Day 236: String Quartets Op. 95 & 130, Grosse Fugue Op. 133

BeethovenCD41Something really weird happened today.

I was listening to CD 41, grooving on the string quartets, and my wife called from Niagara Falls (some 400 miles away) where she was visiting her brother in Canada. I had my hands-free buds in while I chatted with her.

Suddenly, she said, “That’s the song playing in the Firefly episode “Shindig.”

“You can hear that?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “That was the music playing during the dance scene in ‘Shindig’,” she said.

I looked at the back of the CD sleeve and read off the title of Track 8, which was Movement IV (“Alla danza tedesca: Allegro assai”) from String Quartet No. 13 in B Flat Op. 130. (It was composed in 1825; Beethoven was 55.)

“Well, it is a dance number,” I allowed.

“It’s the same song,” she said.

We chit-chatted a bit more and then we hung up.

I immediately Googled “Firefly Shindig Music” and discovered she was right.

If she and I hadn’t been speaking at that very moment, if she hadn’t heard the music I was playing in the background, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. (My memory is not that good.) So, a serendipitous conversation, at precisely the right moment, lead me to discover something I never would have known. How she heard it, and how she remembered incidental music in a TV episode we hadn’t watched in a year or two, I have no idea.

As for today’s CD, it begins with Continue reading

Day 214: Septet Op 20 & Sextet Op 81B

BeethovenCD19The first of the two compositions on today’s CD is Septet in E Flat Op 20, performed by Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie.

Septet, in case you’re not up on your German/Latin etymology, means seven. So this composition consists of seven instrumentalists.

According to its entry on Wikipedia, the Septet in E Flat Op 20,

was sketched out in 1799, completed, and first performed in 1800 and published in 1802. The score contains the notation: “Der Kaiserin Maria Theresia gewidmet”, or translated, “Dedicated to the Empress Maria Theresa.” It is scored for clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. It is in six movements.

So, Beethoven was 29 when this was “sketched out,” 30 when it was first performed, and 32 when it was published.

This piece of music may only have seven instruments, but it sounds very full, quite “heavy,” in a sense. Dramatic, for sure.

The second composition is Sextet in E Flat Op 81B, performed by Erben Quartet with Gerhard Meyer and Rudolf Horold playing the horn. (Sextet means six.)

According to an entry on the LA Philharmonic site, this piece was composed early, about 1795, but not published until 1810, which accounts for its high Opus number.

Beethoven was 25 was he composed this, and 40 when it was published.

It’s a solid piece of writing. But not much about it stands out for me, perhaps because it seems rather ponderous, almost lugubrious. It seems somber.