Author Topic: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies  (Read 23762 times)

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Marc

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #60 on: July 24, 2019, 06:55:42 AM »
I've been making these points for years.  :D

Fischer's quotes mean nothing to me, really. That's why I tend to skip quotes from performers more and more. Booklets and websites are filled with them, but I just listen to the result. If I like the result, then it's OK to me. And if it's OK to me, then I like it. ;)
No matter if they support 'HIP' or not, many performers seem to be talking as if they speak on behalf of 'all' sensible music lovers and connaisseurs who all apparently have the same ears. Well, they just don't. We're all individuals and we're all different. Apart from me, of course.

I listened to some short Fischer episodes on YouTube and my first impressions are: OK to me. ;) Yes, I might like it!
So… his music making seems to be more interesting than his comments about 'us, sensible 21st century classical music listeners'.
I probably won't buy the set though… I'm not a true collector of these works (yet I have more than a dozen sets alreay, I admit :-[.)

Offline Florestan

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #61 on: July 24, 2019, 08:03:20 AM »
A couple of weeks ago I was with some friends and the topic for discussion was whether we have a place for heroes now. The hero -- the person who, finding the world inconsistent with his values, desires, aspirations, fights to change the world, and wins the fight. That sort of archetype may seem to no longer have a place in the world post Kafka. No matter how much Joseph K struggles, he'll never find the way in to the castle, the world is too strong, to intransigent.

Anyway, seeing that point by Adam Fischer, I was reminded of this conversation, and my own ill at ease with middle period Beethoven, the so called promethean Beethoven.

This, sort of.

I just listen to the result. If I like the result, then it's OK to me. And if it's OK to me, then I like it. ;)
No matter if they support 'HIP' or not, many performers seem to be talking as if they speak on behalf of 'all' sensible music lovers and connaisseurs who all apparently have the same ears. Well, they just don't. We're all individuals and we're all different.

And this, absolutely.
"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 Jo498

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #62 on: July 24, 2019, 08:07:34 AM »
Zinman is very straightforward and fast (no tempo changes) but he also has the solo strings in the first Eroica finale variations and some odd ornaments e.g. in the 2nd symphony's larghetto. Supposedly all this is based on the most recent critical edition by Del Mar.
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #63 on: July 24, 2019, 08:12:43 AM »
I think (having heard all four of his cycles now) I prefer this one to the other three, although the 1980s cycle gives it a close run.
That said, to someone not really into classical music, but looking for a basic presentation of the music, the 1960s cycle might be the best option.
Why do you find the 60s a better "basic presentation" but the later ones superior? In which ways?
(I only know the 60s)
« Last Edit: July 24, 2019, 09:13:01 AM by Jo498 »
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Offline André

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #64 on: July 24, 2019, 08:27:47 AM »
Zinman is very straightforward and fast (no tempo changes) but he also has the solo strings in the first Eroica finale variations and some odd ornaments e.g. in the 2nd symphony's larghetto. Supposedly all this is based on the most recent critical edition by Del Mar.

There’s also a quasi cadenza from the oboe in the middle of the fifth symphony’s first movement. Apparently that sort of thing was common in 1800. Maybe, I don’t know. In any case, I like Zinman’s Beethoven.

I listened to 9 complete movements and sampled all the others from the Fischer cycle (thanks for the youtube links  ;)). I found it sometimes very good (the thunderstorm in the Pastorale), but mostly annoying, with a severely understated dynamic range (Toy Story Beethoven) and mostly suffocated allegros. It’s like the orchestra scrambles as long as it can while holding its collective breath. Moments of rythmic or dynamic expansion are as rare as Pope poop. I was reminded of this scene where Scarlett holds her breath (and the bedpost) to fit into her corset:



Needless to say, it didn’t work. Anyhow, I like it when an interpretation is thought-provoking. Even if I disagree, it makes me think of how I really like the music to go, and why.

Online Mandryka

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #65 on: July 24, 2019, 08:50:04 AM »
Fischer says something really striking in the booklet, this

Quote
" I need to play the notes in such a way that we can recreate
the feelings of the listeners which Beethoven would have wanted to invoke in his audience, rather than
playing it exactly how he wanted it to sound. . . . I need to find out why a piece of music was written. It is not sufficient to merely follow Beethoven’s
instructions, as this may not suffice to convince the orchestra and the audience. I have to feel it in my
body why it was so important to him. And not only that, I have to want what he wanted, make his will
my own.”

Music as invocation. Not arbitrary invocation, but the invocation which the composer aimed for.

And music making as recreation.

And how can you find out what he wanted to "invoke" without historical research? How can you recreate what Beethoven aimed at invoking without letting your performance be guided by what Beethoven intended?  He's not saying he has magic powers and can communicate with Beethoven directly through ouija. He's much more HIP that people are saying.

He thinks his role is to want what the composer wanted, because he's found that this is the best way of getting the commitment of the musicians and the audience's support. The conductor has to believe in what he's doing, and he has to be informed to know the composer's intentions and he has to be flexible enough to embrace those intentions. He's the composer's advocate now.

It's a bit like a lawyer saying that the most successful defence is one where you believe in the innocence of the defendant. It's like he thinks that the conductor is a bit like Beethoven's advocate today.

Let me tell you something. I've been to a performance of the St Matthew Passion by Adam Fischer. It used modern instruments, but it did something ultra-hip. He believed that Bach would have expected the audience to join in the chorales, so the audience was asked to arrive half an hour before the start of the performance so he could rehears us in singing the chorales, and we all sang along in the concert. He gave us a little welcoming introduction, got us all onside, he said that he believed that it was great music and that to appreciate it more fully we should have an active role etc, and that he wanted our experience now to be similar to Bach's audience's experience then. This is maybe touching on what invocation is.

And what could be more HIP that that?


« Last Edit: July 24, 2019, 09:04:20 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #66 on: July 24, 2019, 09:14:20 AM »
You are still lacking the Good Friday sermon for the real HIP experience!
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Florestan

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #67 on: July 24, 2019, 09:56:41 AM »
I've been to a performance of the St Matthew Passion by Adam Fischer. It used modern instruments, but it did something ultra-hip. He believed that Bach would have expected the audience to join in the chorales, so the audience was asked to arrive half an hour before the start of the performance so he could rehears us in singing the chorales, and we all sang along in the concert. He gave us a little welcoming introduction, got us all onside, he said that he believed that it was great music and that to appreciate it more fully we should have an active role etc, and that he wanted our experience now to be similar to Bach's audience's experience then. This is maybe touching on what invocation is.

And what could be more HIP that that?

Did JS Bach gave the audience a little welcoming introduction, got them all onside, he said that he believed that it was great music and that to appreciate it more fully they should have an active role etc?

If yes, then it's as HIP as it gets. If no, then it's as modern as it gets. Somehow i suyspect that the latter is the case.  ;D
"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 Jo498

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #68 on: July 24, 2019, 10:29:58 AM »
There’s also a quasi cadenza from the oboe in the middle of the fifth symphony’s first movement. Apparently that sort of thing was common in 1800. Maybe, I don’t know. In any case, I like Zinman’s Beethoven.
I skipped his 5-8, so I have not heard the additional oboe figurations. I do doubt that Beethoven was expecting additional ornaments (except maybe in some concerto passages). That famous oboe passage should certainly not be extended as it is more like very brief "recitativo" in the middle of this dramatic movement. Zinman is pretty good in 1,2 and 4 but I am not a fan of his 3 and 9. Too lightweight and without the colors of the old instruments that make somewhat similar HIP more attractive. Overall apart from the additional trill and solos, Zinman seems to have basically one idea, namely to drive everything as fast as possible.

Quote
I listened to 9 complete movements and sampled all the others from the Fischer cycle (thanks for the youtube links  ;)). I found it sometimes very good (the thunderstorm in the Pastorale), but mostly annoying, with a severely understated dynamic range (Toy Story Beethoven) and mostly suffocated allegros.
Could the restricted dynamic range be an artifact of the yt upload quality?
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Online Mandryka

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #69 on: July 24, 2019, 10:39:25 AM »
One thing that underlies what Fischer says. He thinks that music isn't sound, he thinks it's idea.
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Offline André

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #70 on: July 24, 2019, 11:01:15 AM »

Could the restricted dynamic range be an artifact of the yt upload quality?

I don’t think so, as there are some passages where the orchestra (of chamber proportions, meaning fewer strings) wells up to real ff level, as in the Pastorale’s Thunderstorm, or the seventh symphony’s first and last movements. The finale of the fifth, and particularly its long coda - where all stops should be pulled - is very disappointing in terms of dynamics. You can clearly hear the usually buried piccolo in the last chord, but so can you in Villem de Vriends’ Netherlands S.O. version, which packs a lot more decibels.

There are contemporaneous accounts of the composer conducting the orchestra in bizarre fashion, crouching to indicate pianissimos and jumping with arms extended at fortissimos. It doesn’t tell us how much sound he wanted, but it certainly gives an indication that he wanted big contrasts and maximum expression.

Offline Florestan

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #71 on: July 24, 2019, 11:08:51 AM »
There are contemporaneous accounts of the composer conducting the orchestra in bizarre fashion, crouching to indicate pianissimos and jumping with arms extended at fortissimos. It doesn’t tell us how much sound he wanted, but it certainly gives an indication that he wanted big contrasts and maximum expression.

As per Spohr, who is the main source of those "contemporaneous accounts", it gives an indication about Beethoven's eccentricity with respect to the conducting practice of his time --- and by extrapolation, to that of our time too. Anyone conducting today the same way as Beethoven did would be hissed off the stage as a charlatan. Just read the relevant passages in Spohr's Autobiography.  ;D
"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 SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #72 on: July 24, 2019, 11:30:49 AM »
I think (having heard all four of his cycles now) I prefer this one to the other three, although the 1980s cycle gives it a close run.
That said, to someone not really into classical music, but looking for a basic presentation of the music, the 1960s cycle might be the best option.

I know what you mean, I think. (It's the one that might have the least "Karajan" about it, but plenty excitement. Although for someone not really into classical music, any of them will be good enough, because all are pretty darn good.  :D

Meanwhile, you know that there are seven (!) Karajan cycles, right?

Offline Florestan

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #73 on: July 24, 2019, 12:26:54 PM »
The irony --- or paradox --- of it all is that the young, and early, Beethoven was a socialite who relished, and was more than welcome into, the  world of aristocratic patronage, just as Haydn and Mozart were before him. It's only with the onset of his deafness, and especially after its firm grip on him, that he became the grumpy and scruffy curmudgeon we all know from more or less accurate descriptions. He was forced to become a hero because of his condition --- one that few, if any, other people experienced. A composer gone deaf! --- only a genius (and only a one-time genius) as Beethoven could have managed to cope with it (pace Smetana who, for all his virtues, can't hold a candle to Beethoven). And he coped with it big time! But, but, but --- at the same time he coped with his deafness big time, he also (unwittingly, I'm sure) set the bar so high that no normally constituted human being could have followed him. Now, keep in mind that a "normally constituted human being", or rather a collection of such beings, were the targeted audience of all composers before him. Pre-Beethoven (meaning, pre-deaf Beethoven), music was a social affair, be it in the form of opera, or a public concert, or a private salon --- anyhow and anywhere the premium was on the social function of music as an entertaining and pleasant pastime.  Post-Beethoven (meaning, post-deaf Beethoven) music become more and more a solitary pursuit ("an exercise in shared solitude"), eschewing more and more any notion of social entertaining and pleasure, and becoming more and  more elitist and "Brahmin", to the point of asking "Who Cares if You Listen?" --- to which the audiences worldwide, great unwashed as they were, responded loudly and resoundly --- "Who Cares if You Compose?"

Bottom line, I don't hold Beethoven himself responsible for the deleterious influence his music had on subsequent generations of composers --- yet I much prefer composers who eschewed heroism and Napoleonism in favor of intimacy and private feelings --- such as Schubert, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Grieg --- all of them treading in the steps of Mozart.
"I compose music because I must give expression to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts.”  --- Rachmaninoff

Online Mandryka

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #74 on: July 24, 2019, 12:53:30 PM »
Pre-Beethoven (meaning, pre-deaf Beethoven), music was a social affair, be it in the form of opera, or a public concert, or a private salon --- anyhow and anywhere the premium was on the social function of music as an entertaining and pleasant pastime. 

I think you're underestimating  Froberger's Ricercar's, and Charles Mouton's suites and St Colombe's suites and Michelangelo Galilei's intavolatura and Costanzo Festa's contrapunti and  . . .
« Last Edit: July 24, 2019, 12:58:57 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #75 on: July 24, 2019, 12:58:15 PM »
I think you're underestimating  Froberger's Ricercar's, and Charles Mouton's suites and St Colombe's suites and . . .

Probably, possibly... but in this respect there's nothing like the 19th Century Piano Music --- THE private music par excellence.
"I compose music because I must give expression to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts.”  --- Rachmaninoff

Online Mandryka

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #76 on: July 24, 2019, 01:00:30 PM »
Probably, possibly... but in this respect there's nothing like the 19th Century Piano Music --- THE private music par excellence.
I think you're wrong, and that much solo viol music, for example, was private, a lot of lute music too. Something happened around the mid c18 which made music more about pleasurable easy diversion, a way of escaping, possibly the influence of Versailles. In my opinion Beethoven was still caught up with this idea, it's not meant to be challenging and when it was, like in op 133, he was quick to dump it. Music never got over this until Webern and Schoenberg.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2019, 01:04:13 PM by Mandryka »
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Online JBS

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #77 on: July 24, 2019, 05:39:20 PM »
Why do you find the 60s a better "basic presentation" but the later ones superior? In which ways?
(I only know the 60s)

Karajan 60 is close to the mean in interpretation, but just enough better to allow it to be a sort of standard. But I find what he did in the other two cycles to please my ears more. IOW de gustibus...

My own preferred set overall btw is Chailly/Gewandhuaus.


Meanwhile, you know that there are seven (!) Karajan cycles, right?

Checks the Ionarts survey...
Two are on DVD, so I don't count them. If I ever knew about the Tokyo one, I forgot it. I pretty sure I never heard a note of it.

I have a Karajan Ninth on DVD. It might be from the Unitel cycle. TBH, the chorus was filmed in a way that turned them into synchronized robots, a bit scary in fact.

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Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #78 on: July 24, 2019, 09:52:24 PM »


Meanwhile, you know that there are seven (!) Karajan cycles, right?

Checks the Ionarts survey...
Two are on DVD, so I don't count them. If I ever knew about the Tokyo one, I forgot it. I pretty sure I never heard a note of it.

I have a Karajan Ninth on DVD. It might be from the Unitel cycle. TBH, the chorus was filmed in a way that turned them into synchronized robots, a bit scary in fact.

I have to update the survey, actually. The first video cycle (I don't 'emotionally' count it, either) is wholly different from all others. The second video cycle is the same as the 80s recordings, except for the Ninth or at least the last movement of the Ninth.

But apart from the 70s Tokyo cycle, another complete 60s Tokyo cycle has been unearthed and recently published!

Offline Andy D.

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Re: Complete Sets of Beethoven's Symphonies
« Reply #79 on: July 25, 2019, 05:01:38 AM »
The 60s Karajan was my go to for decades; however in the past decade I've been really appreciating the 70s more and more. The 9th from the 70s is without question my number one.

I also own the Gardiner and really like the 4th and 6th from that one.

Hard to go wrong with the classic Furtwangler, Klemperer...but I seem to be having problems these days with the recorded sound (I didn't used to, but I was young and perhaps not quite as discerning then).