Thursday, December 17, 2020

Happy 250th, Ludwig!

 Possibly the greatest classical music composer of all time, though also the subject of many a hoary legend, it's Ludwig van Beethoven's 250th birthday. (Actually, it's his baptismal day. His birthday was most likely, but not guaranteed, to be either Dec. 15 or 16. But, we don't know which.)

The first record I ever had was Beethoven's 5th, which was on all of one side and part of the other. I think it was a Karajan recording. I remember as a kid, listening with the headphones on while staring at flames jumping in a fireplace.

He often is my favorite composer, though it's a mood thing. And within myself, at different times? De gustibus non disputandum.

I, like many aficionados, find much of his heart in his late quartets, especially the C sharp minor. I've got it on CD, and more than one version have I listened to on YouTube. The Alban Berg Quartet is great:

Next, a few thoughts on the symphonies and concertos.

When "HIP" conductors first started hitting the world, informed by the early period instruments orchestras, Claudio Abbado was my first. But, today?

David Zinman and the Zurich Tonhalle. I first heard him on WRR101 in Dallas, doing the Eroica, with the new critical edition urtext. I had turned the car on just after the third movement started, and I recognized something was different, not only in terms of some new notes, but the interpretation. Still a good one.

Also good on the piano concerto cycle with Yefim Bronfman. I've got them on that cycle plus Bronfman and two others on the Triple Concerto.

In the period-instruments world, I jumped early on Roy Goodman and the Hannover Band, after first buying Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music. Or was it the other way around on which I got first on the symphony cycle? Still not bad, but for my money today, in the period-instruments world, nothing tops Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romatique, and of course founder John Eliot Gardiner at the stick. Here's his Eroica, for comparison. A touch faster, but yet not rushed.

I early on bought a CD of Norrington and the London Classical Players doing the First Piano Concerto. Orchestra was too small IMO, and the pianoforte too thin. Remember, period instruments can go too far, especially with Beethoven, who wanted more sound out of his players and who generally hated the pianos of his day.

And, with an orchestra that small, going no-vibrato can be overboard. In addition, we simply have no idea how much or how little vibrato he wanted in Eroica. Probably more than Norrington would use.

We do have Beethoven's metronome markings  — and his CUT TIME for the first movement of the Piano Sonata No. 14!!! Only Glenn Gould gets it right!!!

There is NO disputing taste on this!!! There is ONLY people being acculturated to some overly Romantic schlocky shit. That's not to say that I agree with Gould on the opening movement of Appassionata, though it's grown on me. Will it grow on you?


Anyway, give it all a listen!

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