Day 211: Music for Wind Ensemble II

BeethovenCD16Beethoven CD 16 begins with a militaristic fanfare. Quite rousing.

Makes me want to march off to war.

There are 12 different compositions on this CD, six very short (march-style) pieces at the start, following by:

Quintet in E Flat Hess 19

Adagio for 3 horns in F

3 Equale Wo030 for 4 trombones

Trio in C Op 87 for 2 oboes and cor anglais

Variations in C for 2 oboes and cor anglais on Mozart’s La Ci Darem La Mano.

Allegro and Minuet in G Wo026

Once again, the Ottetto Italiano performs, this time with members of the Orchestra da Camera di Genova.

Once I got past the march music in the first six tracks, I was treated to more delightful music for my favorite orchestra instruments, including the French horn. Plus, there are the Variations in C for 2 oboes and the English horn (cor anglais) from Mozart’s 1787 opera Don Giovanni.

Very pretty stuff.

Day 210: Music For Wind Ensemble I

BeethovenCD15Beethoven’s wind ensembles are fun, partly because I love the sound of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns playing together.

Octet in E Flat Op 103 is clever and lively. According to its entry on Wikipedia,

…it was written in 1792/1793, during Beethoven’s early period. Beethoven reworked and expanded the Octet in 1795 as his first String Quintet, Op. 4.

That means Beethoven was 22 or 23 when he composed this octet.

Rondino in E Flat Wo025 is more subdued, a pretty but somber composition. It was composed in 1793. Beethoven was 23.

Beethoven Sextet in E Flat Op 71 was composed in 1796. Beethoven was 26. I’ve heard this music before, probably on the local Classical music radio station. It’s pretty and clever and soothing and intriguing – especially Movement III (“Menuetto: Quasi allegretto”). The interplay between all of my favorite orchestral instruments is grand.

According to the IMSLP web site, Beethoven Three Duos Wo027 (No 1 in C, No 2 in F, No 3 in B flat), is

…of disputed authorship. Accepted as authentic in Kinsky, 1955, but but listed as ‘probably spurious’ in Kerman, 1983.

I must say this doesn’t sound like anything I’ve yet heard from Beethoven. It sounds bouncier, less textured.

What what do I know? I’m no musicologist.

All of the music on today’s CD was performed by Ottetto Italiano, which probably means Italian octet.

Just a hunch.

Day 209: Dances II

BeethovenCD14This morning’s CD, like yesterday’s, is filled to the brim with dance music.

Forty-six tracks of it, to be precise.

More menuets than I can shake a stick at.

Which wouldn’t phase them a bit, anyway.

Menuets are tough.

Today’s music sounds different, however, from what I heard yesterday. Not as dance-like. More complex. More like full orchestras playing very, very short pieces of music.

Here are the performers and orchestras on this CD:

Kammerorchester der Staatskapelle Weimar
Friedemann Batzel conductor
(tracks 1-12)

Capella Istropolitana
Ewald Donhoffer conductor
(tracks 13-19)

Sachiko Kobayashi violin (track 20)
Michael Wagner piano (track 20)
Rainer Maria Klaas piano (tracks 21-46)

Because of the wide variety of selections on Beethoven CD 14, it’s hard for me to know how old Beethoven was when these were composed. Plus, they’re all designated Wo0, meaning Works Without Opus number (Works without Opus). That indicates they were scraps of music gathered together at some point, more less authenticated as being Beethoven’s, and given a special type of cataloging number to tell them apart.

There are eight different Wo0 catalog numbers on today’s CD:

Wo07
Wo024
Wo010
Wo042
Wo083
Wo023
Wo011
Wo013

Of those, only one has a date assigned to it, according to the Wiki list of the complete works of Beethoven: Wo042, which is given the date of 1796.

If that is correct, then Beethoven was 26.

I have no idea how old he was for the rest of these.

If you’re interested in knowing how authentic some of these pieces are, scan the listing on Wikipedia. Some are considered “spurious” and/or composed by Beethoven’s brother, Carl.

Day 208: Dances I

BeethovenCD13There’s not much I can say about today’s CD.

It’s 55 tracks of short dance pieces, all of which sound like something one would hear in ornate rooms filled with well-dressed people in powdered wigs.

I’m not going to list all 55 tracks here.

If you really want to know, I’ll bet you could find them on the Brilliant Classics web site.

I wonder if this music was considered the Pop music of Beethoven’s day. Like, would these dance tunes have been heard a lot on the radio? Would the German equivalent of Dick Clark (on, I presume, German Bandstand) have told people they had a groovy beat?

And how does one know if these are good or not? They all sound pretty much the same to me. Do some become favorites by virtue of…what?

Was dance music in Beethoven’s day highly regarded?

I dunno.

I suppose it’s possible.

Sort of like how the Bee Gees were in 1977.

And then were not by 1978.

But that’s another story for another time and place.

Day 207: Orchestral and Organ Works

BeethovenCD12I love Beethoven’s use of dynamics.

Most of what I’ve heard so far is bold, brash, and dramatic. Beethoven’s music is almost forceful in its expressiveness.

Today’s CD consists of Orchestral Works and Organ Works, the former performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, conducted by Stanislav Skrowaczewski, and most of the latter performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos. In between are organ works performed by Christian Schmitt.

Anyone who says only orchestras in Europe should be taken seriously haven’t heard the Minnesota Symphony. Their performances of these Beethoven works is spectacular, as is the recording itself. Rich and clear.

Here’s what’s on Beethoven CD 12:

Orchestral Works
1. Coriolan – Overture Op. 62 (composed 1807)
2. Namensfeier – Overture Op 115 (composed 1815)
3. Gratulationsmenuett Wo03
4. Triumphal March from Tarpeja Wo02

Organ Works
5. Fugue in D Wo031

5 Stucke Fur Flotenuhr Wo033
5. Allegro non piu molto
6. Allegretto
7. Adagio assai
8. Scherzo: Allegro
11. Grenadiermarsch Hess 107

Wellington’s Victory or The Battle of Vittoria Op. 91 (Composed 1813)
12. British Entrance
13. French Entrance
14. Battle: Allegro
15. March: Allegro assai
16. Victory: Allegro con brio

There’s something about organ works that immediately reminds me of three things: Continue reading

Day 206: Beethoven’s Opera

BeethovenCD11According to various sources, Beethoven wrote only one opera. (Which, truth be told, isn’t a bad thing, from my perspective. I’m not a huge fan of opera.)

You can read background on Beethoven’s Leonore opera here. Or here.

From its entry on Wikipedia:

Fidelio (Leonore, oder Der Triumph der ehelichen Liebe: Leonore, or The Triumph of Married Love) (Op. 72) is a German opera with spoken dialogue in two acts by Ludwig van Beethoven. It is his only opera. The German libretto was prepared by Joseph Sonnleithner from the French of Jean-Nicolas Bouilly, which had been used for the 1798 opera Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal by Pierre Gaveaux, and the 1804 opera Leonora by Ferdinando Paer (a score of which was owned by Beethoven).

The opera tells how Leonore, disguised as a prison guard named “Fidelio”, rescues her husband Florestan from death in a political prison.

Sounds cheery enough.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why it wasn’t received well when it premiered. Another reason, according to Wiki, was this:

The success of these performances was greatly hindered by the fact that Vienna was under French military occupation, and most of the audience were French military officers. After this premiere, Beethoven was pressured by friends to revise and shorten the opera into just two acts, and he did so with the help of Stephan von Breuning. The composer also wrote a new overture (now known as “Leonore No. 3″; see below). In this form the opera was first performed on 29 March and 10 April 1806, with greater success. Further performances were prevented by a dispute between Beethoven and the theatre management.

Yeah. I can see that.

The other composition on Beethoven CD 11 is Die Weihe Des Hauses, which (in German) translates to Continue reading

Day 205: A Mixed Bag

BeethovenCD10Today’s CD features three compositions by three different sets of performers, three different orchestras, and three different conductors.

Triple Concerto in C Op. 56 features:

Yefim Bronfman piano
Gil Shaham violin
Truls Mork cello
Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich

This is a brash, rich composition with lots of dynamics, as well as nice spaces for soloists to solo. Of special interest was Movement II (“Largo”), which gave pianist Yefim Bronfman time to shine. It’s a slower piece. But the juxtaposition of the piano with the violin is intriguing.

The Rondo of Movement III is my favorite, though. I just love it when musicians play Classical music briskly.

Piano Concerto in E Flat Wo04 features:

Martin Galling piano
Berliner Symphoniker
Carl-August Bunte conductor

This is an interesting piece of music. Different from anything else I’ve heard. More horns, for one thing. A different recording of an orchestra. The sound is slightly different, especially in the piano pieces.

Overall, very nice. Bouncy. Sounds like Baroque music in some respects, which may be expected given that it was composed in the late 1700s.

Rondo in B Flat Wo06 for piano and orchestra features:

Walter Klien piano
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
Jerzy Semkow conductor

This is a strange little composition. Hard to describe it. Pleasant. Interesting piano sound.

Overall, this CD is filled with great performances. But the compositions aren’t my favorites.

Day 204: Violin Concerto + Romances for Violin and Orchestra

BeethovenCD9Beethoven’s violin concertos appear to be just as dynamic and melodic as his piano concertos.

In fact, there’s a tremendous melody in Movement I (“Allegro non troppo”) of Violin Concerto in D Op. 61.

At about 5:40 or so into Movement I there’s a gentle, soft melody line. It’s repeated throughout the movement and comes back forcefully at about the 8:45 mark. That’s when the melody is so striking that it sounds contemporary. Like if John Williams or Howard Shore wrote it for a blockbuster movie. And then again at the 15:00 mark. It’s a very beautiful movement.

I love a good melody. And that’s likely why nothing from Haydn stuck with me. I didn’t grasp a single melody from Haydn’s music.

That’s not to say Haydn’s music was bad, or that I’m a dolt. It just means I notice more melody in Bethoven’s music.

Here’s are the players on today’s CD:

Christian Tetzlaff violin
Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich
David Zinman conductor

Christian Tetzlaff is superb. Very Continue reading

Day 203: Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 & Piano Concerto in D

BeethovenCD8Yesterday, I thought I was done with Beethoven’s piano concertos.

Apparently not.

There are a few more to go, thankfully.

Today’s CD features two different pianists and two different orchestras.

From its entry on Wikipedia, Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op. 58:

…was premiered in March 1807 at a private concert of the home of Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz. The Coriolan Overture and the Fourth Symphony were premiered in that same concert. However, the public premiere was not until 22 December 1808 in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien. Beethoven again took the stage as soloist. This was part of a marathon concert which saw Beethoven’s last appearance as a soloist with orchestra, as well as the premieres of the Choral Fantasy and the Fifth and Sixth symphonies. Beethoven dedicated the concerto to his friend, student, and patron, the Archduke Rudolph.

A review in the May 1809 edition of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung states that “[this concerto] is the most admirable, singular, artistic and complex Beethoven concerto ever”. However, after its first performance, the piece was neglected until 1836, when it was revived by Felix Mendelssohn. Today, the work is widely performed and recorded, and is considered to be one of the central works of the piano concerto literature.

Beethoven was 37.

Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op. 58 features: Continue reading

Day 202: Beethoven Piano Concertos 3 & 5

BeethovenCD7More wonderfulness from L.V. Beethoven.

And from Brilliant Classics.

And from Yefim Bronfman piano,
Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, and
David Zinman conductor

Beethoven Piano Concert No. 3 in C Minor Op. 37 is another tour de force for pianist Yefim Bronfman. According to its entry on Wikipedia:

The Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37, was composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1800 and was first performed on 5 April 1803, with the composer as soloist. The year for which the concerto was composed (1800) has however been questioned by contemporary musicologists. It was published in 1804. During that same performance, the Second Symphony and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives were also premiered. The composition was dedicated to Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia. The first primary theme is reminiscent of that of Mozart’s 24th Piano Concerto.

Movement I (“Allegro con brio”) of Op. 37 is an amazing composition. Dynamics up the yin-yang. Loud-soft, loud-soft. Ivory tinkling down to a whisper, and then back up again to pounding crescendo, some of which reminded of the soundtrack to an old-time (silent) movie. When the villain would show up on screen, the piano would play these low-note rumbles that indicated something was afoot. Same here.

Movement II (“Largo”) is precisely the tempo it declares itself to be. It’s about half as fast as the first movement, but very pretty. Lots of dreamy sequences.

Movement III (“Rondo Allegro”) is another wonderful melding of Continue reading