Tuesday, March 29, 2011

3/29 The Oboe Variations

Beethoven's chamber works typically get many arrangements for alternate instruments, but for some reason Opus 87 seems to have a few more than usual.  It's a fun piece from 1795, originally written for 2 oboes and english horn (cor anglais).

Trio for 2 Oboes & Cor Anglais Op.87 (1795)
Allmusic: "The first movement, marked Allegro, has a comparatively nonchalant character, and sounds the most conventional of the four movements. Mozart comes to mind here in particular, but mainly in spirit and formal design. One clearly recognizes that Beethovenian busyness in the music, even despite the slightly less serious mood. The main theme, with its repeated note near the beginning, sounds a little stiff, but the movement as a whole has a fair amount of charm. The second-movement (Adagio cantabile), offers a lovely main theme, and the whole of the movement is pure Beethoven, its brilliant scoring and slow tempo being rather unusual for this kind of music at this time. The third movement carries the markings Menuetto, Allegro molto, Scherzo, but is almost a genuine Scherzo. Its fast music and muscular style give it that Beethovenian stamp, and make a fine contrast to the preceding Adagio. The finale, marked Presto, is another brilliant movement, though here Haydn steps forth, both thematically and formally. Again, however, Beethoven never becomes imitative in any passage. The music is full of humor and deft touches, and this movement, a Rondo, ends with a brilliant coda."

Here's a playlist of videos using different instruments for each of the 4 movements...
1 - M1 - Allegro, on Saxophones
2 - M2 - Adagio cantabile, with 2 Violins and 1 Viola
3 - M3 - Menuetto, Allegro molto, Scherzo, Piano Transcription
4 - M4 - Finale, Presto, Mandolin and Guitar Ensemble

followed by some extra movements I found floating around.

5 - M1, Another Sax Trio
6 - M2-4, 2 Oboes and English Horn (the original arrangement)
7 - M4, Oboes and English Horn (extremely fast version)

Some of these performances here are by student musicians so be warned that you're going to hear some "Xenakis-like" moments here and there - but they're still kind of interesting IMHO.

Linklist (43 min)

Beethoven also wrote an Oboe Variation as well - but without switching instruments of course ;)
Trio for 2 Oboes & Cor Anglais On a theme from Mozart's Don Giovanni WoO.28 (1795)

UPDATE - just hours ago a TUBA version of the Op.87 finale was uploaded to Youtube. Hard to keep up with this Op.87 craze...
Performance By Tuba A Tre (Kyle Newland, Kenji Kabe, Preston Light)
Full Performance HERE , but M4 below:


  1. Early Beethoven can be awfully fun (although I confess to not thinking very highly of the Horn Sonata, but perhaps that's because I had to play all the time). And saxophones need all the music they can get their hands on, so at least they're looking in the right spot.

    Also, I intend to refer to anything that might be mildly unpleasant as "Xenakis-like" from now on, as in, "Ooh, I think I put a little too much pepper in the sauce, so it might taste a little Xenakis-like." Thanks for that!

  2. "You'll have to excuse me, I'm having a Xenakis-like moment"

  3. I suppose the logical end of the spectrum would be full-fledged Xenakisitis, characterized by full body discomfort.

  4. I don't know if your comment about saxophone arrangements had anything to do with it Erik, but apparently the tuba contingent has tossed their hat in the ring as well. Today's post updated...