Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Started by BachQ, April 06, 2007, 03:12:18 AM

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calyptorhynchus

Quote from: Jo498 on November 13, 2022, 10:57:37 PM
It's certainly a bit surprising that we had already 3 or 4 complete HIP recordings of all Beethoven symphonies 30 years ago and many more since then and other, often lesser known chamber music seems also to be covered better than string quartets. At least beyond op.18. One could assume that the weight of these works and their discography is a factor but that would apply to at least some other works as well.

I guess that people aren't so receptive to PI Beethoven SQs because they think 'Haydn, Mozart PI SQs, yes, but Beethoven is modern, so doesn't need PI'. I disagree, I think the wonderful sound of gut strings in the late quartets (slow movement of Op 132 for example reminding me of viols) is a revelation. Very keen to hear a PI Op 59 set.

Spotted Horses

Quote from: calyptorhynchus on November 14, 2022, 10:02:10 AM
I guess that people aren't so receptive to PI Beethoven SQs because they think 'Haydn, Mozart PI SQs, yes, but Beethoven is modern, so doesn't need PI'. I disagree, I think the wonderful sound of gut strings in the late quartets (slow movement of Op 132 for example reminding me of viols) is a revelation. Very keen to hear a PI Op 59 set.

I would be very anxious to hear PI performances of the Beethoven Quartets by an ensemble other than the Mosaïques. But I can see why the justification for PI in the late quartets is not as strong as for Mozart and Haydn. One of justifications for PI is that I find persuasive is that composers were writing to take advantage of the unique sonorities of the instruments available to them, and the music will not sound as the composer expected on modern instruments, even if the modern instruments are better. By the time we get to the late quartets, you could argue that Beethoven's hearing had been so bad for so long that he was effectively writing a more abstract ensemble. That said, I do like the sound of PI stringed instruments and would love to have to option of hearing the music performed both ways.

Jo498

I couldn't be bothered to get the Mosaiques late Beethoven. I do have the Turner and Smithsonian in op.18 and Schuppanzigh with op.18/4+59/3 (unfortunately two of my least favorite Beethoven quartets). So I am personally not really missing anything but I still find it surprising that there are so few.
In fact there are not that many Mozart PI string quartet recordings either, or the ones that exist (Mosaiques, Festetics) have gone out of print since years and not been reissued.
Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
- Blaise Pascal

Spotted Horses

Quote from: Jo498 on November 14, 2022, 10:34:38 AM
I couldn't be bothered to get the Mosaiques late Beethoven. I do have the Turner and Smithsonian in op.18 and Schuppanzigh with op.18/4+59/3 (unfortunately two of my least favorite Beethoven quartets). So I am personally not really missing anything but I still find it surprising that there are so few.
In fact there are not that many Mozart PI string quartet recordings either, or the ones that exist (Mosaiques, Festetics) have gone out of print since years and not been reissued.

Everything related by that record label goes out of print. There's also the Salomon Quartet recordings of late Mozart, which I guess is also available only as a download these days.

staxomega

#1984
Quote from: Spotted Horses on November 14, 2022, 10:13:16 AM
I would be very anxious to hear PI performances of the Beethoven Quartets by an ensemble other than the Mosaïques. But I can see why the justification for PI in the late quartets is not as strong as for Mozart and Haydn. One of justifications for PI is that I find persuasive is that composers were writing to take advantage of the unique sonorities of the instruments available to them, and the music will not sound as the composer expected on modern instruments, even if the modern instruments are better. By the time we get to the late quartets, you could argue that Beethoven's hearing had been so bad for so long that he was effectively writing a more abstract ensemble. That said, I do like the sound of PI stringed instruments and would love to have to option of hearing the music performed both ways.

While his hearing would have been shot he would have known what the period tuning/bridge setup/strings sounded like and probably had a strong idea of what the quartets sounded like. You very rarely hear composers changing chamber music after it was performed, this seems to be much more common in symphony music which is more difficult to make out how it will sound with just something like a piano at their disposal.

Only playing devil's advocate ;D My preference is for modern instruments, but I'd love to have top tier performances of PI recordings for my favorite works. Op. 18 Mosaïques can easily hang with the best performances regardless of instrument. The late quartets face very stiff competition and don't live up to the top tier or probably even second tier for me.

edit: Aimard gave a series of concerts/talks on late Beethoven works. He said that he didn't think audiences of the time would have found Grosse Fuge that uncomfortable, which runs contrary to what I thought/what I've read. If anyone recalls more details of these talks please share.

Jo498

I have heard only one disc of the Mosaiques op.18 (1+4) but they were in fact the weakest of the PI recordings I have heard (Turner, Smithson, Schuppanzigh), mostly due to sluggish tempi and lack of energy. I also don't really think historical instruments are important in string quartets. That's another reason I didn't bother with the Mosaiques late quartets.
Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
- Blaise Pascal

Herman

#1986
Quote from: hvbias on November 16, 2022, 01:25:24 PM


edit: Aimard gave a series of concerts/talks on late Beethoven works. He said that he didn't think audiences of the time would have found Grosse Fuge that uncomfortable, which runs contrary to what I thought/what I've read. If anyone recalls more details of these talks please share.

I don't know about Aimard's talks but in general my feeling is the shall we say out-thereishness of the GF is sometimes overstated. Musicologists or music writers seem to have a real need for Bastille moments. Some people write about Haydn's opus 76 nr 6 as if it's atonal music. People tend to think the Rite's music totally flabbergasted the Paris audience, while in reality most of the cat calls were about Nijinski's desperately inept choreography.

So... the 133 fugue is performed pretty harshly often, which is not necessarily what Beethoven heard in his mind. Maybe it's just beautiful music, with big contrasts. If you just listen to the fugue without having all the writing about it in mind, it sounds totally good. There is a lot of marching in the opus 130's opening movement, and the fugue picks this up again. That's why it's the finale.

Madiel

Quote from: Herman on November 17, 2022, 01:02:00 AM
in general my feeling is the shall we say out-thereishness of the GF is sometimes overstated.

Because it fits nicely with the modern desire to put the Grosse Fugue back as the finale. There's a kind of belief (sometimes implicit, but often downright explicit) that the only reason Beethoven removed it and wrote a replacement finale was because contemporary audiences couldn't handle the GF, whereas we are so much better than they were and can handle the GF.

Of course I've indicated a number of times my own view that this line of thinking is bunkum. As a modern listener it took me precisely two listens to op.130 to hear what a huge difference the change in finales makes to the overall shape and weight of the piece.

Having said that... there is a fair amount of evidence of people reacting negatively to the GF over a long period of time before it was revered. The question is always how representative those negative views were. A person who can convey how much they hate or love a work in really picturesque language would always be remembered better (long before "social media" came along).
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Jo498

The difference is that we have no documents of contemporaries being puzzled or irritated about Haydn's op.76 but plenty in the case of Beethoven. Not only op.133 of course. I think the "relativization" should rather progress by noting how irritated some contemporaries were about early and middle Beethoven, e.g. the violin sonatas op.12, probably the set of early Beethoven works (say up to op.18 or 22), I'd have naively picked as one of the least offensive for listeners used to Mozart and Haydn.
Or about many other works.
However, in the case of several late Beethoven works and especially op.133 it is also documented how difficult they were perceived (again, by some, not all commentators), even until the late 19th/early 20th century. With very few exceptions (such as the young Mendelssohn in his op.12+13) composers apparently also were not as directly "inspired" by late Beethoven quartets (and not really by the sonatas either, despite again a few works by Mendelssohn and Brahms' C major sonata), in stark contrast to middle period Beethoven.
Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
- Blaise Pascal

Herman

Pretty much every major late Beethoven work pushed the envelope in some way.
I mean, how fun is listening to the entire Hammerklavier sonata really?
Diabelli Variations  -  really do we need all of them, nearly an hour long?
So that's why the Grosse Fugue belongs in the op 130 quartet.

Jo498

I think both the Fugue alone and the op.130 with the alternative finale "push the envelope" sufficiently that a combination is not needed to achieve this feature.
Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
- Blaise Pascal

Madiel

Quote from: Herman on November 22, 2022, 11:22:02 PMPretty much every major late Beethoven work pushed the envelope in some way.
I mean, how fun is listening to the entire Hammerklavier sonata really?
Diabelli Variations  -  really do we need all of them, nearly an hour long?
So that's why the Grosse Fugue belongs in the op 130 quartet.

I suspect you haven't been listening to the most suitable recordings...

I mean, my first album with the Hammerklavier lost me in the fugue. The second did not. It's bloody gripping.
I am now working on a discography of the works of Vagn Holmboe. Please visit and also contribute!

Scion7

Quote from: Herman on November 22, 2022, 11:22:02 PMI mean, how fun is listening to the entire Hammerklavier sonata really?

With great satisfaction - an extremely brilliant composition.

Quote from: Herman on November 22, 2022, 11:22:02 PMDiabelli Variations  -  really do we need all of them, nearly an hour long?

Yes, we do.
(Bruckner's) is the career of a poor village boy ... The one and only really surprising thing about him was that after completing his career as an organist he suddenly began to compose music with a range of vision which in such a man would appear quite incongruous.

Jo498

Quote from: Madiel on November 23, 2022, 01:58:52 AMI suspect you haven't been listening to the most suitable recordings...

I mean, my first album with the Hammerklavier lost me in the fugue. The second did not. It's bloody gripping.
I find op.106 slightly tougher to listen to than op.130. In both works the finale starts about 30 min. into the work but the huge slow movement is usually much longer (15-over 20 min) than any movement before the fugue in op.130, so one is already more drained emotionally and attention-span-wise and the op.106-fugue is shorter but not that much (ca. 12 vs. 15 min) and op.133 has more easily recognizable sections. But the first section of op.133 was one of the toughest listening experience I had with any pre-20th century music when I heard it for the first time.
Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
- Blaise Pascal

LKB

Quote from: Jo498 on November 23, 2022, 03:43:33 AMI find op.106 slightly tougher to listen to than op.130. In both works the finale starts about 30 min. into the work but the huge slow movement is usually much longer (15-over 20 min) than any movement before the fugue in op.130, so one is already more drained emotionally and attention-span-wise and the op.106-fugue is shorter but not that much (ca. 12 vs. 15 min) and op.133 has more easily recognizable sections. But the first section of op.133 was one of the toughest listening experience I had with any pre-20th century music when I heard it for the first time.

Opus 133 is magnificent, but it's also unconventional enough to be a tough nut for many listeners, even some who are otherwise comfortable with late Beethoven.

I believe l was fortunate in being exposed to the work via the Hollywood String Quartet recording. They had the technical chops needed to easily negotiate the jagged edges, as well as ample musicality when opportunities presented themselves.

I always recommend that recording to anyone curious about Op. 133.
Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen...

Jo498

To put it in perspective, I was about 17 at the time and had only listened to classical music for about 2 years and I became rather fond of the piece within another 2 years or so.
Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
- Blaise Pascal

LKB

That makes sense, most listeners with that range of experience would be challenged.
Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen...

Herman

I was an early 130 / 133 adopter, too.
My mother gave me a copy of the Lasalle SQ recording on vinyl for my eighteenth birthday. Next birthday I think I got 131.