Day 271: Songs I

BeethovenCD76I don’t like songs. From a Classical composer, I like music.

I realize songs are music.

But listening to operatic voices – usually in a foreign language – go on and on about something about which I know nothing is not my idea of a good time.

It’s not that these vocalists aren’t talented. No way. They’re are world-class performers.

On today’s CD, in fact, we have:

Peter Schreier tenor

Walter Olbertz piano

Adele Stolte soprano

I’ve encountered the name Peter Schreier many times before. He’s a gifted singer.

But if I’m going to listen to a vocalist accompanied by a piano, I’d rather it be Frank Sinatra. Or Sammy Davis, Jr. Or Dean Martin.

Most of the songs on today’s CD are of the Wo0# type, which means they’re Without Opus (WoO) number. In other words, songs Beethoven wrote but didn’t deem worthy to be given an opus number. That tells me something.

The first track is “Das Glück der Freundschaft.” It is Op. 88, composed in 1803. Beethoven was 33 when he wrote this song. Several other songs have an opus number. But not many.

Most of these songs sound the same to me. In fact, I had to repeatedly check to see if I iTunes was on another track because it sounded like I was on Repeat.

Day 256: Piano Works 4-Hands

BeethovenCD61I’m not sure why anyone would create piano music that requires four hands to play.

Be that as it may, these compositions are quite good.

Then again, I’m a sucker for piano music.

So if Bozo the Clown sat down at the piano and played with his elbows using only the black keys, I’d probably enjoy it.

These compositions are better than Bozo playing the black keys. Or Scottish folk songs. Or vocal music in general. But they aren’t Chopin nocturnes performed by Arthur Rubinstein. Or Bach’s Brandenburg Concerts performed by Glenn Gould. They’re just Beethoven’s four-hand piano music performed by accomplished musicians.

So, they’re good. But not great. And not something I’ll likely ever want to hear again.

Here’s what I’m listening to today:

Sonata in D Op. 6 (composed 1796-1797; Beethoven was 26-27)

8 Variations in C Wo067

3 Marches Op 45 (composed 1803; Beethoven was 33)

6 Variations in D Wo074

Grosse Fuge Op. 134

Here’s what Grosse Fuge Op. 134 would look like played on stage:

Piano Sonata in D Wo047 No. 3

Most of these pieces are very short, some only about 30-40 seconds – which almost qualifies them as “snippets.”


Frank Zabel, Stefan Thomas piano four-hands tracks 1-27
Ulrich Staerk piano tracks 28-30

My favorite pieces on this CD are the last three tracks, which comprise Piano Sonata in D Wo047 No. 3.

I do enjoy piano music.

Day 229: Violin Sonatas IV

BeethovenCD34What a terrific way to start a day!

Movement I (“Adagio sostenuto – Presto”) from Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Op. 47 “Kreutzer” is a corker. Brisk, expressive, and dynamic; it’s everything a Beethoven composition should be.

The performers are the same as they’ve been for the past few Violin Sonata CDs:

Kristof Barati violin
Klara Wurtz piano

But there’s something especially magical about this sonata, a fun melody that alternates between the violin and the piano as it expresses itself. It has that ask-and-answer quality that I like where one instrument will play a short passage and then the other will repeat it, back and forth.

This movement almost has a kind of Hungarian feel to it.

And pizzicato! Yes, pizzicato, my old friend. Toward the end of Movement I, as things are really syncopated and dynamic, the violin plays a bit of pizzicato as the counterpoint to the piano’s dynamics. It’s particularly arresting. It happens around the 10:45 mark in the piece.

I have to say, this movement, from this Piano Sonata, could very well be one of my favorite pieces from Beethoven. This is tremendously compelling music.

The above YouTube clip is not from this morning’s listening. Featured on that clip are violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy. The recording on the YouTube clip is from 1973. It’s a fine recording, and they are fine musicians. But, truth be told, I prefer the dynamics of Kristof and Klara for this piece.

By the way, in the YouTube clip, my favorite part comes around the 9:25 mark.

It’s time to let my fingers do the walking into Google Land for a moment. I need to find out more about Piano Sonata No. 9 in A Op. 47 “Kreutzer.”

Ahh, and so I discover what Continue reading

Day 86: Christmas Day, 2013

HaydnCD86Wonderful music!

According to the Wiki article about Haydn’s String Quartets, Op. 77 Nos 1 and 2 are nicknamed the “Lobkowitz” quartets, and they were composed/performed in 1799. Haydn was 67.

According to Wikipedia, Lobkowitz refers to the House of Lobkowitz:

The Lobkowicz family (Lobkovicové in modern Czech, sg. z Lobkovic; Lobkowitz in German) dates back to the 14th century and is one of the oldest Bohemian noble families. The first Lobkowiczs were mentioned as members of the gentry of north-eastern Bohemia.

I found Op. 77 No. 1 to be vigorous, meaty, and confident. It had a German sound, to me. Like it was crafted to represent a powerful Bohemian noble family, which – if Wiki is to be believed – it was.

Movement IV (“Finale: Presto”), is particularly triumphant.

Op. 77 No. 2 in F, on the other hand is more serene, less vigorous. Some of the movements in Op. 77 No. 2 are downright slow…

But they have a kick to them. At around the 3:43 mark of Movement II (“Menuet: Presto”), the tempo slows, the instruments kind of drift off to silence…and then – BAM! Everything kicks in at a brisk pace. It’s like Haydn wanted to Continue reading