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Thursday, 05 October 2017


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Excellent article, David, and very entertaining. It's always a regret that recording came along too late to capture the great historical figures of music.

Glad you enjoyed it, Mike, but can you imagine attending that first performance of Beethoven's Fifth?

Gerald Elias's points are all good. Anyone interested can find famous pieces of classical music performed on reproductions of period instruments in "original" style. I've bought a few myself and always found them disappointing. Modern instruments and techniques are simply better than what could be achieved 200 years ago.

Here's the 5th performed on period instruments, but by players with much higher average skill than those of Ludwig's time. Judge for yourself:

At the time of the Great Composers like Mozart and Beethoven, wasn't it widely believed among the Upper Crust musical experts that the common person was incapable of hearing, much less comprehending, the complexities and subtleties of the Great Composers?

Bob et al.,

On the other hand, the first performance of Beethoven's 9th was sensational:

"When the audience applauded—testimonies differ over whether at the end of the scherzo or symphony—Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting. Because of that, the contralto Caroline Unger walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience's cheers and applause. According to one witness, "the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention, and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them." The audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven, who could not hear the applause, could at least see the ovations." -- Wikipedia
Oh to have seen that event!


The 9th wasn't universally praised during its time:

...with its mysterious opening, pounding Scherzo and magnificent hymn known as "Ode to Joy," Beethoven's Ninth was not a runaway best seller when it was first performed in 1824 and even throughout the 19th Century.

"Monstrous," thundered a respected critic of Beethoven's day.

"...very much like Yankee Doodle," sniffed a Providence, R.I. newspaper in 1868.

"Unspeakable cheapness," declared Boston's Musical Record in 1899.

I couldn't find it searching the web, but remember reading about a critic of his time describing Beethoven's music sounding like a bag full of hammers falling down stairs. You can't please everyone.

The material above is from:

When it comes to musical criticism I have already issued a caveat in the admission that I am none to clear as to the difference between a crotchet and a quaver! Even so, I will dare to aim one tiny piece of lèse-majesté in the direction of Herr Beethoven. Is he not, sometimes, a tad repetitive? Just when you think he has come to the end of a passage, suddenly he's off again and then again, and then yet again!

Jes' sayin'!


I would say Ravel's "Bolero" is a bit repetitive. Big Ludwig, not so much.


“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. -- Big Abe

Repetitive? To an extent, yes, but you have to bear in mind that he was writing for a time when people could only hear a work once with probably a long interval before they got to hear it again. Perhaps our lives are filled with so much stuff that we resent anything that goes on a bit, even if most of what we do is pretty inconsequential.

Don't misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that Ludwig resorted to constant use of ostinato, only that in some passages, just when you think it has reached a climax - suddenly he's off again! I almost get the impression that he's loving that theme so much he can't bear to let it go!

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