Author Topic: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)  (Read 290206 times)

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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1800 on: June 09, 2019, 06:15:03 AM »
Likewise I listened to Lan Shui's Eroica and found it a bit meh.  But then I grew up listening to Klemperer.
What do you think of the Scherchen 58 Eroica I wonder

[pause while I listen to the 1st two movements]
Yes pretty good - if you like 'edgey'.  I hope there's a better transfer out there than the one I found though (on Spotify, labelled 'LP Pure') which makes the recording sound a good 10 years older than it actually is.
I'm not really much of a one for Beethoven symphonies - I only ever listen to three of them (3, 6, 7) and that very rarely - given that I can't help but be aware that Klemperer-style interpretations are deeply out of fashion, my go-to for these three is now Vanska/Minnesota, which do sound very fresh to me.

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Offline Cato

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1802 on: July 29, 2019, 02:43:25 AM »
 A review from the weekend Wall Street Journal (July 27/28, 2019) by Lloyd Schwartz, and English professor at the University of Massachusetts, and a music critic for a (semi-)classical radio network in America called "National Public Radio," of a book on Beethoven ( The Relentless Revolutionary ) by a certain John Clubbe:

Quote


 Another interpretive life of Beethoven has appeared. If the author, the American cultural historian John Clubbe, were a good friend and had asked for my advice about his manuscript, what would I have told him? Maybe something like this:

Dear John,

Thanks for inviting me to read your book, which I did with interest. Beethoven as revolutionary is a great subject. But I’m sorry to report that I was disappointed. A biographical study of a figure as familiar as Beethoven must demonstrate a strong reason for being published, and while there are a number of fresh perspectives here, I’m not completely convinced by your argument that Beethoven’s music is more politically motivated than we had previously assumed, or that your ideas about Beethoven’s republican sympathies are especially fresh.

For one thing, your focus is a little blurry. Sixty-six pages into “The Relentless Revolutionary,” you seem to poke a big hole in your own title, admitting that Beethoven “never became a doctrinaire revolutionary,” that he was “more an idealistic rebel, or rather, often a rebel, sometimes a revolutionary, more usually somewhere in between.” This summation, though it waffles a bit, has considerably more shading than your enthusiastically alliterative title. Maybe your title isn’t quite right.

It’s of course hard to disagree with your argument that Beethoven’s revolutionary sympathies lie behind such masterpieces as the “Eroica” Symphony and the opera “Fidelio,” works that explicitly depict heroic action and what it takes to be a hero. They certainly sound “heroic.” But it’s confusing when you also call the limpid opening ripples of the “Moonlight” Sonata “revolutionary.” Beethoven is clearly doing something impressively new, but is the fervor of his compositional inventiveness the same as his “revolutionary” political views? If it is, shouldn’t you be dealing with that confluence in a more comprehensively focused way?

I particularly admire your deconstruction of Beethoven’s shifting attitudes toward Napoleon, beginning with the composer famously rubbing out his dedication to Napoleon on his score of the “Eroica” upon learning that Napoleon had just crowned himself emperor. You lead us expertly through his continually changing attitudes, as when, only a few years later, he considered dedicating his Mass in C to Napoleon, but then didn’t—because, as you show us, it would have been professional suicide to celebrate his country’s conqueror. I’m less convinced by your persistent argument that Beethoven saw himself as a musical Napoleon.

Your opening chapters take up the “key influences” on Beethoven’s early years in Bonn, Germany, and the origins of the French Revolution. Some of this is pretty well-trod territory. I was more interested in what led up to Beethoven’s two early cantatas, “On the Death of Joseph II” and “On the Accession of Leopold II”—music composed to commemorate, first, the enlightened despot Joseph, who was too autocratic to succeed in bringing about the reforms that he (and Beethoven) desired, and his succession by the potentially more benevolent Leopold, who died only two years into his promising reign. 

Though neither of these two still-unfamiliar works was performed in Beethoven’s lifetime, they marked important milestones in his development. You call the former work Beethoven’s “first masterpiece,” though listening to it, I rather share recent Beethoven biographer (and composer) Jan Swafford’s more tempered estimation: “Beethoven’s setting . . . pulls out all the stops, revealing that at age nineteen he had a number of stops to pull.”

And I have to say that I also prefer Mr. Swafford’s more engaging, conversational style, which avoids your sometimes-stiff academic vocabulary (“thus”), gushy exclamations (“alas”), dated diction (“yesteryear,” “oft-”), and outmoded syntax (“be it noted,” “compose he did”). Whom do you imagine will be your reader?

While we’re speaking of style and diction, let’s look closely at the end of a paragraph about the “Eroica”:

'No doubt Beethoven did despair, but he was a fighter, and fight he would. Fate would not conquer him. The Eroica may strike those aware of Beethoven’s subsequent career as his most difficult, most challenging work. Twice as long as a typical symphony by Mozart or Haydn, it runs to what contemporaries regarded as an inordinate length, in modern recordings from forty-five to fifty-five minutes. It is also the first of his named symphonies.'

These sentences are full of clichés, outmoded and melodramatic syntax, irrelevant and intrusive details, and all they build to is an anticlimax. How does a symphony having a name relate to its being a challenging work? And isn’t it odd to call this Beethoven’s first named symphony when there is a total of only two?

What follows sounds even sillier:

'During the spring of 1803 he began what was perhaps the crucial work of his career. He rented a cottage for the summer in Oberdöbling, a village closer to Vienna than Heiligenstadt but still well outside the then city limits . . .'

I know it’s not what you intend, but it sounds as if you’re saying that Beethoven’s most “crucial” work was renting a cottage. Please rewrite this.

Now that you’ve retired from teaching, and after writing and editing nearly a dozen books, I’m not sure you should include in your bio that you’ve “given pre-concert lectures for the Santa Fe Pro Musica and the Santa Fe Symphony.” One reservation I have about the way you’ve organized this book—long chapters divided into many short sub-chapters—is that it often reads like a series of program notes. You really shouldn’t be repeating so many sound bites from one chapter (or even one page) to the next: that Beethoven’s short haircut indicated his sympathy with young French revolutionaries; that there’s a difference between “van” (being “from” somewhere) and “von” (indicating nobility); that the original title for “Fidelio” was “Leonore.” How many times do you need to remind us? Don’t you trust your reader to remember these details? Or do you simply not expect—or want— anyone to read the whole book in sequence? As with your impulse to go off on tangents—about the history of elegies, or Bacchus, or 18th-century prisons, or Goya’s black paintings—these relentless repetitions and reminders distract from a forward-moving, unified whole.

“The Relentless Revolutionary” seems to warm up whenever you plunge into the political and cultural issues that most convey your sense of discovery. My heart sank when you wrote that “to explore Beethoven as a revolutionary requires that we take up his fascination with Plutarch.” Yet your discussion actually springs to life when you write about the figure in Plutarch most important to Beethoven: Lucius Junius Brutus, the founder of the Roman republic (four centuries before the better-known Brutus who assassinated Julius Caesar). That Brutus was so committed to the republic that he condemned his two anti-republican sons to death. How chilling (and I don’t remember reading this anywhere else) that Beethoven kept a bust of his ancient hero on his writing desk.

On the whole, you seem more comfortable writing about history than music. There is a lack of exactness whenever you write about what you hear in Beethoven, as when you describe the “Eroica” as a “veritable torrent of sound at white-hot intensity,” or when you conclude that the Finale of the Fifth Symphony “lasts a long time, and whenever we expect it to stop, it roars along.” Too often where you should be most specific your prose is smeared by generalized effusions. If I didn’t already know the music, I’d have a hard time imagining what it sounds like. What do you mean when you say, about the last quartets, that “the phrases have become detached and separated, yet linked by their emotional power they beckon to each other across the intervening spaces”? And are you sure you should end your big chapter on “Fidelio” with “This opera, like no other, can move us to tears”? (Do you really believe that this is the only opera that moves listeners to tears?)

Throughout your book I repeatedly asked myself what, exactly, you think music “means.” That is, I kept rehashing the old debate about whether any given musical work is basically abstract or whether, as you seem to believe, it almost always conveys a very specific narrative. We know that Mahler wrote narrative outlines for several of his symphonies and then omitted them from his published scores. But how important is it to understand an explicit storyline in, say, the “Eroica”? I believe that any great piece of music embodies an emotional progression of some kind. And in many works, like Debussy’s “La Mer” or even Beethoven’s “Pastorale”—his other symphony with a “name”—the composer obviously had some very specific images in mind. We know the second movement of the “Eroica” is a funeral march, but isn’t the emotional—and musical—progression more important than any particular story it might be telling? Isn’t there something liberating about not knowing literally what each musical gesture is supposed to illustrate, especially since we can’t know what was in Beethoven’s head?

And so, while I enjoyed your numerous digressions—about the obscure but heroic author Johann Gottfried Seume, whose two books on walking through Europe Beethoven owned and whose gravesite he visited; about the doomed French revolutionary journalist Gracchus Babeuf; about Beethoven’s friendship with Napoleon’s sympathetic and music-loving Baron de Trémont—I’m sorry I feel so negative about the whole book. I hope you find these comments useful. I would strongly encourage you to put this all through the wringer at least once more before you try to publish it.

Your friend,

Lloyd

"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Offline Andy D.

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1803 on: July 29, 2019, 02:51:29 AM »

Karajan’s 1970s Beethoven In Blu-ray Audio: A Controversial Set Revisited


Wow. I've grown to really appreciate that set more than ever lately, probably edging out the 60s (especially the 9th, though Janowski and co. did a great job on the latter imo).

Offline Florestan

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1804 on: July 29, 2019, 03:19:22 AM »
A review from the weekend Wall Street Journal (July 27/28, 2019) by Lloyd Schwartz, and English professor at the University of Massachusetts, and a music critic for a (semi-)classical radio network in America called "National Public Radio," of a book on Beethoven ( The Relentless Revolutionary ) by a certain John Clubbe:

Thanks for posting this. Schwartz is spot on: Beethoven was anything but a "relentless revolutionary". The label is misguiding both musically and politically --- all his life he actually vacillated between left and right in both fields; one could as well argue he was a cosnervative. Of course he was neither, or rather both simultaneously --- he was in a class of his own.
I compose music because I must give expression to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts. --- Rachmaninoff

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1805 on: July 29, 2019, 03:36:53 AM »
A review from the weekend Wall Street Journal (July 27/28, 2019) by Lloyd Schwartz, and English professor at the University of Massachusetts, and a music critic for a (semi-)classical radio network in America called "National Public Radio," of a book on Beethoven ( The Relentless Revolutionary ) by a certain John Clubbe:


Delicious! Reading this review has been perhaps the most crucial work of my day.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Cato

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1806 on: July 29, 2019, 04:33:58 AM »
Delicious! Reading this review has been perhaps the most crucial work of my day.

It is most gratifying to know this!  0:) 

Thanks for posting this. Schwartz is spot on: Beethoven was anything but a "relentless revolutionary". The label is misguiding both musically and politically --- all his life he actually vacillated between left and right in both fields; one could as well argue he was a conservative. Of course he was neither, or rather both simultaneously --- he was in a class of his own.

Yes, and I thought of the famous Bruckner story that he expected his students to follow the rules of composition in his classroom, but later, if they were still following the rules in their works, he would show them the door!

Composers need to create their own "rules," so to speak, and those could change from work to work, and most probably should change!.
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1807 on: August 03, 2019, 11:32:06 AM »


Vlach Quartet Beethoven, ears started to really prick up in op 18/3/ii; I knew the op 131 before, and it is a great favourite of mine, so I'm looking forward to hearing the op 18s in this set. It was a 2017 release, which I missed. Ecellent transfers so far.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2019, 11:35:06 AM by Mandryka »
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