Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

Continuing this long-running feature, with my favorite master of the Violin Concerto, Mr. Nathan Milstein, here in a live version from long ago,

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Beethoven Second on Liszt

From American Public Media's this-day-in-classical-music report:  "If you were like Dr. Who with his Tardis, and a piano fan to boot, you might set your time machine for Paris, April 25, 1841. That's when an all-Beethoven concert was given at the Salle Erard to raise funds for the proposed Beethoven monument in Bonn, the late composer's birthplace. Franz Liszt was the soloist in Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, conducted by Hector Berlioz.

"About a month earlier, Liszt had dazzled Paris with the premiere of his new piano fantasia on themes from the popular opera, 'Robert the Devil,' by Giacomo Meyerbeer. So, as Liszt walked on stage -- with the entire orchestra in place, all ready for Beethoven's Concerto -- the audience clamored loudly for a repeat performance. They made such a racket that Berlioz and the orchestra had no choice but to sit idly by until Liszt first encored his Fantasia. In the audience was a 27-year old German named Richard Wagner, reviewing the concert for a Dresden newspaper. Wagner was outraged that the Beethoven was put on hold for Liszt's flashy solo.*

"We're not sure if Wagner attended a concert the following day at the Salle Pleyel, but any modern-day time traveler would probably want to stick around to hear Frederic Chopin give one of his rare Parisian recitals, performing, among other works, his own F-Major Ballade."  *In 1870 Liszt became Wagner's father-in-law."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beethoven at Heaven's Gate

Beth Levin, a fine NY pianist, last week played the final three sonatas in a piano showroom recital, and like Uchida in her concert at Carnegie that I caught a couple years back, she chose to perform them as a piece with little break in-between.  See a rave at the New Yorker this week. She's also written a fine piece just on opus 111, after opening with a poem.  For more on 111, see Jeremy Denk's take in our new book.  And as I wrote here recently, Sylvie Guillam's dance to 111 two weeks ago in NYC was astonishing.  Here's Levin: "That the ensuing theme and variations exist on paper is astonishing. So sublime an offering should have flown off to the heavens with barely an earthly trace....Beethoven might easily have ended in grandiose forte gestures, and yet the coda is played out in the softest of trills, seemingly to immerse the music in a cloud. The final measures reflect a poet’s wisdom."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Going Fourth: Film Preview #2

As I linked yesterday (see below), my co-author on our new Beethoven book, has started posting excerpts from his fabulous upcoming LvB documentary.  Today's segments cover the opening of the fourth movement of the 9th symphony--and the tragedy in Tiananmen Square, then on to Chile, and finally to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Film Preview

As I have written here, maybe half a dozen times, my co-author in our new Beethoven book, Kerry Candaele, has directed a remarkable film, Following the Ninth, coming out later this year.  (See link to the trailer elsewhere on the blog.)  Now he's posted an excerpt, that covers reactions to the 2nd movement of the Ninth Symphony and -- the subject of a chapter in our book -- the amazing phenomenon of the "Ode to Joy" sung everywhere in Japan every December. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Hairy Subject

I've read the book Beethoven's Hair about the saga of what's happened to various strands and what they may tell us about the man's passing.   A few weeks back here at the blog I covered the use of one such strand in a, yes, baseball card promotion.  But I've never seen the documetary on the subject.  Here's a clip:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Always a Marvelous Night for a "Moonlight"

As I relate in our new book, Andras Schiff's remarkable series of podcasts for The Guardian on all 32 piano sonatas really helped me truly "get" Beethoven a few years back, and one of the best was on the "Moonlight."  He debunks the "myths" around it and strongly states that he prefers Beethoven's directions as found on the manuscripts--for example, not the super-slow versions of the first movement today during which "you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and the poor pianist is still playing." Also, he claims Beethoven wanted the whole movement played with "pedals down."   Here is it:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Biss Creed

NYT's Steve Smith with review of Jonathan Biss recital today, featuring three Beethoven sonatas, as he starts his nine-CD recording cycle of all 32.  Steve was not thrilled with two of the three but said attention must be paid going forward.  I have seen, and linked in past to, Biss playing and also to his new e-book on daring to record the cycle.  And here is his recent chat on PBS about it:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Beethoven Wins a Pulitzer

Huff Post won its first Pulitzer yesterday (and first for any such online news org) just one hour after posting my piece on Beethoven and "Mad Men" on its front page.  Can't be coincidence.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Mad Men" Gets Beethoven-mania

Wow, what a surprise. A Beethoven-soaked "Man Men" tonight, believe it or not! First, Pete finally gets Don up to a dinner party at his house in the suburbs--and rocks LvB on his big new console stereo where it seems a "tiny orchestra" is playing. Living in Cos Cob in a house instead of a NYC apartment he can play it as loud as he wants, he boasts.  "Do you like the music?" he asks, and Don replies, "I do."

Then the episode ends with a voice over of Ken reading from a story he has written under a new pen name, relating to Beethoven's struggles  (before which Pete's humiliations  pale).  Finally, the opening of the Ninth's "Ode to Joy" section played over the credits. Proving, I dare say, what we probe in our new book--that Beethoven is everywhere in our culture today--as was apparently true in 1966.  And to think, that was the summer of Blonde on Blonde.

Here's clip of ending, transcript is:  "The Man with the Miniature Orchestra by Dave Algonquin. There were phrases of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony that still made Coe cry. He always thought it had to do with the circumstances of the composition itself. He imagined Beethoven deaf and soul-sick, his heart broken, scribbling furiously while Death stood in the doorway, clipping his nails.  Still, Coe thought, it might have been living in the country that was making him cry. It was killing him with its silence and loneliness - making everything ordinary, too beautiful to bear."

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

Happy to see that rarely-performed Mass in C Major to be featured at Mostly Mozart in NYC this summer (Missa Solemnis, after lag of two decades, has had three big appearances in past two years).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Book 'em, Denko

Delighted and surprised to see lead piece in NYT Book Review tomorrow written by...Jeremy Denk, who gets a whole chapter in our new book, based on my interview with him (and see item on his new CD below).   It's about a new about music in the natural world.  Here is link to the review, and podcast, online now.  Jeremy is really branching out, after his recent piece in The New Yorker.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Top of "The Ninth"

I have not featured here for months the film that essentially gave birth to this blog--not to mention my new book.  It's Following the Ninth, by my book co-author Kerry Candaele, it's to be released later this year, and here's the terrific trailer:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Beethoven Featured in Trailer for Book--My Own

Last year, even before finishing my book with Kerry Candaele on LvB, I was already using his music tied to another book.  It's the slow movement from the piano sonata no. 7, and the book is Atomic Cover-up.  The trailer has hit 97,000 views.

Nathan Finest

Nobody asked, but my favorite LvB violin interpreter is the great Nathan Milstein.  Not a lot of him and Ludwig on YouTube, but here's audio of one of his live takes on the Violin Concerto cadenza.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Denk Dials 1-1-1

Happy to report that New York's hottest pianist Jeremy Denk-- I interviewed him for a full chapter in our new book--just out with new album on Nonesuch  that features Ligeti and the hallowed LvB opus 111.  I have not heard the recording yet, but have caught Jeremy doing the 111 live a couple of times, just about my favorite versions.  Go here to see him perform it recently at WQXR marathon (also mentioned in our book).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Beethoven Meets Andy Warhol

In our new book, I call this the worst feature movie about LvB ever, and no wonder: It's directed by former Warhol stablemate, and '60s into '70s hack filmmaker, Paul Morrissey, and it's titled Beethoven's Nephew.  Worth a few yucks if you can stand it.  The whole damn thing is up at YouTube, here is opening:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Late for the Dance

Following up on attending the Sylvie Guillem dance classic (opus #111) at Lincoln Center on Saturday (see below), here are other dance interpretations of LvB's "Hammerklavier" and opuses #109 and #111.

And "Def" Before "Mos"

Since you vastly enjoyed the Hipster Beethoven art that I posted awhile back, I'll try again with these wall posters.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Beethoven in the Congo

"60 Minutes" tonight with segment that could have come right out of our new book -- unlikely orchestra and chorus formed in the Congo, climaxing with playing of, yes, the "Ode to Joy."  The first video is the full segment.  Below that is their web-only special on the Ninth.

Sylvie for Victory

Amazing dance program last night at Lincoln Center with the wondrous legend Sylvie Guillem doing LvB and more -- see below for background and video.  Good Financial Times review here.  Was afraid the opus 111 too mystical for this but actually tastefully done.  I'm sure most in crowd heard that piece (greatest ever for solo piano)  for first time ever.  Can't imagine what they thought, though friend we went with, Robert Jay Lifton, was astounded.

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

And for many, it is a special Sunday, so how else to mark it in this weekly feature but with LvB's under-played "Hallelujah" chorus?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Lore and the Dance

The NYT had major piece last Sunday on famed French ballet/dance star Sylvie Guillem coming to the city this week, and one of three pieces she will be doing is set to Beethoven's opus 111 piano sonata. Naturally, I have tix for tonight and heading out in a few minutes.  Somewhere she was quoted as saying that music has been all downhill since that, and she will get no argument from me. Anyway: Here is clip previewing the program, Sylvie dances the first and third pieces, with the LvB segment starting 1:25, as she dances Beethoven's so-called "invention of boogie woogie," a small but key part of the opus 111.

Friday, April 6, 2012

For Good Friday

And it's name is G-L-O-R-I-A. Ludwig Van the Man.

Bragg and Beethoven (and Berry)

As I've noted previously, a full chapter in our new book is devoted to Billy Bragg and his new libretto for the "Ode to Joy." We even posted Billy singing and explaining it here a day or two ago (see below). But until today I didn't know there was video out there of Billy doing "Roll Over, Beethoven." And it's at an Occupy event.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

'Fugue' for Thought

We recently brought you an orchestral version of the first movement of Beethoven's opus 131 string quartet--which Leonard Bernstein called his favorite recording.  Now here's a similar rarity: Klemperer conducting another string quartet movement with orchestra -- the revolutionary "Grosse Fugue." Still "modern" nearly 200 years later.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Boy on The Hood

Better than a Mercedes for sure. Source site. (h/t @_Saladinho_)

Billy Bragg's Ode to Joy in L.A.

In our new book there's a full chapter on Billy Bragg and his writing a new libretto for Beethoven's Ninth.  My co-author Kerry Candaele produced the premiere of the new version in the USA in a gala concert in L.A.   Here's an excerpt shot by Kerry which includes a solo piano version of the Ninth and then Billy comes on about 13 minutes in, sings a tune, talks about his new libretto, sings it and leads a singalong.

Beethoven Bragg Concert Part 2 from kerry candaele on Vimeo.

Monday, April 2, 2012

10th Symphony Freeze-Out

NPR always concocts an elaborate April Fool's segment, done with straight face, and this year our hero gets the star treatment--with the discovery of his much hoped for 10th Symphony.   Some commenters have already complained that it is a bit TOO subtle.  The NY Phil's Alan Gilbert plays along.  Much more on current Beethovenmania in the U.S. in our new book.

Huston, We Have a 'Kreutzer' Film

Having recently read Tolstoy's novella "The Kreutzer Sonata," and seen the acclaimed play off-Broadway last month (and written about it twice here), I was shocked to discover over the weekend that a Kreutzer Sonata film appeared a year or two ago, starring Danny Huston and Anjelica Huston, and directed by Bernard Rose--who also gave us the troubled Immortal Beloved--and it's even on Netflix streaming.  Will let you know more when I see it but for now the trailer:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

Continuing our weekly feature, for Palm Sunday,  actual church music, one of LvB's most beautfiul movements, the Kyrie from the (too often ignored) Mass in C Major.