own cadenza) I COULD find, here performed by Marc-Andre Hamelin (a good composer in his own right):
Beethoven/Alkan: Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor I. Allegro con Moto (Part I)
Beethoven/Alkan: Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor I. Allegro con Moto (Part II)

Alkan also made a piano arrangement of the "Cavatina" 5th movement of Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 130: Beethoven/Alkan: Cavatina

Even tho I'm leaving Liszt's piano transcriptions of the symphonies out for today, I will include Richard Wagner's transcription of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, complete with vocal soloists and choir:
Richard Wagner Piano transcription of Symphony 9 - 4th Movement

There's even a version of the full opera Fidelio in piano 4-hands - arranged by Alexander Zemlinsky.

More recently, here's a piano transcription for 8 hands (yes, 8!) of the Egmont Overture: Egmont, Ouverture - Trascrizione per 2 pianoforti a 8 mani

When Beethoven found about all these "upstarts" doing piano transcriptions of his symphonies (except for his friends of course) he oftentimes disowned them, or if he got really outraged he'd do a transcription of his own - tho generally he didn't think much of transcriptions and alternate arrangements.  That of course didn't stop him from using the Eroica/Prometheus theme in 4 different works...
Here's a sketch fragment of Beethoven's own attempt to transcribe the 7th Symphony - it sounds a bit half-hearted - and then he pretty much tosses it in the trash at the end, probably because he had to get back to work on the Missa Solemnis...
Symphony No 7 in A major, Op 92, 1st Movement Fragment transcribed by B.

OK - I think that about covers it...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2/22 "Beethoven's 11" (Overtures Overview)

Recently I picked up Beethoven's complete overtures with Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker on LP.  4 vinyl sides containing 11 complete overtures - great stuff.  The symphony "form" developed from the operatic opening overture, so in a way I think of these as 1-movement symphonies.  This seems like a good opportunity to give an overview of all of B.'s overtures (especially as I have Hubert Daschner's liner notes right next to me).

The Creatures of Prometheus Op.43 (1801) (links to Karajan performance)
This overture is influenced by Mozart and includes a solemn introduction followed by a joyful allegro section.  However the use of melodic material from the END of the ballet in the main section of the overture was an innovation for its time.

Leonore I Op.138 (1805) (links to Mengelberg performance)
This overture has a slow middle section and foreshadows the "Florestan melody" - but it was criticized as not having enough melodic material from the "action scenes".

Leonore II Op.72 (1805) (links to Klemperer performance)
B. tried again and this time he followed the plot much more closely, down to the "trumpet call" signalling Pizarro's downfall - talk about spoiler-alert!  What might have confused audiences then was that since the story ends soon after that, there's no reason to revisit the opening exposition, which was typical.  B. didn't feel like following the "liberation of the prisoners from oppression" with a "flirty kitchen comedy scene" I guess...

Leonore III Op.72a (1805) (links to Karajan performance)
In this 3rd try he flip-flopped again and re-integrated the recapitulation.  This lasted about a week....;)

Fidelio Op.72b (1814) (links to Levine performance)
Finally, 9 years later, B. just said "the Devil with it!" and wrote an overture which had absolutely nothing to do with the opera itself.  It's exciting as heck tho.

Coriolan Op.62 (1807) (links to Jurowski performance)
Beethoven avoided the "condensed plot" form and instead just concentrated on a couple main themes and saved the climactic development section for the end.  Daschner writes: "Consequently, the whole of Beethoven's oeuvre scarcely contains sharper contrasts or a more pessimistic ending than those in the Coriolanus Overture".
Arturo Toscanini "Coriolanus Overture Rhearsal" Beethoven

Egmont Op.84 (1810) (links to Karajan performance)
Egmont is another of my favorite overtures and at the end has a moment of silence for the death of the hero (another spoiler alert required here), followed by a radiant, triumphal section, expressing the victory of ideals over bodily destruction.

King Stephen (or Hungary's First Benefactor) Op.117 (1811) (links to Schoenzeler full concert performance)
This overture is basically "incidental music" (film music) using Hungarian flavors (in quasi-sonata form).

The Ruins of Athens Op.113 (1811) (links to Schoenzeler full concert performance)
The shortest overture, this one is also "incidental music" using Turkish flavors this time - it was only used at the opening of the new theater at Pest - and only before the 3rd act even.

Name-Day Op.115 (1815) (links to Karajan performance)
Originally labeled "for any occasion - or for concert use",  it contains seeds of the 9th Symphony.  Name-Day is not the same as a birthday - it's related more to one's actual name and the matching saint's feast day.  More...

The Consecration of the House Op.124 (1822) (links to Kocsis performance)
Composed for the opening of the newly-renovated Josefstadt Theater in Vienna, this overture has a slow introduction followed by a fugue-like fast section - similar to what Handel used to do...and it's no secret Handel was Beethoven's favorite composer in his later years.

Monday, February 21, 2011

2/21 "65 Variations on a Theme by Beethoven"

Back in November I posted a video and breakdown of Beethoven's 32 Variations in C minor on an Original Theme WoO.80 (performed by Ivan Moravec).  In fact I posted versions by Glenn Gould and Rachmaninoff as well, so I was hesitant to do yet another...but after I found out about Stephen Heller's additional 33 variations for the same theme - well I couldn't resist the resulting blog title above...

Heller was born 7 years after Beethoven's set of 32 variations was first composed and published in 1806.  He finished his set of 33 variations in 1871, 65 years later.  Naturally his set is not regarded nearly as highly as Beethoven's, but it's a fascinating juxtaposition to compare the two sets, one from the end of the "Classical" period and the other well into the "Late Romantic " period.
(Was there another set composed in 1936?  2001?  Going on the "to-do" list..)

Firstly, Beethoven's 32 variations, this time by Radu Lupu, with score:

 Beethoven 32 Variations - Radu Lupu

...and secondly Stephen Heller's additional 33 variations performed by Petronel Malan:

Stephen Heller 33 variations on a theme by Beethoven op 130

Heller was so inspired by his set of variations that he did another set of 21 based on the 2nd and 3rd movements of the Appassionata Sonata (among others)...which you can find near the bottom of this playlist.

Since we're on the subject of variations, apparently there's a play called "33 Variations" based on the Diabelli Variations and starring Jane Fonda and Tom Hanks' son.  I can't really comment since I haven't seen it, but here's an interesting article and video...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

2/20 Diabelli Variations (Berezovsky, Puppulo, Brendel)

I know I've come back to the Diabelli Variations a few times before - but this is one of those works which traverses so much territory and so many's one of those few piano works which can justifiably be performed in concert every 4 days without seeming over-played...

This performance by Mr. Berezkovsky is a superb traversal of "the 33", and excellently recorded - and it's not always true that you get both...
Diabelli Variations Op.120 (1823)
performed live by Boris Berezovsky: (1 Hour)


This LINK will take you to a performance of the Diabelli Variations by Elsa Puppulo - I actually like this performance a great deal - but the sound quality is not the best. Still, well worth a listen - her accents are so fierce it sounds almost like a fortepiano at times (which I mean as a good thing)....her Bartok is also pretty exciting!

Finally, here's another one of those wonderful "score-following" videos - follow Alfred Brendel along as he plays the Diabelli 33: LINKLIST.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

2/19 Great Composers: Beethoven / String Quartet 131 (Cavani)

I've seen many documentaries on Beethoven and I always find something new...Beethoven can be approached from so many different ways, even in the context of a "straightforward" documentary about his life.  Read on for more...
"For many people, musicians and laymen alike, Beethoven is the most admired composer in the history of Western classical music -- not only because of the intellectual rigour of his music, but also its expressive power. Beethoven's struggle to resist being defeated by his deafness has a parallel in his music. This programme explores all aspects of Beethoven's life, the music and the man, his views on life, politics and the French Revolution. Contributors include conductors Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Michael Tilson Thomas, pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy, violinist Peter Cropper from The Lindsays, musicologist Charles Rosen, sociologist Tia de Nora, director Sir Peter Hall, Beethoven expert John Suchet and Beethoven scholars Barry Cooper, Bill Meredith, Basil Deane and William Kinderman."

And secondly, a fine concert by the Cavani Quartet performing Opus 131.  Despite some "liberties taken" in the 5th movement Presto, the best live version I've found on YT...
Sunday, September 27, 2009, Mixon Hall
CAVANI String Quartet:
ANNIE FULLARD, violin / MARI SATO, violin
String Quartet No. 14 in C# minor, Op. 131  (42 min)
Here's movements I-III:

Click below to go to the Linklist for the whole quartet

Friday, February 18, 2011

2/18 Moonlight Milk Sonata / Toy Piano / 100 Days Revisited

Artist Sara Naim did a fascinating experiment with photographing milk at high speed while playing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata through the milk - resulting in these vibratory snapshots.  Some really cool pictures and a very unique way of visually representing the abstract narrative of a piano sonata. 
From Sara Naim's website:
Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata: "This body of work looks at translating sound into a photographic image. Ludwig Van Beethoven’s sonata vibrates through milk. He composed this piece in the early 1800’s for his blind pupil and lover, Giuletta Gucciardi. Gucciardi said to Beethoven that she wished she could see the moonlight. Beethoven then composed a piece about the moonlight’s reflection off Austria’s Lake Lucerne, called Moonlight Sonata."

The stuff about Lake Lucerne and Giuletta Gucciardi is not exactly corroborated by recorded facts, but it's a nice thought I guess...anyways the images are the thing.
Another unique take on the Moonlight Sonata is this performance adapted for "Toy Piano" by specialist Margaret Leng Tan. I'm actually more familiar with Ms Tan's work as a performer of John Cage's works, so this is quite surprising and a little odd. What's even odder is that Cage hated Beethoven - one assumes John Cage is rolling in his grave ;)

There are boatloads of videos of the Moonlight played on acoustic and electric guitar and most of them are well...frankly, not particularly interesting, but this one by Michael Lucarelli stands out as a fine transcription in its own right (and a fine video production as well):

If you're interested in hearing what the Moonlight Sonata sounds like on electric guitar after it's been sped up to 1500 bpm (from its original tempo of 40 bpm) below...

Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata at 1500 BPM on Guitar

It's pretty out there ;)

Finally, to round out a light Friday post, here's an update to an older post where I mentioned Jessica Svendsen's 100 Days Project - she's DONE! 
From Ms. Svendsen's website: "Every day for 100 days, I created a variation on a Josef Müller-Brockmann poster for a Beethoven concert in Zürich in 1955. This project was part of the Michael Bierut 100 Days Workshop at the Yale School of Art."

I really liked her designs, so much so that I threw them into my video editing software and generated a quick video using the Coriolan Overture (conducted by Dmitri Mitropoulos).  The poster itself is for a Coriolan Overture performance by Carl Schuricht, but I don't have that particular one handy, oh well....

100 Days Website

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2/17 Kreutzer Sonata (Color Analysis)

Another re-visit to Beethoven's ever-fascinating Kreutzer Sonata for Violin and Piano: as with the Moonlight Sonata last week, I've posted an analysis of the 1st movement before but not of all 3 parts so here goes...

Violin Sonata No.9 Op.47 'Kreutzer' (1803)
Piano: Vladimir Ashkenazy / Violin: Itzhak Perlman
0:00 - I. Adagio Sostenuto - Presto
11:49 - II. Andante con Variazioni I - IV
28:17 - III. Finale. Presto

CHANNEL LINK (Click here to see this video on my YT Channel. Once there, click on "(more info)" and then you can view the video in place, while scrolling through the text below)

Movement I, Adagio Sostenuto - Presto
1st Theme (Violin) (LIGHT PURPLE)
1st Theme (Piano) (LIGHT PURPLE)
2nd Theme (LIGHT BLUE)
1st Theme (MAROON)
2nd Theme (BROWN)
1st Theme Variation (MAROON)
3rd Theme (from 1st Theme) (GREEN)
3rd Theme (BLUE)
2nd Theme from Introduction (LIGHT BLUE)
1st Theme (MAROON)
2nd Theme (BROWN)
1st Theme Variation (MAROON)
3rd Theme (GREEN)
1st Theme
1st Theme Development
1st Theme Finale

Movement II. Theme and Variations (starting at 11:49)
1st Theme w Piano (BLUE)
1st Theme w Violin (VIOLET)
1st Variation (BROWN)
2nd Variation (GREEN 1)
3rd Variation (GREEN 2)
4th Variation (GREEN 3)
Transition (DARK BROWN)
5th Variation (MAROON)
Coda (VIOLET 2)

Movement III. Presto (starting at 28:17)
1st Theme A (MAROON 1)
1st Theme B (MAROON 2)
1st Theme C (MAROON 3)
2nd Theme (BLUE)
3rd Theme (from 1st Theme) (LIGHT BROWN)
Exposition Repeat
1st Theme A (MAROON 1)
1st Theme B (MAROON 2)
1st ThemeC (MAROON 3)
2nd Theme (BLUE)
3rd Theme (from 1st Theme) (LIGHT BROWN)
Development - 1st Theme (PURPLE)
1st Theme A (minor) (MAROON 1)
1st Theme B (MAROON 2)
1st ThemeC (MAROON 3)
2nd Theme (BLUE)
3rd Theme (from 1st Theme) (LIGHT BROWN)
Entrance (BLUE 1)
Adagio (variation of 1st Theme) (BLUE 2)
1st Theme final Development (BLUE 3)
(breakdowns from Alan Rich's book).
Additionally, here's a link to a performance of the 2nd movement by Efram Zimbalist and Harold Bauer from 1926!!
Beethoven "Kreutzer Sonata" Zimbalist-Bauer Rec.1926

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

2/16 Ludwig's "Happy-Sad" Bagatelle

Babies and Beethoven: Infants can tell happy songs from sad, BYU study shows
I came across this little bagatelle quite by accident, Beethoven's "Happy-Sad" Bagatelle.  It's a seemingly light little trifle - but it's great fun - you can very easily tell where it goes from "happy" to "sad" with hardly any effort at all.  Actually the "happy" part makes me sad, and the "sad" part makes me happy...

Bagatelle Lustig-Traurig (Happy-Sad Bagatelle in C minor) WoO.54 (1802)
Piano: Georg Friedrich Schenck

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2/15 Hammerklavier Orchestrated & w Score / H.J. plays H-K

Segueing from yesterday's "Hammer-guitarre" post, I recently I found out that Felix Weingartner (the 1st conductor to record B.'s 9 symphonies) did an orchestral arrangement of Beethoven's Opus 106!   I knew of orchestral arrangements of some of the string quartets by Mahler - but this one by Weingartner was one I'd never heard of before. Why is this not more popular?  I'll let you decide....

Piano Sonata #29 In Bb, Op.106, "Hammerklavier" (1818) (Weingartner Orchestral Arrangement)
1. Allegro ("virtually impossible")
2. Scherzo: Assai vivace ("a dark interlude")
3. Adagio sostenuto ("the apotheosis of pain")
4. Introduzione: Largo - Fuga: Allegro risoluto ("dramatic fury and dissonance...terrifying... strangely unstable")

(from wikipedia)


I also recently found one of those "score-following" videos - and with a work as monumental as the "Hammerklavier" - that can be really handy....(sequenced by snicolosi85)


Finally, here's Hyun-Jung Lim (H.J. Lim) doing the ending fugue of the Hammerklavier.  I only just discovered her playing on Youtube and frankly her interpretations are astounding and fresh!  It's always good to hear new approaches to Beethoven and her's is very modern to my ears.  Apparently she adheres very closely to Beethoven's original metronome markings - much more so than most "traditional" pianists.  Certainly a new favorite of mine and I hope she records all of Beethoven's piano works at some point....Brendel's done it 3 times already...

Ms. Lim performs the 1st movement here.

Of course there's always the classic Brendel performance...

Monday, February 14, 2011

2/14 Ode to My Hammer-guitarre, or "If Beethoven Played the Guitar Edition 99"

As an experiment, I used my handy MIDI-switchblade to switch a few voices in the 4th Movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony...I was curious to hear the Ode to Joy on a purely harmonic and melodic level without the beautiful text - so goodbye vocal soloists and choir, hello guitars! I also left out the first section (instrumental overture) since it had no vocals (guitar material). For visuals I decided to make the whole thing a tribute to my guitar - it is Valentine's Day after all ;) .
(Picture effects are from
Symphony 9 Movement 4 "Ode to Joy with Guitar samples

I also took the "liberty" of arranging the Hammerklavier Piano Sonata for electric guitars...another MIDI-sourced Synthfont-assisted musical Frankenstein. Interestingly, right after I rendered the audio file, the program crashed...maybe Ludwig is trying to tell me something?
The "Hammer-Guitarre" Sonata arrangement of Beethoven's Opus 106

I   0:06 
II  12:51 
III 15:05 
IV  28:40
I actually did an earlier video-rendition (music is the same) using spectrum analysis instead of the Malinowski MAM Player - that can be found HERE.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2/13 O'Conor's "Bootcamp" / Gardiner's "Eroica"

(The guy on the top left was pretty damn good.  Bottom right was kind of wonky...)
Here's a 54-minute film about John O'Conor's "Beethoven Bootcamp".  I don't play the piano myself but it was still an interesting look at performing Beethoven's piano sonatas.  O'Conor was taught by Wilhelm Kempff and he continues the teaching tradition by holding a 2 week masterclass in Italy every year.  This film documents one such class with 7 young students.  O'Conor is pretty off-the-wall - the film is pretty frank with his assessments which is almost kind of jolting in this back-slapping PR-drenched profession...

"In this unique film, recorded in Positano, on Italy's rugged Amalfi coast, internationally acclaimed concert pianist John O'Conor tries to pass on the passion and power of Beethoven's music to the next generation of musicians. It's not an easy task - even though this group of seven men and women from around the world are hand picked by O'Conor for these master-classes, as much for their musical ability as for their perceived dedication to their art and their craft, the lessons have mixed results."
Master-class reviewed in New York Observer

A while back I posted the BBC movie "Eroica" about the first performance of Beethoven's 3rd Symphony.  It still ranks as my favorite Beethoven dramatization.  A bonus feature on the DVD was an option to watch just the Eroica being performed (without the talking and drama, etc..).  It's an extraordinary performance on period instruments and probably the closest you can find to the original orchestra in Beethoven's time.
Here's John Eliot Gardiner's "Eroica" from "Eroica the Movie"

Maestro Gardiner talked at length about Beethoven's 5th  HERE.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

2/12 Beethoven's Last Piano / Rattle-ing the 5th

Here's an interesting little feature from the BBC about the restoration of Beethoven's last piano (really!) - and a performance by Melvyn Tan of some of the Bagatelles on said restored fortepiano.  One interesting fact is that the strings are so thin that they are "near the breaking point."  So that would fit right in with the stories of Beethoven breaking 4 strings on the first chord!

"Beethoven's Broadwood fortepiano returned to England from Budapest in 1992 for restoration. Part 1 and 2 of the video tells us the history of the piano and about the restoration. Parts 3 and 4 are a performance of Beethoven's Bagatelle No. 1-6, op.126 by Melvyn Tan on the occasion. The final part is Beethoven's Fantasia in G minor Op.77, also performed by Melvyn Tan. A BBC production. "
(41 min.)


From the intimate to the bombastic:
Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 (hardly needs any introduction at this point...)
Conducted by Sir Simon Rattle with the Berliner Philharmoniker 2007, (39:17)


Note that I now added a new link over to the right to go to my Youtube Channel devoted to The Daily Beethoven. This is where you will find every video I personally created for TDB (as well as videos I have written posts about but have not published yet) and videos which I did for my own enjoyment (read: LvB guitar arrangements) which I couldn't fit into the blog content. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

2/11 Beethoven Guitar Concertos - and a Red Dress

Today's 'Friday cover' is an excerpt from a recent concert featuring Beethoven's Triple Concerto (one of my personal favorites and recently posted here on historical instruments) performed by a chamber orchestra with a jazz/metal fusion trio as the soloists.  As a guitarist myself, I've heard Mattias IA Eklundh's original CD's in the past and he's an interesting guitarist - but I never expected this!  Frankly, I don't think the Vienna Phil will be scheduling these guys any time soon as guest soloists - but it's still pretty admirable and fun.
"Patrik Jablonski - piano, Mattias IA Eklundh - guitar and Jonas Hellborg - bass, performing Beethoven's Triple Concerto together with Vasteras Chamber Orchestra conducted by Hans Ek."

Since it's apparently 'guitar-day', here's some excerpts from a guitar version of the Violin Concerto, transcribed by Kazuhito Yamashita and performed here solo by Tariq Harb.

Some excellent liner notes from the original release by Yamashita can be found HERE. Apparently he even performed this with a guitar orchestra arrangement - I would love to hear that!

Newsflash!  The winner of "Project Beethoven" has been announced!  What's that? No, not a secret cloning project to bring back the greatest musical genius in human history, but a fashion design contest asking for dresses inspired by the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.
Here's the winner:
Design by Maria Canada
"Project Beethoven featured evening wear designs by ten talented fashion students affiliated with schools throughout the greater Boston area. Patrons viewed the dresses, presented by models chosen by the designers, and enjoyed the festive Symphony Hall atmosphere before taking their seats for the concert."
Fascinating idea - I'm sure B. would have approved...
More info and the other 9 entries HERE...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2/10 Moonlight and Appassionata Sonatas (Color Analysis)

Time for more visual analysis... I've posted about the Moonlight Sonata before (tho not all 3 movements) so I decided what the heck, might as complete that, and also throw in the Appassionata again, for old times' sake.... I'll eventually do all 32 sonatas but since these were handy I decided to do the "hits" first.

Piano Sonata #14 In C#m, Op.27/2, "Moonlight" (1801)
Piano Alfred Brendel
0:00 - I. Adagio sostenuto
6:05 - II. Allegretto
8:33 - III. Presto agitato
Channel Link

Movement 1. Adagio Sostenuto
Introduction (LIGHT MAROON)
1st Theme (MAROON)
2nd Theme (BROWN)
Development - 1st Theme (GREEN)
1st Theme (MAROON)
2nd Theme (BROWN)
Coda (MAROON 2)

Movement 2. Allegretto (starting at 6:05)
Theme A (MAROON)
Theme B (BROWN)
Theme A (reprise) (MAROON)

Movement 3. Presto Agitato (starting at 8:33)
1st Theme (MAROON)
2nd Theme (BROWN)
3rd Theme (OLIVE)
4th Theme (GREEN)
Exposition Repeat
1st Theme (MAROON)
2nd Theme (BROWN)
3rd Theme (OLIVE)
4th Theme (GREEN)
Development (BLUE)
1st Theme Dev
2nd Theme Dev
1st Theme (MAROON)
2nd Theme (BROWN)
3rd Theme (OLIVE)
4th Theme (GREEN)
Cadenza (VIOLET)

Piano Sonata #23 In Fm, Op.57, "Appassionata" (1805)
Since we just saw Professor Yui's masterclass on the Appassionata a couple days ago this should be a walk in the park now, right?

Piano Alfred Brendel 
0:00 - 1. Allegro Assai
9:52 - 2. Andante Con Moto
16:34 - 3. Allegro Ma Non Troppo
Channel Link

Movement 1. Allegro Assai
1st Theme (BROWN)
2nd Theme (OLIVE)
1st Theme (variation) (BROWN)
3rd Theme (BLUE)
Development (DARK VIOLET)
1st Theme
2nd Theme
3rd Theme
1st Theme (BROWN)
2nd Theme (OLIVE)
1st Theme (variation) (BROWN)
3rd Theme (BLUE)

Movement 2. Andante Con Moto (starting at 9:52)
Theme (BLUE)
1st Variation (BLUE 2)
2nd Variation (BLUE 3)
3rd Variation (BLUE 4)
4th Variation (BLUE 5)

Movement 3. Allegro Ma Non Troppo (starting at 16:34)
Introduction (BLUE)
1st Theme (MAROON)
2nd Theme (OLIVE)
3rd Theme (var of 1st Theme) (BROWN)
Development - 1st Theme (PURPLE)
1st Theme (MAROON)
2nd Theme (OLIVE)
3rd Theme (BROWN)
Development - 1st Theme (reprise) (PURPLE)
Recapitulation (reprise)
1st Theme (MAROON)
2nd Theme (OLIVE)
3rd Theme (BROWN)
(breakdowns from Alan Rich's book).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2/9 Stomping and Hopping to Beethoven (6 Ländler)

This is a somewhat novel Beethoven piece - a work made up of 6 dance themes played on 2 violins and a bass, followed by a coda.  Unlike the bagatelles or the contredances, this piece is supposed to be played as 1 long medley of dances.  At least it seems that way to me, since there is a scored Coda at the end.   I suppose this is similar to when we (use to?) go club-hopping and the DJ would spin a continuous set of beats without stopping.

From AllMusic:
"A Ländler is a country dance for couples in a quick 3/4 meter that generally occurred outdoors and involved stomping and hopping. As dance halls appeared in the late eighteenth century the Ländler moved indoors and people began to wear lighter shoes and dance at a faster tempo. This led to the development of the waltz.

In the Ländler, WoO 15, the melodic material of the dances is all given to the violins, most of it to the first violin. Unlike the later waltz, Ländler melodies are generally active on each beat of the measure, the accents occurring in the accompaniment. Several rhythmic patterns occur in the traditional Ländler and most are represented in Beethoven's Ländler, WoO. 15. For instance, the first two dances are dominated by a half-note, quarter-note pattern, producing a long-short rhythm in the accompaniment. The third dance combines the long-short pattern with measures giving equal stress to each beat, while the fourth dance features a short-long pattern. A rising triplet in the first violin accents the third beat in No. 5 before moving on to superimpose a duple meter on the clear triple meter of the bass and second violin. The coda is really an extension of the sixth dance, giving Beethoven a chance to flex his developmental muscles. The fact that all the dances are in D major (except No. 4, in D minor) suggests they were meant to be played without a break."
6 Ländler for 2 Violins and Bass (or Cello), WoO 15

I really like this piece, it seems very cheerful.  At least until it gets to Dance #5 - I suppose that's where B. is really testing the people on the dance floor...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2/8 Beethoven's 8th: "So much better!" (Color Analysis)

After all this time I just realized I don't have one single post on Beethoven's 8th Symphony - and that's one my favorites, too!

From Wiki : When asked by his pupil Carl Czerny why the Eighth was less popular than the Seventh, Beethoven is said to have replied, "because the Eighth is so much better." A critic wrote that "the applause it [the Eighth Symphony] received was not accompanied by that enthusiasm which distinguishes a work which gives universal delight; in short—as the Italians say—it did not create a furor."

Sadly under-rated even today, the 8th has a regal and energetic 1st movement, a novel "metronome-like" 2nd movement, a 3rd movement characterized by a "drunken" minuet, and a 4th movement which takes off at full speed and includes some hilarious hairpin harmonic turns.

So here comes my new favorite standby, the color waveform (especially moving ones) are worth a thousand cadence descriptions... Another thing worth mentioning is that this performance was conducted by Felix Weingartner, who was the first to record all 9 Beethoven symphonies to disc.  In fact Weingartner even wrote a book describing the correct way to conduct Beethoven: "On the Performance of Beethoven's Symphonies".  I chose a recording from so that those annoying Youtube ads would not pop up....

SYMPHONY No.8 in F major, Op.93 (1812)
Conductor : Felix Weingartner, Vienna Philharmonic
Columbia 78rpm Set M-292 (CHAX 89 - 94), Recorded February 25-26, 1936, Digital transfer by F. Reeder
0:00   1. Allegro vivace e con brio
7:15   2. Allegretto scherzando
10:53 3. Tempo di Menuetto
15:00 4. Allegro vivace

Movement 1: Allegro vivace e con brio
1st Theme (BROWN)
Bridge (BLUE)
2nd Theme (GREEN)
Cadence Section (MAROON)
Development (VIOLET)
1st Theme (BROWN)
Bridge (BLUE)
2nd Theme (GREEN)
Cadence Section (MAROON)

Movement 2: Allegretto scherzando starting at 7:15
1st Theme (OLIVE)
2nd Theme (BLUE)
Cadence (DARK GREEN)
1st Theme (OLIVE)
2nd Theme (BLUE)
Cadence (DARK GREEN)
Coda (VIOLET) 

Movement 3: Tempo di Menuetto starting at 10:53
Part A (Minuet) (PURPLE)
Part B (Trio) (VIOLET)
Part A (Minuet) (PURPLE)

Movement 4: Finale starting at 15:00
1st Theme (BROWN)
2nd Theme (BLUE)
Development 1 (PURPLE)
Recapitulation 1
1st Theme (BROWN)
2nd Theme (BLUE)
Development 2 (PURPLE)
Recapitulation 2
1st Theme (BROWN)
2nd Theme (BLUE)

Some more analysis notes: