Thursday, February 14, 2013

Joni Mitchell's Valentine for Ludwig

Perhaps her greatest love song? Certainly, at moment, and perhaps others, her immortal beloved.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Gould Gets a Grammy

One has to wonder what took so long, but Glenn Gould will finally get his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammy folks tomorrow--and my friend Tim Page will be accepting for him.   The Great (Eccentric) One:

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

It may surprise you to learn (if you don't know) that the late Leonard Bernstein once said in a documentary--I have seen it--that if he could take only one of his recorded works to heaven with him when he died it would not be a symphony or concerto, by himself or others, or one of his famous theater pieces, but his orchestral version of Beethoven's string quartet opus 131, with the Vienna Philharmonic.  I always wondered if that was just a flip remark, but today in the NYT there's a grief report on a new book that collects one of Lenny's last interviews, with Jonathan Cott, in which he repeats this.  Perhaps this will show why:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Beethoven Welcomes 'Spring'

Researching Journeys With Beethoven, I was amazed to find famed conductor Lorin Maazel not only using Twitter but taking questions there.  So I asked: What's your single favorite movement of a Beethoven piece? His wonderful answer, from Violin Sonata No. 5,  also known as the "Spring" sonata,  is found below--a surprise, however, since it's not orchestral. But it is one of the great 'Spring' treats.

The Beatles Have a Message for Ludwig

As I've noted, we feature recordings of our title tune from time to time, from the creator himself, Mr. Chuck Berry on down.  Now here is vintage live recording of The Beatles with their version, featuring George on vocal and rocking guitar. 

For Valentine's Day: One of the Great Love Letters

Of course, we refer to the famous LvB note to his "Immortal Beloved." The mystery in identifying the woman has provided scholars with one of the great pursuits of our era, still not quite resolved.  Unfortunately, the movie Immortal Beloved, starring Gary Oldman as Ludwig, came up with a ludicrous guess (no spoiler here) but this scene has two things going for it:  Oldman reciting part of the letter and one of the most beautiful pieces ever  (also featured in The King's Speech, see below) on the soundtrack.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Paul Lewis Goes 4th

Always loved this little interview with the great Paul Lewis, talking about playing all of LvB's piano concertos, with special emphasis on how to get the opening of the Fourth right.  Yes, I've seen him do the fourth at Avery Fisher and will see Helene Grimaud do it there next month.

The Great Piano Throw Down!

Probably my favorite two dozen notes in all of music (along with the opening of "Like a Rolling Stone") are the ones that come at the very beginning of LvB's Piano Concerto No. 4.  As many know, they were also revolutionary in their time--the mere thought of opening a concerto with a solo passage!  Somehow, in researching our new book, I came across this three-minute video at YouTube which collects the very varied renditions of those few notes by several famous pianists, including Schnabel, Arrau, Gould,  and Aimard. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013


 John Belushi as Beethoven / Ray Charles.  That deaf and blind boy, can he also play pinball?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lenny on Ludwig

Terrific excerpt from a Leonard Bernstein talk at Harvard, as he plays a bit of Ludwig on piano (starting with call and response from sonata no. 18) and discusses "expressive" music and its "metaphorical language."Communicating "the unknowable."

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Ninth for the Ages

I posted below more than once  about the cycle of Beethoven symphonies this past week at Carnegie Hall, with Daniel Barenboim leading his remarkable West-Eastern Orchestra of mainly Arab and Israeli young musicians.  I was fortunate enough to attend yesterday's concluding concert, featuring the 2nd and 9th symphonies, and it was incredible.  It was one of the greatest Ninths I've seen (the two middle movements especially fine), and the love from the audience rarely seen.  If you missed it over WQXR, here is how they did the finale, in London at the Proms last summer.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Beethoven-on-Hudson Festival Begins!

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 Concert 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, and much, much more.   I'm assisting Yashar Yaslowitz, who does a great job with the successful Carnegie series.   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. We even have a Meetup page.

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, joining in with their own Beethoven music, playing and singing and dancing.   So stay (well) tuned!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Colbert Meets Beethoven

Amazing, from last night, with author of that new book (which I've read, of course), on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.