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Obscure Beethoven works you like

Torn Mind

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Nov 25, 2012
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When a musician dies, some of his works get forgotten from the memory of the future members of the public who hears music. Beethoven is no exception, as many works are not known. Usually, these are from his works without opus(WoO) but even some of his published works only get heard by hardcore fanatics.

One of my favorites is 6 variations on "Ich Denke Dein", which is music set to a love poem by Goethe.

The last variation is straight up fire....taking the original theme, and making an amazing ending.


Then there's the Eight variations for piano four hands on a theme by Count Waldstein, WoO 67. Waldstein was a count and early supporter of Beethoven. So, Beethoven decided to explore ways to vary the theme his friend and supporter composed.
 

Muse

Lifer
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I'm not that deep on Beethoven, but I started listening to his late piano sonatas a week or so ago, which I'd never been able to enjoy before. Of course, I always liked the famous ones, the Waldstein, Apassionata, Moonlight, Pathetique, Hamerklavier, Tempest. I'm finding the late ones very enjoyable now. I should try the late quartets too, which used to elude me.

His early work is so different from his later work. Mozart was too to some extent, but Beethoven was very much the bridge from the classical to the romantic period. But his really late work to me transcends even the romantic.
 

Torn Mind

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Nov 25, 2012
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I'm not that deep on Beethoven, but I started listening to his late piano sonatas a week or so ago, which I'd never been able to enjoy before. Of course, I always liked the famous ones, the Waldstein, Apassionata, Moonlight, Pathetique, Hamerklavier, Tempest. I'm finding the late ones very enjoyable now. I should try the late quartets too, which used to elude me.

His early work is so different from his later work. Mozart was too to some extent, but Beethoven was very much the bridge from the classical to the romantic period. But his really late work to me transcends even the romantic.
I bought one of those "Brilliant Classics" complete version. Pretty handy in getting all the obscure works, which is how I came across the two in my first post.

Beethoven's general signature is his ability to make variations on a musical tune, be it his own or another's. Many works are a theme-and-variations welded into a conventional form.

Have you listened to the 32nd piano sonata? The 32nd's second movement has something that would have been totally exotic and otherworldly to the audiences of the time. One might say, it would have been reminiscent of American music in the late 19th century. But it's borne out of a simple ethereal main theme, and it gets developed via variation into that.


One of the biggest takes from that listen-fest is that arrangement of music is a skill in of itself.

He arranged his Symphony No.2 for piano trio, for example, and I tend to prefer the piano trio version.


He also rearranged his piano trio in C minor from his Op.1 for string quintet. It started off as someone else's project and that guy showed it to Beethoven. He then took over after seeing that it wasn't that great.
 

Torn Mind

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The early period would be Beethoven at his most "pop" and displaying his ability to write tunes in accordance with the conventions of his time. The Septet is representative of this period and happened to be one of the biggest moneymakers of his career. Far moreso than the more major works that posterity has elevated. Fun fact is that I like it and so does my mom. Usually, I would like something but she likes something else from certain artists like Don Mclean.

The Septet is analogous to a modern signature pop song, such Britney Spears' Baby One More Time. It has unconventional instrumentation, but tonality is not pushed to far out of the norm for chamber music.

He made his mark with nobles in part with his improvisations; so he was a "free mind" and one of those guys who could do things "on the fly", not unlike modern jazz musicians.
 

brianmanahan

Lifer
Sep 2, 2006
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i'm more of a bach man myself

all the beethoven i've played and listened to is "pop" beethoven

been having a real fun time learning the 3rd movement of tempest, but i can only play the first couple minutes of it

one of the right-hand jumps is insane, it's like a 3-octave jump that happens between 2 adjacent 16th notes. i just have to slow down to hit it, there's no way i'll ever be fast enough to do it at normal tempo.

 
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Torn Mind

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Nov 25, 2012
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i'm more of a bach man myself

all the beethoven i've played and listened to is "pop" beethoven

been having a real fun time learning the 3rd movement of tempest, but i can only play the first couple minutes of it

one of the right-hand jumps is insane, it's like a 3-octave jump that happens between 2 adjacent 16th notes. i just have to slow down to hit it, there's no way i'll ever be fast enough to do it at normal tempo.

Waldstein sonata's third movement so sweet but anyone who plays the piano can feel just a twinge of terror as your hear octaves going while a trill is also going and at the same time, the left hand has its own thing to do. No fingers or hands are idle.
 

Muse

Lifer
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Have you listened to the 32nd piano sonata?
I heard it twice about a week ago. I have a CD of 30, 31 and 32, Glenn Gould playing.

I have an LP of Richter from probably about 1960, wonderful. Can't remember, I think it's Chopin. I'm passionate about a lot of Chopin, a consummate genius.

Edit: Found it, it's Richter playing the Tempest, also Schumann Fantasia in C Major, Op. 17. It's on Angel (35679), recorded in England in August, 1961.
 
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Muse

Lifer
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i'm more of a bach man myself
During the pandemic, when I've been involved with some projects that demanded attention, I'd turn on Wanda Landowska playing The Well Tempered Clavier. I knew it was highly regarded, but hadn't gone to it before. I watched a doc about Bach a couple weeks ago that's quite good:

 
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Captante

Lifer
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My late father was heavily into classical music and vintage hifi equipment.... I grew up listening to this stuff.

:)
 

Torn Mind

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I heard it twice about a week ago. I have a CD of 30, 31 and 32, Glenn Gould playing.

I have an LP of Richter from probably about 1960, wonderful. Can't remember, I think it's Chopin. I'm passionate about a lot of Chopin, a consummate genius.

Edit: Found it, it's Richter playing the Tempest, also Schumann Fantasia in C Major, Op. 17. It's on Angel (35679), recorded in England in August, 1961.
Gould is often idiosyncratic but he makes his takes work. The phrase "making it his own" applies to him very well.

Richter certainly is one of the passionate ones and that is right up Beethoven's alley.

The 13th string quartet is definitely worth it, since it is what spawned Great Fugue. The matter writing that is musically complicated yet sensible but outright wacky to an audience versus catering to the audience is evident here too, as the fugue was a shock to the contemporary audience. Beethoven would actually write a more "conventional" ending based on a country dance theme to the work, but he would die before knowing of any performance of the work with the "new" ending.

And of course, the obscure work is the piano duo arrangement of the Great Fugue.



The one thing I hear more evident in the piano version is that the "syncopation" once is borderline ragtimey or jazzy near the end of the work. The strings play it extremely quietly in the original version, but it's much more evident on the piano arrangement.

https://youtu.be/c_Uuowin9bI?t=884
 

Torn Mind

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My late father was heavily into classical music and vintage hifi equipment.... I grew up listening to this stuff.

:)
Did he last long enough to hear the Norrington versions of the symphonies, which came out from 1987-1989?

That made waves and sparked a little war within the classical, um, "fanbase" and practitioners.
 
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Captante

Lifer
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Did he last long enough to hear the Norrington versions of the symphonies, which came out from 1987-1989?

That made waves and sparked a little war within the classical, um, "fanbase" and practitioners.

He passed about 2.5 years ago but I have no idea if he was aware of this.
 

Torn Mind

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He passed about 2.5 years ago but I have no idea if he was aware of this.
Well, Norrington broke with the then-current convention and tradition with his recordings. Back in the day before his breakthrough recording, Beethoven was performed with a "grand", Wagnerian scale in mind and that usually meant the tempos of his symphonies were slower. Toscanini was one of the "quicker" tempo conductors, emphasizing that the opening movement of the Eroica was "Allegro con brio"(fast with vigor).

In some cases, the HIP(historically informed) conductors select slower tempos than the tradition would perform works at, such as the ending for the 5th symphony or 7th symphony.

Indeed, the charge that the symphonies were rather "stuffy" and boring are not without legitimacy.

I don't quite align with all the assertions of the "historically informed performance", one of which regards the lack of vibrato being used back then.


The most salient feature I've heard from Norrington's work is that the final movement of Eroica has a "feature" that is brought out into full clarity with the use of period instruments. The bass line forms its own quasi-melodic entity. B-flat, up an octave, back to B-flat, E-flat.

Even with Karajan's, who had quicker tempos than the Wagnerian derivatives, his greatest defect is he managed to outright murder the syncopation that is driving force behind the "Poco andante" section of the final movement of the Eroica, turning the music from heroic to positive solemnity.

https://youtu.be/sbHD189DAp0?t=2361
 

Torn Mind

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Anyway, just a reminder that Britain is old, more obscure works

God Save the King variations and "Rule, Britannia" variations. That's musical creativity. All variations are based off of the same bones, but Beethoven goes so far out in the variations, you'd gasp that it's strictly tied to the theme....

 
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Muse

Lifer
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Toscanini was one of the "quicker" tempo conductors, emphasizing that the opening movement of the Eroica was "Allegro con brio"(fast with vigor).
I have had the complete set of Toscanini conducting all the Beethoven symphonies for around 60 years! That's pretty much what I've heard. I suppose I've heard Furtwangler and others, sure. But Toscanini is just the gold standard, I figure. They say he didn't need a score, he'd memorized the scores! His recording of the 5th is just amazing. Yes, quick tempoed and it seizes the intense sense of destiny inherent in the work and never lets go.
 
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Muse

Lifer
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Symphonies 2 and 4 are his least heard, but certainly not obscure. In fact, the word obscure would seem to be inappropriate for the titan Beethoven. Now, some of the works of, say, JS Bach's sons may be called obscure.
 
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Torn Mind

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Symphonies 2 and 4 are his least heard, but certainly not obscure. In fact, the word obscure would seem to be inappropriate for the titan Beethoven. Now, some of the works of, say, JS Bach's sons may be called obscure.
Something like "Germania" or his numerous folk song adaptations are not things many people know about. In the sense that certain works are not known, these would fit that sense of obscure.



I did go through all 86 CDs in the Brilliant Classics Collection. The pressing quality of the discs in such a low cost set was not free of defects....
 

DigDog

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right. let's see how far or near my ramblings take me.
I had the entire Beethoven/Karajan, Deutsche Grammophon series on vinyl record, full weight.
My house was a royalist house and by god we would have only the best of the best according to 1865 standards.

I grew bored, or more, disillusioned with classical music in general.

1. yes, most of the composers we know are geniuses, of varying levels of genius. Mozart, Bach, these guys were on another level, never mind the year they were working in. Many composers one step below the great classics are also due for deference and they have a great body of really .. skilled stuff.
But most of it is incredibly boring; and not just the minor works by the great artists, but the very great works themselves. I am as happy as you are to listen to the aria of the queen of the night .. oh god i remember writing this very phrase her already years ago ..
I am as happy as you are to listen to the aria of the queen of the nigh from Die Zauberflote, or Papageno & Papagena's arias, but i do not care for the very long many minutes of music in between. THIS is the most important aspect of the change between traditional music and modern music.
2. there are a number of relatively obscure composers whose works are of exceptional musical value, and yet they are near impossible to enjoy. I'm thinking Pierrot Lunaire:
but also much of the situational music by post-romantic composers. Maybe they are not as outrageous as Schoenberg, but nevertheless there are many sections of their works where the audience just "waits" for the good stuff to come on. Verdi was both loved and ridiculed for writing easy-tunes that the common man would love; here is his most beloved, Gloria All'Egitto (marcia trionfale)
have a listen, it's great, isn't it? Ok now go back to the start and try to hum the tune that leads to the march.
You can't sell me a 2 1/2 hour opera on the grounds of four or five 3-minute pieces of music, sometimes less.

Modern music completely did away with having to tie two pieces of music, you get a song, it starts, it's immediately good, and then it ends. Then you do it again. It is vastly better a s a consumer product. And, i don't mean that in an insulting way, or dememaning, it's just that a product whose sole purpose is enjoyment, will be judged by how enjoyable it is.

Jazz is the place where you wind up if you like to visualize your music, and even that can be hit or miss. Some of it is amazing, but the more technical stuff tends to forget that there are humans listening to it. Look guys i'ma level with you, me and a friends both out of Berklee went to see Wayne Shorter on one of his last concerts, and WE who were just out of jazz college could understand maybe 30% of what was going on. Looking around at all the ladies in gowns, i suspect the most of the audience was there for the social occasion rather than the music (EUR 110/ticket back in 2003?).


I believe that there is still a place for classical music, but if one wants to reach it, they need to understand the demands of their audience.
(i am intentionally leaving out some more complex factors that i really dont care to waste the whole day explaining)
 
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dasherHampton

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Jan 19, 2018
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right. let's see how far or near my ramblings take me.
I had the entire Beethoven/Karajan, Deutsche Grammophon series on vinyl record, full weight.
My house was a royalist house and by god we would have only the best of the best according to 1865 standards.

I grew bored, or more, disillusioned with classical music in general.

1. yes, most of the composers we know are geniuses, of varying levels of genius. Mozart, Bach, these guys were on another level, never mind the year they were working in. Many composers one step below the great classics are also due for deference and they have a great body of really .. skilled stuff.
But most of it is incredibly boring; and not just the minor works by the great artists, but the very great works themselves. I am as happy as you are to listen to the aria of the queen of the night .. oh god i remember writing this very phrase her already years ago ..
I am as happy as you are to listen to the aria of the queen of the nigh from Die Zauberflote, or Papageno & Papagena's arias, but i do not care for the very long many minutes of music in between. THIS is the most important aspect of the change between traditional music and modern music.
2. there are a number of relatively obscure composers whose works are of exceptional musical value, and yet they are near impossible to enjoy. I'm thinking Pierrot Lunaire:
but also much of the situational music by post-romantic composers. Maybe they are not as outrageous as Schoenberg, but nevertheless there are many sections of their works where the audience just "waits" for the good stuff to come on. Verdi was both loved and ridiculed for writing easy-tunes that the common man would love; here is his most beloved, Gloria All'Egitto (marcia trionfale)
have a listen, it's great, isn't it? Ok now go back to the start and try to hum the tune that leads to the march.
You can't sell me a 2 1/2 hour opera on the grounds of four or five 3-minute pieces of music, sometimes less.

Modern music completely did away with having to tie two pieces of music, you get a song, it starts, it's immediately good, and then it ends. Then you do it again. It is vastly better a s a consumer product. And, i don't mean that in an insulting way, or dememaning, it's just that a product whose sole purpose is enjoyment, will be judged by how enjoyable it is.

Jazz is the place where you wind up if you like to visualize your music, and even that can be hit or miss. Some of it is amazing, but the more technical stuff tends to forget that there are humans listening to it. Look guys i'ma level with you, me and a friends both out of Berklee went to see Wayne Shorter on one of his last concerts, and WE who were just out of jazz college could understand maybe 30% of what was going on. Looking around at all the ladies in gowns, i suspect the most of the audience was there for the social occasion rather than the music (EUR 110/ticket back in 2003?).


I believe that there is still a place for classical music, but if one wants to reach it, they need to understand the demands of their audience.
(i am intentionally leaving out some more complex factors that i really dont care to waste the whole day explaining)
If you're happy with the level you're on - by all means stay there. Nothing wrong with that.

Life is too short to try to drag people up to a place they don't want to be.
 

Torn Mind

Diamond Member
Nov 25, 2012
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All my Beethoven and Mozart set me up to accept JoJo in approximately four measures. Then after incorporating a listenfest to her stuff, led me to comprehend Mozart especially, much better than I ever did before. I hadn't listened to the 17th piano concerto of Mozart years before 2019. The re-listen after absorbing JoJo's ability, led to a greater comprehension of what was going on in every measure; I actually played the first movement...as a clueless mechanical high schooler, though not with an orchestra).

"Tune-cookers" who can improvise or give the impression of improvisation are few and between....and she the highest musical power: the ability to add and modify the notes and make the new combination "fit" just as well as the original. One of the greatest powers a skilled musicians has is the ability change a tune in a way that no one would notice, and she has that skill in spades.

The convergent evolution of music is real. They were gulping down runs in the 18th century just as much as the black church was promoting it and having crops like Patti Labelle and Mariah Carey showing their chops.
 

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