Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Pastoral Solo

As I've posted more than once here--and highlight in our new book--I am a huge fan of Glenn Gould's rendition of the wonderful Liszt piano transcription of The Pastoral symphony.  Others prefer the Katsaris versions of all nine symphonies.  So, on a nice spring day, here's how Katsaris kicks of Symphony No. 6 (more rapidly than Gould).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Unbearable Rightness of Seeing

Milan Kundera, from The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, where the narrator's father excitedly claimed to have finally understood a Beethoven variation: "I knew what he wanted to talk about, of course. He had been involved with the topic a long time. Beethoven had felt a sudden attachment to the variation form toward the end of his life. At first glance it might seem the most superficial of forms, a showcase for technique, the type of work better suited to a lacemaker than to Beethoven. But Beethoven made it one of the most distinguished forms (for the first time in the history of music) and imbued it with some of his finest meditations.

"True, all that is well known. But what Father wanted to know was, what we are to make of it? Why did he choose choose variations? What lay behind his choice? That is why he called me into his room, pointed to the music, and said, 'Now I know!'"

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Real Page Turner

Some of you may know that Tim Page is one of the leading writers about classical music (not to mention Glenn Gould and Dawn Powell) of our time, starting with The New York Times, then as a Pulitzer winner at the Washington Post before his recent move to Los Angeles and a top teaching gig there.  And a good guy.  So we are especially pleased to reveal that he has written a nice blurb for our new book:  "A passionate, deeply felt and altogether personal account of coming to Beethoven in middle age, after a lifetime's immersion in other musical forms. They understand Beethoven's eternal wildness: As well as we may think we know this composer, he constantly surprises and reinvigorates us."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Gance, from Napoleon to Beethoven

A few months back I brought you a couple of scenes from famed film director Abel Gance's biopic about Beethoven in the 1930s.  I mentioned that I had seen the restored version of his wildly inventive silent epic Napoleon in its celebrated run at Radio City Music Hall back in 1981.   Of course, Beethoven had his own Napoleon complex, dedicating the Eroica to him and then scratching it out when his "hero" declared himself emperor.  Below: another scene from the Gance portrait of LvB.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

We usually don't take the church part seriously here, but can't resist this unusual vid of part of Beethoven's Mass in C Major, performed in a church in Westchester County, NY, with the only accompaniment by Anthony Newman--the famous Bach interpreter--on organ.  Added note:  I was there and the back of my head shows up in videos (the entire Mass is on YouTube).

Friday, January 25, 2013

When Dick Clark Met 'Beethoven'

Here's the wildest, most star-studded version of "Roll Over, Beethoven," ever, billed as "Dick Clark's All-Star Band" from the 1970s, with to name just a few: Chuck Berry as star (natch),  Pointer Sjsters, Johnny Rivers, Steve Cropper,  Les McCann,  Doc Severinson, Greg Allman,  Chuck Mangione, Seals & Crofts, Donald Byrd, and more. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Beethoven Festival 2013 Coming!

Excited to announce that I will serve as co-host and curator of a unique, year-long Beethoven festival based in Nyack, N.Y.  (home of the well-regarded Carnegie Concerts series) but appealing to fans throughout  upstate New York, NYC, New Jersey and Connecticut. 

In fact, it is titled "Journeys With Beethoven," after my new book with Kerry Candaele.  It will  include dozens of concerts, film showings, a Marathon at the Mall,  and (we hope) a massive choral sing-out in the park, a rocking Beethoven-palooza, dance, a theater piece, events for (and recitals by) young folks,  poetry and literary readings, and much, much more.   I'm assisting Yashar Yaslowitz, who does a great job with the  weekly Carnegie series at Nyack Library, but seeking broad community input.  We're marking the 100th anniversary of the first symphonic recording--naturally, Beethoven's Fifth.

The festival kicks off on Feb. 4 with a free event--the first of monthly get-togethers ("meet-ups with music," we call them)  focused on Beethoven, each one with a discussion, live performances, film excerpts and guests, at Nyack Library.  This first one will be vital, as we solicit ideas from creative artists and others in the community.  Then a Rivertown screening in Nyack on Feb. 13 of the terrific A Late Quartet, with a panel (including well-known former members of quartets) to follow.   The first two concerts at the library in the festival are March 2 and March 23.  Later: the complete string quartets, Diabelli variations, and Choral Fantasy, all live-streamed nationally and internationally.

And throughout: full public participation.  Organize your own event or  join in with their own Beethoven music, playing and singing and dancing.   So stay (well) tuned!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Barenboim and Beethoven

UPDATE Thursday:  NYT reviews the first concert at Carnegie.

Earlier:  Fine, lengthy piece at The Guardian awhile back on Daniel Barenboim prepping to play all 9 symphonies at The Proms in London this summer, with his famous Israeli-Arab "Divan" orchestra.  We have a good deal on Barenboim, his views on LvB and work with Edward Said, in our new Beethoven book.  He will bring the orchestra to Carnegie also doing the complete Ludwig next week, and I will, of course, be there for the 2nd and 9th symphonies. Trailer below:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Flash Mobbing Beethoven

Amazing video of local orchestra, last year,  in a kind of "flash mob" approach playing the "Ode to Joy" in a square in Spain. Promoted by bank to mark 130th anniversary or something. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

One of LvB's most underrated sonatas, here from Daniel Barenboim (who I'll be seeing two weeks from today doing The Ninth with West-East Divan at Carnegie).

Friday, January 18, 2013

Putting Up My 'Archduke'

This may now be my favorite version of "The Archduke," which is saying something.   Pianist Jeremy Denk, who I interviewed for my Beethoven book, and knows a thing or two about all this, calls this movement his favorite music in the world--"the holiest of holies."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Beethoven Rules!

WQXR, the famous and influential classical music station in NYC, does an annual listener poll ranking (and then playing) the greatest 100 compositions of all time.  This year, no shock (to this listener), my man Beethoven took six of the top ten slots, with symphonies 3,5,6,7 and 9 and the "Emperor" piano concerto, including three of the top four.  My #1 pick, and theirs (and enjoy our book): 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

My weekly featuring, this time with the final movement of his string quartet no. 6--also the final movement of his first opus grouping of six quartets.  It truly pointed the way to all that followed in his quartet writing.  As always, if interested, check out my Beethoven book.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

As I noted last week, I am reading the new book on LvB's Fifth Symphony, so to continue that theme, here is a bit of Leonard Bernstein's famous TV special on this from the 1950s (I think all of it is at YouTube somewhere).