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!