Tuesday, May 31, 2011

5/31 A Wind Trio on Mozart's Don Giovanni

Beethoven's wind music is always great fun.  In the WoO 28 wind trio (usually for 2 oboes and cor anglais and based on a theme form Mozart's Don Giovanni) Beethoven sets up several different variations, each one seemingly designed to highlight one of the three instruments.  It's a light, lean and jolly work.  What's especially interesting is that the variation that starts at 6:11 in the video below seemingly features the clarinetist doing a technique called "circular breathing", where a note or phrase can be held indefinitely...or maybe the guy just has big lungs.

Here WoO 28 is performed to perfection on flute, bassoon, and clarinet by Trio Eccentrico al Teatro Rossini di Lugo - 18/01/2011:
Trio for on a theme from Mozart's Don Giovanni ("Give me Thy Hand") WoO.28 (1795):

Link

Monday, May 30, 2011

5/30 Orchestrated Pathetique

As readers of The Daily Beethoven should know by now, I'm a sucker for orchestral arrangements of chamber and solo works - and apparently Lenny Bernstein and Leopold Stokowski (among many others) also felt the same way.  So when I came across this string orchestra version of the Pathetique Sonata - well, I was delighted.  It's not uncommon to find alternate versions of the 2nd movement Adagio Cantabile, but this group does the 1st Movement Allegro Di Molto E Con Brio....

Beethoven's piano sonata "Pathetique" arranged for string orchestra by cellist, Leo Soeda. Cocoro Strings (formerly known as Kokolo Ensemble) is a conductorless string orchestra. This was our debut concert that took place at Judson Memorial Church in NYC on 8/30/07.

Link

Here's a version of the 3rd movement that is obviously sequenced and not live, but it's still interesting to hear someone (besides myself) create some original arrangements of B.'s works digitally....

Pathetique (Orchestral Version) - Beethoven

Sunday, May 29, 2011

5/29 Pianos, Cannons and the Gift of Fire

One of the best Beethoven-related sites around is the Unheard Beethoven site.  The people there have cataloged pretty much every Beethoven work not recorded (or seldom recorded) and posted midi files for B. fans to audition.  Midi files are more or less "piano rolls" of compositions and sometimes need a bit of finessing before they can sound musical.  So I took a few of these and did my best.... Here's the piano arrangement of Opus 43, "The Creatures of Prometheus" (Hess 90) authored by Willem.  I used my surround-piano sound ("Beethoven 360") for this...

From the Unheard Beethoven:
The Creatures of Prometheus op. 43, for Piano, Hess 90 (1801).
This transcription by Beethoven was published in 1801. The transcription quite faithfully follows the orchestral work, though with very different effects. Act One of the ballet--even including the overture--is much shorter than the second act. Act One concerns the creation of the first man and woman from dust by Prometheus; the second act concerns the education of these creatures. The theatre-bill for the first performance of March 28, 1801, describes the action as follows:  
"This allegorical ballet is based on the myth of Prometheus. The Greek philosophers, who knew of him, elucidate the story in the following manner--they depict Prometheus as a lofty spirit who, finding the human beings of his time in a state of ignorance, refined them through art and knowledge and gave them laws of right conduct. In accordance with this source, the ballet presents two animated statues who, by the power of harmony, are made susceptible to all the passions of human existence. Prometheus takes them to Parnassus, to receive instruction from Apollo, god of the arts, who commands Amphion, Arion and Orpheus to teach them music, Melpomene and Thalia tragedy and comedy. Terpsichore aids Pan who introduces them to the Pastoral Dance which he has invented, and from Bacchus they learn invented, and from Baccus they learn his invention, the Heroic Dance. The music is by Herr van Beethoven."
Link
More on The Creatures of Prometheus op. 43 in a previous post HERE.

Another piece I worked out is Wellington's Victory, or the Battle of Vittoria op. 91, for Piano and Two Cannons, Hess 97.  In this case I spruced up the cannons mostly - because I'm such a "cannon-expert" of course...(Midi Author: Mark S. Zimmer).
From the Unheard Beethoven:
Wellington's Victory, or the Battle of Vittoria op. 91, for Piano and Cannons, Hess 97 (1816)
This is certainly the strangest of Beethoven's arrangements for piano, since it also calls for two cannon to be fired throughout the first (Battle) portion of the piece. In this midi, the English forces are on the right channel; the French are on the left. As the battle progresses, the English march toward and take the center, forcing the French further left and eventually completely off the soundstage. The piece was wildly popular in its time as anti-Napoleonic feeling increased in Europe. This "symphony" (as Beethoven referred to it in letters) is easily the most clearly descriptive piece Beethoven ever wrote. The transcription ends, as does the orchestral version, with a fugato treatment of "God Save the King." Published 1816 by Steiner in Vienna.

Link

Saturday, May 28, 2011

5/28 String Quartet 7 with the Juilliard Quartet

Beethoven's 7th string quartet, Opus 59, No.1 ("Razumovsky" 1) has always been one of my favorites.  Composed at the height of his "heroic" phase, this quartet takes many chances and always lands on its feet.  Despite the fact that it actually "offended" a few early performers, now it's one of the bedrocks of the string quartet repertoire.  Here's the Juilliard Quartet in a performance from 1975.

Juilliard String Quartet:
Polling in Bavaria in 1975, at the beautiful baroque library of the former Augustinian Monastery to the south-west of Munich.
Robert Mann violino
Earl Carliss violino
Samuel Rhodes viola
Joel Krosnick violoncello

String Quartet 7 "Razumovsky", in F, Op.59 (1806) No 1
1.Allegro
2.Allegretto vivace e sempre scherzando (si bemolle maggiore)
3.Adagio molto e mesto (fa minore)
4.Allegro


Link
More about String Quartet 7 in a previous post HERE.

Here's a rough but interesting rehearsal extract of String Quartet 5, Opus 18, No.5 with an ensemble led by violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz:
(Jascha Heifetz, Carol Sindell, Erick Friedman and Nathaniel Rosen)

Link

Friday, May 27, 2011

5/27 Timpani of the 9th / Slow Elise

Oliver at Timpani
Beethoven was a big fan of timpani and basically set the timpani world on fire with his use of them in his symphonies. No previous symphonies and concertos had utilized timpani as such an integral part of the larger form of the work. In fact the Violin Concerto in D has a timpani intro motif which echoes throughout the remainder of the first movement. The 9th Symphony however, holds my favorite timpani part of all time - the incredibly long roll in the beginning of the recap of the 1st movement. In the famous Furtwangler recording of 1942 this section fairly explodes out of the speakers.

It's just as interesting to hear this part solo (unaccompanied), and thanks to these videos (auditions?) we can hear just how rich the sounds can be.  Also it's easier to see how different interpretations can create different sound fields...

Percussionist :

Link

Percussionist Fernanda Kremer:

Link

Since today has a kind of "droney" vibe, perhaps there's no better day than today to hear "Fur Elise" 800% S-L-O-W-E-R than normal (created using "Paul's Stretch" software):

Link

Thursday, May 26, 2011

5/26 Piano Sonata 11 (Color Analysis)

(Artwk by Chocolate-Cocoa)
Continuing visual breakdowns of Beethoven's piano sonatas...

Piano Sonata #11 In Bb, Op.22 (1800)

- 1. Allegro Con Brio (starting from 0:04)
- 2. Adagio Con Molta Espressione (starting from 7:35)
- 3. Minuetto (starting from 15:33)
- 4. Rondo: Allegretto (starting from 18:44)

The audio for this analysis was generated from a midi file originally sequenced by Bunji Hisamori in 1999.  I took that file and "spread" the notes so that listening to this on headphones will give a very distinct spacial distinction between the low voices and the high voices.  In other words, it sounds like you're sitting in front of the piano, with low notes on the right and higher notes going towards the right.  I'm calling this "Beethoven 360".  

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. Allegro Con Brio (Sonata form)
Exposition
1st Theme (I) (GREEN)
Transition (BLUE)
2nd Theme (V) / Cadence (BROWN)
Exposition Repeat
1st Theme (I) (LT GREEN)
Transition (LT BLUE)
2nd Theme (V) / Cadence (LT BROWN)
Development (VIOLET)
Recapitulation
1st Theme (I) GREEN)
Transition (BLUE)
2nd Theme (I) / Cadence (BROWN)

Movement II. - Adagio Con Molta Espressione
Exposition
1st Theme (I) (GREEN)
Transition (BLUE)
2nd Theme (V) (MAROON)
Development (DARK BLUE)
Recapitulation
1st Theme (I) (GREEN)
Transition (BLUE)
2nd Theme (I) (MAROON)

Movement III. - Minuetto
Part A
1st Theme (GREEN)
2nd Theme (BLUE)
1st Theme Var. (GREEN 2)
2nd Theme (BLUE)
1st Theme Var. (GREEN 2)
Trio B (vi) (BROWN)
Part A Repeat
1st Theme (GREEN)
2nd Theme (BLUE)
1st Theme Var. (GREEN 2)

Movement IV. - Rondo: Allegretto
1st Theme (I) (BLUE)
2nd Theme Group (V) (MAROON)
1st Theme (BLUE)
3rd Theme (i) (GREEN)
1st Theme (BLUE)
2nd Theme Group (I) (MAROON)
1st Theme (BLUE)
Coda (PURPLE)

(Assisted by Donald Tovey's in depth analysis)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

5/25 Beethoven's Violin Sonata 8


Violin Sonata No.8 is here performed by the duo of Reina and Brasil who are unknown to me - but they do a brilliant job.

From Allmusic:
Overflowing with Haydnesque humor, the first movement of the Sonata in G Major eschews the relaxed, lilting lyricism of the A-major sonata and the somber dramatic power of the C-minor. Surprises abound, including tiny touches such as the squeaky violin punctuation at the end of the opening four-measure phrase, and the much more significant move to the dominant minor for the second theme. Motives and themes either rise or plummet, never arching in a Mozartean manner, and the main theme resembles the rising arpeggio gestures associated with the Mannheim composers, often called the "Mannheim Rocket." After the development section, which is dominated by the first theme and a trill figure drawn from the closing material, the recapitulation resolves the second theme to the tonic, but Beethoven retains the minor mode.

The second movement, marked Tempo di Minuetto, is in E-flat major. The outer sections of the ABA'(coda), song-like movement vacillate between E-flat major and G minor, while the contrasting central section spirals into E-flat minor shortly before the return of A. The subdued warmth that permeates this movement is unusual in Beethoven's music.

Humor seems to be the main ingredient in the finale, which is like a rondo but with an important exception: there is only one theme for both the episodes and the rondo. The theme has two elements, one consisting of rapid sixteenth-notes and the other of repeated eight-notes. The theme appears in several harmonies, including the distantly related E-flat major, the key of the second movement. As in the first two movements, an arpeggiated figure is an important part of the main theme. 

Violin Sonata No.8 in G Op.30 No.3 (1802)
- I. Allegro assai
- II. Tempo di Minuetto ma molto moderato e...
- III. Allegro vivace
Ruben Dario Reina, violin. Paulo Brasil, piano (Recorded for Spanish National Television)

Linklist

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

5/24 Schumann's "Kreisleriana"

B. Monument
Robert Schumann was a big fan of Beethoven.  He composed his Fantasy Opus 17 as part of a fund raiser towards a Beethoven monument (right).  He also composed "Beethoven Etüden, WoO31", several variations on B.'s 7th Symphony Allegretto.  It can be heard here and here.  However today's post is about Schumann's "Kreisleriana", one of my favorite Schumann works...which I think B. would have liked as well.

Allmusic:
Eccentric, wild, and clever aptly sum up one aspect of the work, but Kreisleriana is tender, ardent, and passionate as well. This alternation between the fantastic and the lyrical, the grotesque and the loving, is one of the key characteristics of Kreisleriana. Written in four days in April 1838, it is dedicated to Chopin in the score, but, like most of Schumann's piano music from the late 1830s, it is really about Schumann's love for Clara Wieck. Extremely virtuosic and extremely subjective, Schumann's Kreisleriana is one of the high points of his compositional career.

1. Ausserst bewegt (Extremely moving) Fast and diabolical D minor outer sections flank a slow and supple B flat major central section.

2. Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch (Very inwardly and not to quickly) This is a triple time-stylized dance movement with two trios. After a tenderly musing B flat major outer section follows the fast and capricious Intermezzo I in G minor. After the return of the opening section follows the fast and passionate Intermezzo II in G minor. The second Intermezzo is followed by intensely chromatic music and darkly wends it way back to the final return of the opening.

3. Sehr aufgereg (Very agitated) Quietly creeping chromatic music in G minor, reminiscent of the first movement, flanks somewhat slower and deeply affectionate music in B flat major. The return of the G minor music is at first exact, but rises to a fortissimo climax in which the rhythm slows and the music drops down into the depths of the piano.

4. Sehr langsam (Very slowly) This meditative music in B flat major has intense lyrical music, bordering on a recitative, followed by intimately poetic music hovering between quietness and stillness.

5. Sehr lebhaft (Very lively) In this pianissimo triple-time movement in G minor that is close to a Scherzo in tone and speed are two trios: one whimsical and the other building to a dramatic climax.

6. Sehr langsam (Very slowly) The heart of Kreisleriana starts with a folk-like melody in B flat major, but transforms into an extremely ardent central section in C minor.

7. Sehr rasch (Very fast) A violently excited movement in C minor, the velocity and intensity increase in a central fugato until it collapses in slower, chorale-like music at its close.

8. Schnell und spielend (Fast and playful) This G minor music skulks and slinks in seemingly two tempos at once: the right hand's frisky melody moving in one tempo while the left hand's slow-moving melody in octaves is slightly out of sync. The music enigmatically ends on the bottom of the keyboard. 


From live performance at Tokyo Opera City Recital Hall in June 2009 by Akiko Nakai

Linklist

Monday, May 23, 2011

5/23 Beethoven's Finger Exercises

Rocking on the (Musical) Beach Chair
Beethoven's Opus 49 Piano Sonatas were first published in 1805 and are numbered Sonatas 19 and 20, but they were originally written in 1795 and 1796.  Apparently they were originally written as exercise sonatas ("light sonatas") for family and friends, but Beethoven's brother published them in order to generate inventory.  I've posted bits of these 2 sonatas before (19, 20), but there are a couple other "educational" pieces which are somewhat more mysterious - but still pretty charming.

Piano Exercise in B-flat major/minor, Hess 58
Piano Exercise in B-flat major/minor, Hess 58 (1792? 1800?). Published in Nottebohm, Beethoveniana II (1887) pp. 361-2.

Piano Exercise in C, Hess 59
Piano Exercise in C, Hess 59 (1800). Published in Nottebohm, Beethoveniana II (1887) pp. 361-2; Hess Supp. IX.

Original midi files from The Unheard Beethoven site.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

5/22 A Pretty Darn Good Selection of Piano Works

From Beethoven's early, "giddy" piano works to his last sublime piano achievements, with his most played piano work in the mix (you know the one), these are all very fine performances - but Valentina Lisitsa's "Fur Elise" especially stands out.  It's such a ubiquitous and over-exposed piano trifle - and yet here she makes it fresh as a spring day in the country...

Piano Sonatas 3, 13, 23, 32, WoO 76, Fur Elise (Total 1 hr, 40 min.)
Pt 1-4: Piano Sonata #3 In C, Op.2/3  (1795) (Johannes Gaechter)
Pt 5-6: Piano Sonata #13 In Eb, Op.27/1, "Quasi Una Fantasia" (1801) (Ran Dank)
Pt 7-8: Piano Sonata #23 In Fm, Op.57, "Appassionata" (1805) (Irina Lankova)
Pt 9-11: Piano Sonata #32, Op.111 (1822) (Corrado Rollero)
Pt 12: Variations on "Tändeln und Scherzen" from "Soliman oder die drei Sultaninnen" by Süssmayr, WoO.76 (1799) (Corrado Rollero)
Pt 13: Bagatelle 'Für Elise,' WoO.59 (1810) (Valentina Lisitsa)

Linklist

Saturday, May 21, 2011

5/21 Ustinov's Immortal Beethoven

Sir Peter Ustinov is no stranger to Beethoven. In fact he wrote and starred in a play called "Beethoven's Tenth".  From a 1984 New York Times review:
"With his soiled 19th-century costume, wild thicket of hair and vast dyspeptic face, Mr. Ustinov is a spectacular sight. Forever muttering and cackling, he's not averse to lunging gluttonously at any available wine bottle or female derriere. And, at first, we delight in watching this portly anachronism bump heedlessly into the indignities of the modern world. Mr. Ustinov is the soul of mischievousness as he confronts an ear doctor dressed in jogging clothes or bounces on a chrome-and-leather chair or copes with the mysteries of a stereo system. Learning that his host is automatically sent free copies of new records, Mr. Ustinov slyly inquires, ''Critics get presents these days as well as bribes?''

So perhaps it doesn't seem so odd that Sir Peter hosted a 2 hour documentary called "The Immortal Beethoven with Sir Peter Ustinov" back in 1987.
Music Excerpts:
Variations In G Major On 'Nel Cor Piu Non Mi Sento'
String Quartet In C Minor Opus 18 No 4--Allegro Ma Non Tanto
Sonata No 9 In A Major For Violin And Piano Op 47
Sonata No 29 In B Flat Major Op 106--Scherzo
Symphony No 9 In D Minor Op 125

Featuring:
Neville Marriner (Conductor)
Hans Zender (Conductor)
Thomas Zehetmair (Violinist)
Mischa Meisky (Cellist)
Vladimir Ashkenazy Pianist)
Israela Margalit (Pianist)
Valerij Afanassiev (Pianist)

The Immortal Beethoven with Sir Peter Ustinov

Friday, May 20, 2011

5/20 "Heavy Metal" Beethoven (Carillons And Music Boxes)

Carillon
I had no idea what a carillon was until I saw this video.  What a fascinating instrument.  Part organ, part voting machine - and part whack-a-mole.  It also happens to be the heaviest instrument ever invented (more than 100 tons in some cases).  How on earth do they get those onto the school buses? This piece was originally written for musical clock.  Ironic, isn't it?

5 Pieces for Musical Clock, WoO.33 (1799) - No. 4 C-dur Allegro non più molto (on Carillon)
Spring 2011- Carillon Performance for UC Berkeley Cal Day 2011
Performed by Jessie Lee (Primo) and Stanley Tang (Secondo)

Carillon Performance for UC Berkeley Cal Day 2011

From massive to tiny, here's "Minuet in G Maj", "Fur Elise", and "Symphony No.9" on the Sankyo Orpheus 50-Note music box:

Beethoven Sankyo Orpheus 50N

A different kind of music box can be seen here.  This guy gets pretty creative by afterwards flipping the "record" over and playing it backwards.  Did I hear any "backwards masking" in there?

Beethoven 9, forwards and backwards

Getting "big" again, but still in the theme of long tines being struck, here's the Adagio from the Pathetique on marimba...

 Piano Sonata No. 8 in c minor, op. 13, Adagio Cantabile (Beethoven) Marimba

Thursday, May 19, 2011

5/19 Piano Sonata 10 (Color Analysis)

Continuing color analysis of Beethoven's piano sonatas...some interesting rising bass figures in this one, like small eruptions leading to polite conversation, or something like that...

Piano Sonata #10 In E, Op.14/2 (1798)

- 1. Allegro (starting from 0:04)
- 2. Andante (starting from 5:43)
- 3. Scherzo: Allegro Assai (starting from 11:49)

The audio for this analysis was generated from a midi file originally sequenced by Bunji Hisamori in 1999.  I took that file and "spread" the notes so that listening to this on headphones will give a very distinct spacial distinction between the low voices and the high voices.  In other words, it sounds like you're sitting in front of the piano, with low notes on the right and higher notes going towards the right.  I'm calling this "Beethoven 360".  


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. Allegro (Sonata form)
Exposition
1st Theme (I) (GREEN)
Transition (OLIVE)
2nd Theme (V) (BLUE)
Exposition Repeat
1st Theme (I) (LT GREEN)
Transition (LT OLIVE)
2nd Theme (V) (LT BLUE)
Development
Variations on 1st and 2nd Themes (PURPLE)
Recapitulation
1st Theme (I) GREEN)
Transition (OLIVE)
2nd Theme (I) (BLUE)
Coda (VIOLET)

Movement II. - Andante (Theme and Variations)
Original Theme (MAROON)
Variation 1 (BROWN)
Variation 2 (TAN)
Variation 3 (OLIVE)
Coda (GREEN)

Movement III. - Scherzo - Allegro Assai (Rondo)
1st Theme (I) (BLUE)
2nd Theme (iv) (GREEN)
1st Theme (BLUE)
3rd Theme (IV) (BROWN)
1st Theme (BLUE)
Coda (PURPLE)
Epilogue (VIOLET)

(Assisted by Donald Tovey's in depth analysis)
Top image by Chocolate-Cocoa.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

5/18 Beethoven and the Piano


I recently read through Jeremy Siepman's The Piano, a nice little 'layman's' volume about the history of the piano and some of it's most famous practitioners.  It normally comes with 3 CDs but the one I got from the "used" book deposit was sadly missing these discs.  Ah well, there's always Youtube.  It had some great things to say about our man B. though...here are some selected highlights (below the video of P.C. 4):

Beethoven - Piano Concerto 4 (Piano: Lukas Geniusas, w Anatoly Levin (conductor))

In 1792, the year after Mozart’s death at 35, a pianistic bombshell burst over the Viennese musical scene. The detonator was a squat, swarthy, uningratiating young man of 22. Born in the provincial city of Bonn in Germany, he was to change the face of Western music to a degree unmatched by any musician before or since. Even as a youth, he fairly bristled with arrogance.

As a pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven was the first to overwhelm the instrument with the force of his own personality. Compared to Mozart or Clementi, his playing may have been a trifle rough and elemental...a born iconoclast, he was prepared to rock any boat, wring any withers, and to challenge all comers. He was the first pianist regularly to overpower his audiences, drawing them into a world of emotional intensity and spiritual daring the like of which had never been experienced before. Particularly in his incomparable improvisations, he often moved his listeners not merely to tears but to uncontrollable sobbing. He tore aside the curtains of eighteenth-century reserve and laid bare the realities of life with a courage bordering on ruthlessness. Even before his Viennese debut, critics recognized the sheer danger in Beethoven’s playing.

As early as the middle 1790s Anton Reicha recalled turning pages for Beethoven in a concerto: ‘I was mostly occupied in wrenching the strings of the piano which snapped, while the hammers stuck among the broken strings. Back and forth I leaped, jerking out a string, disentangling a hammer, turning a page — I worked harder than Beethoven.’
 
Nor was the composer’s frustration confined to matters of volume. He chafed under the restrictions of the piano’s range. The standard grand of the early 1800s had a compass of only 5 1/2 octaves (as against the 7+ we take for granted today). It was a great day for Beethoven when Broadwood of London sent him in 1818 a magnificent instrument with a compass of 6 1/2 octaves and a reservoir of power then unknown in Viennese instruments. And though he soon reduced it to a ruin, ‘its strings broken and tangled, like a thorn bush whipped by a storm’ (Johann Stumpff), ‘its innards blackened by overturned inkwells’ (Ferdinand Ries), and its upper registers mute - ‘as dumb as the musician himself was deaf’ (Sir John Russell) — it inspired him to some of his greatest achievements. Indeed it received its musical baptism with the low C which ends the first movement of his last sonata, Op. 111.

Oddly enough, Beethoven, perhaps the most universal of all composers, was not, in the opinion of many professional singers, a great songwriter. The essence of his pianistic output is to be found in his unparalleled collection of 32 sonatas, which trace his emotional, stylistic and instrumental development from the blazing self-confidence of his ‘angry young man’ phase, through the crisis of his middle years, when the onset of deafness had him hovering on the brink of madness, to the transcendent spiritual and pianistic odyssey of his last 6 sonatas and the towering ‘Diabelli’ Variations. Hardly less remarkable, though, are the 5 mature concertos, the 9 trios, the 10 violin sonatas, the 5 cello sonatas and a host of lesser pieces. What gives this music its unique importance is the unequalled scope of its spiritual journeyings, the unpitying intellect controlling its expression, and the sheer genius and boldness of its formal daring. In its very universality, Beethoven’s music posed a challenge to his successors which few were equipped to address.

Beethoven’s final sonata, Op. 111, widely felt to be the greatest piano sonata ever written, is perhaps the most comprehensive self-portrait ever entrusted to the keyboard. Here, to a degree unmatched in any other work, we find Beethoven the titanic struggler with Fate (the turbulent, highly disciplined 1st movement, which uses every resource available in the piano of his time) and Beethoven the transcendental mystic (2nd movement), whose journey through the extremes of pain and despair resulted in music whose purity, serenity and awe are beyond the power of words to describe. Formally a theme and variations, this valedictory movement amounts by general consent to the most profound amen in pianistic history.

In purely instrumental terms, Beethoven expanded the tonal palette of the piano into realms scarcely hinted at before. His late sonatas are as supremely idiomatic as anything by Liszt, Chopin or Debussy, all of whom he prefigures in one way or another (not least in the mystical haze of his pedal markings in such works as the so-called ‘Moonlight’, ‘Tempest’ and ‘Waldstein’ sonatas). At the same time he seems frequently to have envisaged the piano as a kind of surrogate orchestra. Certainly no pianist, no composer, had ever made such revolutionary demands of the instrument before.
----
The Classical concerto reached its climax with Beethoven, who also forged the key to the Romantic concerto of the nineteenth century. Among Beethoven’s major innovations was the increased importance of the orchestra, to the extent that his last two, despite their three-movement layout, can almost be perceived as symphonies with piano obbligato. He was also the first composer to link movements together without a break (specifically, the middle and last movements of his Fourth and Fifth Concertos).

If Beethoven’s first two concertos can be seen as further developments of the Mozartian model, the Third, in C minor, introduces us to a new figure in the history of the form, and again it mirrors developments in the outside world. Here we get our first glimpse of the Romantic hero in the concerto, the glorious (sometimes vainglorious) individual who dares to stand apart from society and hurl thunderbolts at conventional assumptions.

In his Fourth Concerto he begins the work with a short piano solo, which the orchestra then answers with one of the most magical key changes ever conceived. And in the Fifth (the ‘Emperor’) he allows the orchestra a single introductory chord before the soloist grandiloquently enters with a long, brilliant and resplendent cadenza, enhanced by two widely separated chords of support from the orchestra. With the piano’s heroic credentials firmly established, the orchestra then takes over with an exposition of extraordinary grandeur. For all the heroics of the solo part, this is no Romantic ego-trip but one of Beethoven’s most tightly ‘organic’ works - yet the prevailing feeling is expansive rather than compressed.
Graf Pyramid Piano 1829 (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

5/17 Beethoven for Mandolin Lovers

Some of Beethoven's least known works are his works for mandolin (or guitar) and piano (or cembalo)...

Allmusic:
In 1796, Beethoven wrote four pieces for piano and mandolin—Sonatina WoO. 43a, an Adagio in E flat, WoO. 43b, and a Sonatina and Andante con Variazioni for piano & mandolin in D major, WoO. 44a and WoO. 44b, respectively. It appears that all four pieces were composed for the Countess Josephine de Clary. She would later become Countess von Clam-Gallas, and it would be in the library of her husband  that the manuscripts of these four unusual works would be found.

This WoO. 43a Sonatina is a minor composition by the composer. It is delightful and colorful in its lightness, and, for its instrumentation, it is certainly a worthwhile effort. WoO 44a is a single-movement rondo. The mandolin leads a dashing rondo theme, pausing for breath only in the contrasting episodes. If you didn't know any better you'd think you were listening to bluegrass. The harpsichord or piano accompanies throughout, occasionally imitating a phrase of the mandolin's.

Here's a good selection I 'plucked' out of the YT ether...
1. WoO 43b - Adagio ma non troppo (Live)
2. WoO.44a - Sonatina in C (Rondo) (Live)
3. "The Ruins of Athens" mandolin duet (RANIERI "L'Art de la Mandoline") (Live)
4. WoO.43a - Sonatina in Cm
5. WoO.44b - Andante con variazioni in D

Linklist

Monday, May 16, 2011

5/16 Fly Tyrolean Air with Beethoven (Flute works)


Tyrolean Air (ways)
10 National Airs with Variations (Flute & Piano), Op.107 (1820)
From Allmusic:
The first of the ten sets of variations that comprise Op. 107 is generally regarded as one of Beethoven's finest humorous pieces. No.1 - using an Alpine air (E flat), "Ich bin a Tiroler Bua", Beethoven presents the theme with some positively hilarious writing for the flute (or violin), using the instrument as the brunt of his clownishness: first the flute can hardly play a meaningful accompaniment, then it cannot keep up with the busy piano. There follow four colorful and, again, humorous variations, with the flute once more the victim of Beethoven's mischievous pen.

The next piece, No.2 uses the Scottish "Bonny Laddie, Highland Laddie," producing a fine set of variations. No. 3 takes "Volkslied aus Kleinrussland," and imparts a sense of nearly reckless abandon to this infectious Russian dance theme. No.4 employs the popular "St. Patrick's Day." This is one of the more successful sets among the ten here, featuring a moving Adagio variation.

No. 5 ("A Madel, ja a madel") is important, too, but mainly for its great difficulty for both instruments. No.6, perhaps by no coincidence, bears a resemblance in mood to the composer's Sixth Symphony ("Pastoral"). Using the popular tune from Peggy's Daughter, Beethoven fashions a mostly tranquil, bucolic piece. The composer returns to the world of the third piece in No. 7, using a widely-known Russian tune from "Schöne Minka." The next set No.8 may rival the First in quality. The five variations on "O Mary, at thy Window be" are solidly conceived and quite inventive.

No.s 9 and 10 are based on a Scottish tune ("O, Thou art the Lad of my Heart") and a march, "The Highland Watch." Both are colorful and deftly-wrought creations, with the latter supplying a brilliant conclusion to the collection.

Here's No.5, Tirolian Air: "A Madel, ja a Madel" - that one is by far my personal favorite. It's a "total gas".
 - Original Theme (0:00)
 - Var 1 (1:01) - positively jazzy in that Charlie Brown way
 - Var 2 (2:08) - almost has a little bit of that Diabelli Variations adventurousness
 - Var 3 (3:22) - long flute trills and more jazzy scalar runs
 - Coda (Maestoso - Allegro) (5:03) - jaunty combination of variations

10 National Airs with Variations for Flute (or Violin) and Piano, Op.107 (1818)
Flute : Jean-Pierre Rampal. Piano : Robert Veyron-Lacrois.
1.Tirolian Air: I bin a Tiroler Bua (Theme: Moderato. Var. 1-4) 
2.Scottish Air: Bonnie laddie, Highland Laddie (Theme: Allegretto, quasi vivace. Var. 1-4) 
3.Volkslied aus Kleinrussland (Theme: Vivace. Var.1-5)
4.Scottish Air: St. Patrick's Day (Theme: Allegretto scherzoso. Var. 1-2)
5.Tirolian Air: A Madel, ja a Madel (Theme: Moderato. Var. 1-3)
6.Scottish Air: Peggy's Daughter (Theme: Andante comodo. Var.1-4)
7.Russian Air: Schöne Minka (Theme: Andante. Var.1-6)
8.Scottish Air: Oh, Mary at thy window be (Theme: Andantino quasi allegretto. Var.1-3)
9.Scottish Air: Oh, Thou art the Lad of my Heart (Theme: Allegretto più tosto vivace. Var.1-5)
10.Scottish Air: The Highland Watch (Theme: Spiritoso e marziale. Var.1-3)

Linklist

Sunday, May 15, 2011

5/15 The Last Big Five (Pili on Beethoven)

In 2009 pianist Roberta Pili gave a recital of the Beethoven's last 5 piano sonatas at Carnegie Hall.
She repeated this performance in Tokyo Japan recently and graciously shared these interpretations on her YT channel.  Enjoy...

Roberta Pili piano recital at Sogakudo Concert Hall (Tokyo, Japan, February, 2011)
Pt. 1-4: Piano Sonata #28 in A, Op.101 (1816) 
Pt. 5-8: Piano Sonata #29 In Bb, Op.106, "Hammerklavier" (1818) 
Pt. 9-11: Piano Sonata #30 In E, Op.109 (1820)
Pt. 12-15: Piano Sonata #31 In Ab, Op.110 (1822)
Pt. 16-17: Piano Sonata #32, Op.111 (1822)
Pt. 18-19: Piano Sonata #32, Op.111 (1822) (alternate performance)

Linklist

Saturday, May 14, 2011

5/14 The Robert Greenberg Lectures

Robert Greenberg's Teaching Company Lectures were a great help to me when I was first getting my feet wet with classical music in general and Beethoven in particular.  He has a pretty outgoing and fun approach to lecturing on music and his "Wordscore Guides" were very helpful when I was doing those video-annotated analyses of the first 5 symphonies.  Now a good chuck of his lecturing is available online so...get your Greenberg on!

30. The French Revolution and an Introduction to Beethoven

31. Beethoven's 5th Symphony Part 1

32. Beethoven's 5th Symphony Part 2

You can find about 40 more of these Greenberg lectures at Viddler.com (DialTeam01's public videos)

Here's a single 71 minute lecture (in front of a live audience) Professor Greenberg gave called "Heart, Soul and Dollar".
01.    Introduction
02.    Language of Music
03.    Search for Meaning
04.    Interpretive Potential
05.    Waste No Time
06.    Shostakovich Threatened by Stalin
07.    Fifth Symphony
08.    Fifteenth Symphony
09.    West African Polyrhythm
10.    Microtonal Pitches
11.    Call and Response
12.    Brahms Meets Schumann
13.    First Piano Concerto
14.    Beethoven Imitation
15.    Finding Truth in Music
16.    Q1: Music Education
17.    Q2: Modern Composers
18.    Q3: Taste


Music: Heart, Soul and Dollar - Robert Greenberg

Friday, May 13, 2011

5/13 Beethoven on Baritone Garbage Truck

Today featuring a mixed bag of multi-disciplinary approaches to Beethoven...and I mean multi-disciplinary...

Lydia Koniordou recites extracts from the poem of Yiannis Ritsos "Moonlight Sonata" in Greek.

Lydia Koniordou recites "Moonlight Sonata" a poem by Yiannis Ritsos

Old HP scanner is happy and sings the Ode to Joy.

Scanner plays Beethoven

Garbage Truck in Taiwan: Fur Elise - (Turn down the volume, this is a bit LOUD!)

Kaohsiung - garbage truck

Finally, there's always the pop version of the 7th Symphony Allegretto 2nd movement with Karaoke recorder visuals.

Allegretto (7e symphonie) - Beethoven (flûte à bec)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

5/12 Piano Sonata 9 (Color Analysis)

(Artwk by Chocolate-Cocoa)
I'm going to start doing color analysis of some more piano sonatas...just to make it interesting I'm picking up after the Pathetique...

Piano Sonata #9 In E, Op.14/1 (1798)

- 1. Allegro (starting from 0:03)
- 2. Allegretto (starting from 6:01)
- 3. Rondo: Allegro Comodo (starting from 9:10)

The audio for this analysis was generated from a midi file originally sequenced by Bunji Hisamori in 1999.  I took that file and "spread" the notes so that listening to this on headphones will give a very distinct spacial distinction between the low voices and the high voices.  In other words, it sounds like you're sitting in front of the piano, with low notes on the right and higher notes going towards the right.  I'm calling this "Beethoven 360". 


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. Allegro (Sonata form)
Exposition
1st Theme (I) (GREEN)
Transition (BROWN)
2nd Theme (V) (BLUE)
Exposition Repeat
1st Theme (I) (LT GREEN)
Transition (LT BROWN)
2nd Theme (V) (LT BLUE)
Development
Variations on 1st and 2nd Themes (VIOLET)
Recapitulation
1st Theme (Variation) (I) GREEN)
Transition (BROWN)
2nd Theme (I) (BLUE)
Coda (DARK BLUE)

Movement II. - Allegretto (Scherzo w Trio)
Part A
1st Theme (GREEN)
2nd Theme (BROWN)
3rd Theme (BLUE)
Codetta (PURPLE)
Trio (Maggiore) (V)
Part 1 (MAROON)
Part 2 (DARK BROWN)
Part A  Repeat
1st Theme (LT GREEN)
2nd Theme (LT BROWN)
3rd Theme (LT BLUE)
Codetta (LT PURPLE)
Coda (PURPLE)

Movement III. - Allegro Comodo (Rondo ABACABA)
1st Theme (I) (GREEN)
2nd Theme (V) (BLUE)
1st Theme (GREEN)
Transition (MAROON)
3rd Theme (flat III) (VIOLET)
1st Theme(GREEN)
2nd Theme (IV) (BLUE)
1st Theme/Coda (SEA GREEN)

(Assisted by Donald Tovey's in depth analysis)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

5/11 Beethoven's First Violin Romance

(www.artbydoe.com)
Even though the Violin Romance in F (Op. 50) has a later opus number (and "Romance number") than the Romance in G (Opus 40), it was actually written much earlier - but not published immediately.

From Allmusic:
As he would for his Romance in G, Beethoven chose a two-episode rondo format (A,B,A,C,A, coda) for the brief, lyrical Romance in F. The rondo section (A) features an antecedent-consequent theme (we just talked about this yesterday) performed first by the soloist, with orchestral string accompaniment, then by the entire orchestra. The melody itself is highly decorated, with numerous trills, turns and grace notes. A forceful, dotted-rhythm figure that closes each appearance of the rondo acts as a transition to the ensuing episode. Episode B maintains the lyric character of the rondo theme, adding large, dramatic leaps followed by descending scales and arpeggios. A glimpse of F minor precedes a literal return to the rondo, this time performed with a lighter accompaniment. The minor mode at the end of episode B proves to be portentous, as episode C begins in the tonic minor. Beethoven makes full use of the "flat" key area by presenting the rondo theme on D flat major, initiating an extended transition back to F major for the final return of the rondo theme. The coda, while never venturing from the tonic, acts as something of a summation when the soloist borrows the triplet motion prominent in episode C and performs a dramatic, trilled figure from the end of episode B.

Usually recorded by solo violin and orchestra, here we have the arrangement for violin and piano:
Romance for Violin and Orchestra 2 in F, Op.50 (1798) 
(Violin, Louise Chisson. Piano, Tamara Atschba.)
Here are the approximate start times for each of the sections, which should help alot with the above rundown:
A - 0:05
B - 1:38
A - 3:11
C - 4:39
A - 6:14
Coda - 7:02

http://youtu.be/CjYRHKPqNc0

The "traditional" version (as originally composed for violin and orchestra) is here performed by Ann Fontanella. Anne's a fantastic violinist and her annotations are quite wonderful as well.

http://youtu.be/x78oYxrbOVk

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

5/10 The Genetic Structure of Beethoven's Music

Recently I read through Percy Goetchius' book on 'homophonic forms' (I found it used in Brooklyn for $7 - a very good deal even though it can be read for free online).   This book breaks down what I like to call a "theme group" or ""subject strain" into it's musically grammatical parts.  Despite that it's a musical textbook (and I hate doing homework of any kind) I was able to absorb the notion that melodic phrases and groups are "genetically" 2 or 3-part structures with sometimes extended beginnings, middles and endings.  It seems that almost all themes and theme constructions can be thought of as a kind of statement and counter-statement, or "question and answer" - or even "joke and punchline".  In the classical era, this kind of gag was everywhere, though of course there were also works based on polyphony (fugues and contrapuntal structures) and monophony (single melody chant).  Beethoven used homophony (melody and accompaniment) quite extensively within the larger structures of sonata and rondo form and eventually fused all 3 'ophonies" together, especially in his later works.  The fugue form for example is all over his ouvre, as seen in the Eroica, the Hammerklavier, the 2 Masses, the 9th Symphony Molto Vivace movement, etc...

Below are my semi-organized notes from this book. I think the binary, "yin-yang" nature of classical era construction is pretty clear.  The technical terms below don't really matter all that much - the main thing is to know that it's possible to follow Beethoven's music as a sequence of melodic "sentences" - with each statement having a cause-and-effect dynamic.  Even a single melody can have an introduction, a variation and an epilogue in it's presentation. 

From smallest construction to largest:

1. Figure – uninterrupted association of 2 or more tones
2. Motives - 2 or more figures (usually small and less than one bar)
3. Members – 2 or more figures or motives (can be more than 1 bar)
4. Phrase
  • 2 or more members, rarely 1 member 
  • 4 measures in moderate tempo
  • Opens with tonic, ends on cadence (perfect or semicadence)
Kinds of Phrase Development and Variation:
  • Repetition (including changes in harmony/register/accompaniment)
  • Extension at end (within and without the cadence)
  • Extension at beginning
  • Extension in the course of the phrase (sequences or repetitions of motives/figures)
  • Chain phrase (using repetition and sequencing)
  • Melody Expansion (no sequencing)
5. Period Form – 2 phrases / 8 meaures
a. Antecedent – 1st phrase: Opens on tonic, ends on semi-cadence (Dominant or Imperfect Cadence)
b. Consequent – 2nd phrase: Opens on any chord (dep. on semi-cad of Antec., ends w Perfect A. Cadence)

Kinds of Period Form:
  • Parallel Construction
  • Opposite Constr.
  • Contrasting Const.
Development of the Period Form:
  • Repetition of the entire period form
  • Repetition of conseq.
  • Repetition of antecedent
  • Repetition of antec., rep. of conseq.
  • extensions at beginning/end of either/both phrases
  • extensions in the course of the Conseq. (chain phrases, etc..)
  • Prelude. Codetta. Postlude
Group Formations:
  • Consequent Group
  • Phrase group – at least 3 phrases, not period form
6. Double Period – 2 periods/4 phrases PAC at end of 4th phrase
Kinds of Extensions:
  • modified repetition of entire double period
  • modified repetition of both/either of the 2 periods
  • enlargement/rep of final phrases
  • beginning and ending intros, codettas
7. Part – created from 1 or more phrases (periods, groups, etc), ending in a strong Tonic Cadence
8. Song-forms - created from 2 or more parts, ending in a Tonic Perfect Cadence
2-Part Song form (NOT 1st and 2nd subject of Sonata Form)
  • 1st Part – repeated phrase, Period/ Dbl period/ phrase group, usually ending on Dom, rel major, tonic
  • 2nd Part – usually based on Dominant harmony in 1st member
  • Diminutive 2 Part Song form – 1st part is smaller
  • Fully Developed 2 Part Song Form – 2nd part is extended
3-Part Song Form – 3rd part returns to beginning part
  • 1st Part – Statement – perfect cadence
  • 2nd Part – Departure – dominant harmony, dominant cadence
  • 3rd Part – Recurrence
  • 1 may be repeated, 2 and 3 may be repeated together
  • Each part may be a full period or just a phrase
So in a Sonata-allegro form work, the themes can be created from the above structures.  In other words, the 1st theme in the Exposition can be a Period, Double Period, Phrase Group, etc...  2-part song forms or even 3-part song forms are more usually assigned to folk tunes, hymns or smaller compositions like dances. The structure is similar tho.   Song forms can also come with a "trio" section, such as in a typical scherzo movement.

From Goetschius' "Lessons in Music Form" (recommended, tho less detailed than "Homophonic Forms"):
...The tone, by the simplest process of reproduction, became a figure; the figure, by multiplication or repetition, gave rise to the motive; the latter, in the same manner, to the phrase. The repetition of the phrase, upon the infusion of a certain quality and degree of modification (chiefly affecting the cadences) became the period; the latter, by the same process, became the double-period. The limit of coherent phrase-succession (without a determined interruption) being therewith reached, the larger Part-forms became necessary. The Two-Part form emerged out of the double-period, the two "connected" periods of which separated into two "independent" Parts, by the determined interruption in the center. The Three-Part form resulted from adding to the Two-Part the perfecting reversion to the starting-point, and confirmation of the principal statement. The Five-part form, and the Song with Trio are enlargements of the Three-Part forms by repetition or multiplication; and with the latter the limit of this particular process appears to be achieved....
....perfection of structural design is attained in the Three-Part form, and every larger (or higher) form will have its type in this design, and its basis upon it. The coming designs will prove to be expansions of the Three-Part form.

Regarding the Sonata form Subject or Theme. .. a musical sentence of very distinct character, as concerns its melodic, harmonic and, particularly, its rhythmic consistency; and of sufficient length to establish this individuality,—seldom, if ever, less than an entire period or double-period; often a Two-Part, not infrequently a complete Three-Part Song-form, though never more than the latter.

At the risk of making this post ridiculously long, here's a great breakdown from Goetschius' "Lessons in Musical Form" book".  Notice that there are lots of "semi-cadences" which eventually wrap up in "perfect cadences". 
Beethoven. Piano Sonata Op.49, No.1 (simplified phrase breakdown):
(Claudio Arrau.  Note that he takes an exposition repeat)

More about phrase form from the AWESOME www.sfcmtheory.com website
This site has presentations, audio lectures, musical examples, the works...

Monday, May 9, 2011

5/9 A Hammerklavier-Inspired Harp Concerto

Ancient Harp from Ur
A while ago I featured Felix Weingartner's orchestrated version of the Hammerklavier piano sonata. Recently I came across a "harp concerto" arrangement of the slow 3rd movement arranged by Boris Tishchenko. The harp is an instrument Beethoven rarely wrote for (The Creatures of Prometheus ballet being a notable occasion) but this arrangement gives an idea of what a Beethoven harp concerto might have sounded like had he completed one.  The harp texture in the more energetic section gives the piece a momentary "gypsy" feel....

I put together a playlist below featuring the above-mentioned Tishchenko harp and string orchestra arrangement followed by some other harp-arrangements of B.'s works for good measure.
Pt 1-2: Lamento for harp and string orchestra (Arr. of LvB Hammerklavier 3rd Movement)
Pt 3-4: Serenade Op.25 for Flute, Violin and Harp
Pt.5: Moonlight Sonata 1st Movement (on harp)
Pt.6: Pathetique Sonata 2nd Movement (on harp)
Pt.7: Fur Elise (on harp)
Pt.8: Sonatina in G major 2nd Mvmt (Romance) (Anh. 5) (on harp)

Linklist

Sunday, May 8, 2011

5/8 Levine's Fidelio (with Subtitles)

The theatrical mask contemplated by a putto on the Beethoven
monument by Kaspar von Zumbusch (Vienna, 1880) commemorates
Beethoven's sole opera in the city where it made its debut.
Beethoven's Opera, Fidelio
Conducted by James Levine
Production: Jürgen Flimm · Set Design: Robert Israel Costume Design: Florence von Gerkan
with Karita Mattila · Ben Heppner · René Pape · Falk Struckmann Robert Lloyd · Matthew Polenzani · Jennifer Welch-Babidge
Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
2003

This is one of those modern 20th century stagings of a 19th century opera.  Personally, I have some trouble with these kinds of modern reimaginings, but I suppose if an opera is almost 200 years old, it can stand a few "unusual" variations.  Either way, Maestro Levine's music direction is great and this particular YT video actually has subtitles. 


Linklist (123 min)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

5/7 Beethoven 2 & 3 with Jansons & Dudamel

(Gustavo Dudamel taking flight)

Symphonies 2 and 3 really ushered in the new age of modern music in my opinion. Symphony 2 is a breakneck whirlwind of dynamic 'avant-garde' energy - Symphony 3 takes that energy and makes it Shakespearean, yet still primordial...

Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 36
Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Mariss Jansons, conductor
Recorded at Herkulessaal, Residenz München, 2007

Symphony 2 (Jansons)

This Symphony 3 "Eroica" is with wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela.  At the end I added a few interview/rehearsal clips...

Symphony 3 (Dudamel)

Friday, May 6, 2011

5/6 Mark di Suvero's "Beethoven's Quartet" / Serioso at Zabar's

"Beethoven's Quartet" (www.stormking.org)
Here's an interesting take on Beethoven-inspired art. This is an huge"moving" sculpture by Mark di Suvero called "Beethoven's Quartet".  Apparently it has a sound element too...either the parts bang around in the wind, or the viewer is allowed to smack it with a hammer (it comes with its own hammers)?  Anyways, I've always been a fan of Alexander Calder's mobiles so I think this is pretty cool.

From an interview with Mr. di Suvero in June 2005:
JGC: Another motion-filled work is Beethoven’s Quartet, which has a suspended, moving core. How did you develop the central shape? Could you discuss balancing the different kinds of steel?

MdS: There are three types of steel in the piece—Cor-ten (a specialized alloy), steel, and stainless steel. It took me almost three years to build. The central element is a suspended stainless steel mobius band. It’s a one-sided surface, and it has an ellipse that I used to change the center of gravity of the total piece. At one end, there is an evolution that seems to be a spiral. In fact, it’s not a direct spiral. That part is all cold bend. Most of the bend in the steel is cold bend, which I do with a crane. It is a minor version of a tour de force in handling the steel—to bend one-inch Cor-ten is quite difficult. The other end is a straight Constructivist collage in which the cut-out circles and ellipses are important in a different way. They are suspended, and I try to give them a lot of detail up high, as you find in the flying buttresses of Gothic churches, to give a sense of the sky and liberty.

JGC: Does the title drive the work or emerge later?

MdS: Titling pieces is an important part for me. Sometimes they tell me their names; it’s written into the piece. Sometimes it’s difficult to do. Beethoven’s Quartet has changed the aesthetic evolution of my life. This work was very hard to name, and I think it’s an awkward title. There was a great book written by a mathematician called Beethoven: His Spiritual Development. It talks mostly about how the quartets evolve. The very late quartets have an exaltation to them and an anguish, with a realization on the other side of anguish, where there is not just acceptance but something above the landscape of human emotions. It is not otherworldly in the sense of spiritual, clean, and pure. It accepts the kind of cruelty that existence gives us—in Beethoven’s case, deafness, the worst thing that could happen to a composer.


Here's "Beethoven's Quartet" in action:

"Beethoven's Quartet", a closer view

And apropo of nothing, here's Beethoven's "Serioso" String Quartet 1st Movement performed at Zabar's fish market...
(Escher String Quartet)

Beethoven at Zabar's NYC