Wednesday, 31 December 2008

219. Franz Schubert - Violin Sonata in A major (1817)

















Recording

Title: The Intimate Schubert
Performers: Josef Suk, Jan Panenka
Year: 1962
Length: 18 minutes

Review

Schubert is a master of the chamber work, this will be particularly obvious later in his unfortunately short career. Still you can see the beginning of his amazing chamber compositions here.

This is a light and delightful Violin sonata, playful and unpretentious. In this way it reminds me of his fifth Symphony. This is Happy Schubert, before Syphilitic Schubert which is just before Moribund Schubert. Of the three stages he was feeling chirpier at the Happy stage.

Schubert innovates here as well, however, the Scherzo comes right after the first movement and before the Andantino! Shock! Well, it may seem a small thing but it alters the sound structure of the whole piece, and any thing going against convention is interesting.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

In the last year of his life he began to receive wider acclaim. He died at the age of 31, apparently of complications from syphilis. Bummer.

First Movement:


Tuesday, 30 December 2008

218. Nicolo Paganini - Twenty-four Caprices (1817)




















Recording

Title: 24 Caprices for Solo Violin
Performer: Massimo Quarta
Year: 2002
Length: 1 hour 19 minutes

Review

The name Paganini is synonymous with virtuoso violin playing, a lot of that fame really rests on these 24 caprices and it is easy to see why. Each of the pieces is a masterclass in violin playing.

This means however, that sometimes the composition and the melody are sacrificed on the altar of virtuosism, making about half the caprices not very interesting. Fortunately the other half marry extremely impressive playing with beautiful music.

The last caprice is by far the most famous, nut not the only amazing piece here, the 3rd, 5th and 21st are up there on my list as well. It ends up in the end being slightly hit and miss, although I like virtuosism it is a pity that at times the collection is not more than that, but when it is it is truly impressive.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia


From Wikipedia:

Caprice No. 24 in A minor is the final caprice of Niccolò Paganini's 24 Caprices, and a famous work for solo violin. The work, in the key of A minor, consists of a theme, 11 variations, and a finale.
It is widely considered one of the most difficult pieces written for the solo violin. It requires many highly advanced techniques such as parallel octaves and rapid shifting covering many intervals, extremely fast scales and arpeggios including minor scales in thirds and tenths, left hand pizzicato, high positions, and quick string crossing. As a result, most violinists even after studying for many years still lack the technique required for such a demanding piece.

Perlman plays Caprice 1, 5 and 24:


Monday, 22 December 2008

217. Franz Schubert - Symphony no. 5 (1816)


















Recording

Title: Symphonien nos. 5 & 9
Performers: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Director: Eugen Jochum
Year: 1957
Length: 40 minutes

Review

This is the first Schubert symphony on the list and it is also a lovely one. Schubert by putting aside all instruments which make harsh sounds, from timpani to brass makes a whole work of delightful lightness.

It is easy to see Schubert as a continuation of Beethoven when it comes to symphonic music, but his bucolic strain is much stronger than that in Beethoven. This symphony is a complete delight particularly the two first movements.

The famous first movement is playful and catchy and the second is a long movement of immense melodic beauty. Slow and romantic without being maudlin, it invokes a sense of bucolic peace. And Schubert was only 19!

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Scored for a pair of each woodwind instrument, except clarinet, along with two horns in B♭ and E♭ and strings, the instrumentation is light as clarinets, trumpets and timpani are not called for. The first movement is a slightly unusual sonata form since the recapitulation begins, as in the first movement of Mozart’s sonata facile, in the subdominant, not in the main key of the piece as is more usual.

First Movement:


Sunday, 21 December 2008

216. Gioachino Rossini - The Barber of Seville (1816)

















Recording

Title: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Performers: Cecilia Bartoli, Enrico Fissore
Director: Giuseppe Patanè
Year: 1989
Length: 2 hours 30 minutes

Review

Rossini is the master of the recycled music, and this being his third opera on the list you start to notice it more and more. He is pretty good at it, however. Still, his operas always feel a bit to "lowest common demoninator" for true greatness.

If you compare with with Mozart's Nozze di Figaro, of which this is a prequel, the level of the humour and musical composition is pretty inferior here, even taking into account the musical evolution between the two.

Still this is a perfectly enjoyable opera with some big stand out moments, Rossini is actually better in the solo arias here than in the ensemble pieces, hence the great Largo al Factotum or Una Voce poco fa. Good, but not amazing in any particular way.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The overture and Largo al factotum have been famously parodied in animated cartoons starring Woody Woodpecker (The Barber of Seville), Bugs Bunny (Rabbit of Seville and Long-Haired Hare), Porky Pig and Daffy Duck (You Ought to Be in Pictures), Tom and Jerry (The Cat Above and the Mouse Below), and The Simpsons ("The Homer of Seville"), as well as in Tex Avery's Magical Maestro and Warner Bros.' One Froggy Evening.

Largo al factotum is sung by a moustached baritone, a stop-motion animated clay figure, in the opening credits of the 1991 film Oscar, and by an animated bird in the opening credits of the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire.

The overture is played during the end credits of the Beatles film Help!.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

215. Nicollo Paganini - Violin Concertos nos. 1-6 (1815-30)


















Recording

Title: Accardo Plays Paganini, Complete Recordings
Performers: Salvatore Accardo, London Philharmonic Orchestra
Director: Charles Dutoit
Year: 1974-76
Length: 3 hours

Review

Here's the violin concertos by Paganini. If Paganini is famous for something it is his extremely complex and show-offy violin technique and these concertos put it to great use. The violin playing by Accardo is exceptional.

With show-offy pieces comes some criticism about technique over music, in this case however, Paganini manages to marry both pretty well and the music is constantly interesting even if the highlights are the solo parts.

Of the six concertos the first two are the highlights, they are stupendously impressive pieces that deserve to be enjoyed. Paganini has quite a good grasp of melody, and the things he does with that violin are pretty novel.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The first exhaustive exploration of violin technique was found in the 24 caprices of Pietro Locatelli (1693-1746) which, at the time of writing, proved to be too difficult to play, although they are now quite playable. Rudimentary usage of harmonics and left hand pizzicato could be found in the works of Auguste Durand, who allegedly developed the techniques. While it was questionable whether Paganini pioneered many of these violinistic effects that defined his music, it was certain that his mastery of these techniques was instrumental in popularizing their use in regular compositions.

Another aspect of Paganini's violin techniques concerned his flexibility. He had exceptionally long fingers and was capable of playing three octaves across four strings in a hand span, a feat that is still considered impossible by today's standards. His seemingly unnatural ability might have been a result of Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Cadenza of the first movement of the first concerto by Accardo:


Sunday, 14 December 2008

214. Ludwig van Beethoven - Cello Sonatas, op. 102 (1815)














Recording

Title: Complete Music for Piano and Violoncello
Performers: Miklos Perenyi, Andras Schiff
Year: 2001-02
Length: 32 minutes

Review

These two last Cello sonatas are quite impressive pieces, but really the whole recording of the complete works for Cello and Piano is worth listening to. Of the five Cello Sonatas that Beethoven composed the third is probably the best but as a set op. 102 is really something impressive.

The performances are great as always here, the interplay between the instruments being quite impressive. Traditionally Cello sonatas were a showpiece for the Cello while the Piano worked as more of a continuo instrument, but with Beethoven the Piano obviously gets a more prominent place.

So you should really listen to this and moreover you should listen to all the pieces in this album, the other Cello sonatas and the quite fun variation on Mozart's Zauberflote songs are also pretty impressive and worthy of anyone's time.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

A cello sonata usually denotes a sonata written for cello and piano, though other instrumentations are used, such as solo cello. The most famous Romantic-era cellos sonatas are those written by Johannes Brahms and Ludwig van Beethoven. Some of the earliest cello sonatas were written in the 18th century by Francesco Geminiani and Antonio Vivaldi.

Rostropovitch and Richter play the first part of the last sonata:


Thursday, 11 December 2008

213. Franz Schubert - Lieder (1814-28)


















Recording

Title: An Die Musik
Performers: Bryn Terfel, Malcolm Martineau
Year: 1994
Length: 1 hour 10 minutes


Review

If you want a representative collection of Schubert's songs you could go much worse than this collection. Bryn Terfel does a great job of portraying the necessary emotion, in the days before he went all pop/classical, the downfall of so many classical singers.

The selection of song here is great, and if we previously saw Loewe as the "Schubert of North Germany", this is the real Schubert, no one is as good as him in Lieder in the 19th century.

The songs here run the gamut from very still and beautiful like Litanie auf das Fest Allerseelen to the horrific like Erlkonig and even the joyful such as Die Forelle. Each song is a little gem here, it is a pity I don't know enough German to enjoy the tracks completely but the musical content is more than enough to excite.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Four characters — narrator, father, son, and the Erlking — are all sung by one vocalist normally, but the work has been performed by four separate singers on occasion. Schubert has placed each character in largely a different vocal range and each has his own rhythmic nuances; in addition, most vocalists endeavor to use a different vocal color for each one.

The Narrator lies in the middle range and is in minor mode.

The Father lies in the low range and sings both in minor mode and major mode

The Son lies in a high range, also in minor mode, representing the fright of the child.

The Erlking's vocal line undulates up and down to arpeggiated accompaniment resulting in striking contrast and is in the major mode. The Erlking lines are typically sung pianissimo, portraying a sneaky persuasiveness.

Fischer Dieskau does Erlkonig with subtitles:





Wednesday, 10 December 2008

212. Ludwig van Beethoven - Fidelio (1814)


















Recording

Title: Fidelio
Performers: Christa Ludwig, Jon Vickers
Director: Otto Klemperer
Year: 1962
Length: 1 hour 50 minutes

Review

The plot of this, the only Beethoven opera, is mildly interesting, a rescue opera where the hero is saved by his disguised wife. There is an interesting political content to it, being about political prisoners and freedom of speech, a level of plot not apparent before in opera. Other than that we can kind of forget about the plot.

What really matters in this opera is the music, and the music is amazing. This is none of your italianate operas, the music is pure Beethoven, no compromises are made here to fit the style of Opera popular at the time. It is daring, innovative, powerful and beautiful.

When you start listening to the opera you immediately notice how different it is, the duets and particularly the first quartet are immediately impactful, and from then on it just gets more and more musically interesting. The orchestral use is as good as in any of Beethoven's orchestral works, the instruments reinforce the feelings expressed by the singers, there is no compromise here. The chorus of the prisoners seeing the sunlight is an amazing piece, full of tenderness and power. This is a new kind of opera, and something pretty unique, it makes you think what Beethoven could have done as an opera composer, had he decided to spend more time in it.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Beethoven struggled to produce an appropriate overture for Fidelio, and ultimately went through four versions. His first attempt, for the 1805 premiere, is believed to have been the overture now known as Leonore No. 2. Beethoven then focused this version for the performances of 1806, creating Leonore No. 3. The latter is considered by many listeners as the greatest of the four overtures, but as an intensely dramatic, full-scale symphonic movement it had the defect of overwhelming the (rather light) initial scenes of the opera. Beethoven accordingly experimented with cutting it back somewhat, for a planned 1807 performance in Prague; this is believed to be the version now called Leonore No. 1. Finally, for the 1814 revival Beethoven began anew, and with fresh musical material wrote what we now know as the Fidelio overture. As this somewhat lighter overture seems to work best of the four as a start to the opera, Beethoven's final intentions are generally respected in contemporary productions.

Gustav Mahler introduced the practice, common until the middle of the twentieth century, of performing Leonore No. 3 between the two scenes of the second act, and some conductors eg Leonard Bernstein still perform it there. In this location, it acts as a kind of musical reprise of the rescue scene that has just taken place. A new, modern-styled production that premiered in Budapest in October 2008, for example, features the Leonore 3 overture in this location.

The first quartet of the opera:


Monday, 8 December 2008

211. Louis Spohr - Nonet in F Major (1813)


















Recording

Title: Wiener Oktett Testament
Performers: Wiener Oktett
Year: 1952
Length: 33 minutes

Review

Louis (or Ludwig) Spohr is not a household name today, in his time however he was as big as Beethoven, in fact throughout the 19th century he was a pretty big name. This nonet shows us why.

Spohr is a composer of very attractive music, which is also pretty complex and quite beautiful, the fact that he is overshadowed by Beethoven and Schubert is, however, quite justified.

Spohr seems to lack that ineffable quality of genius present in those other composers and even though the music is very attractive and beautiful it seems to lack that certain something. Still, it is a great piece even if it ends up being somewhat more of a curiosity. Worth listening to, however.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Spohr was a noted violinist, and invented the violin chinrest, about 1820. He was also a significant conductor, being one of the first to use a baton and also inventing rehearsal letters, which are placed periodically throughout a piece of sheet music so that a conductor may save time by asking the orchestra or singers to start playing "from letter C", for example).

In addition to musical works, Spohr is remembered particularly for his Violinschule, a treatise on violin playing which codified many of the latest advances in violin technique, such as the use of spiccato. In addition, he wrote an entertaining and informative autobiography, published posthumously in 1860. A museum is devoted to his memory in Kassel.

Spohr's best works are his wistful, elegiac minor-mode first movements, hailed by many of his contemporaries as quintessentially Romantic and inherited by Mendelssohn; his deft scherzos whose influence was felt as late as Brahms; his expressive slow movements with their chromatic alterations which, on occasion, become cloyingly sentimental; and his light-hearted finales which are able to avoid the trap of trivial thematic material

None of the Nonet online, but a sonet for harp and violin:


Sunday, 7 December 2008

210. Gioachino Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri (1813)

















Recording

Title: L'italiana in Algeri
Performers: Jennifer Lamore, Raul Gimenez, John del Carlo, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne
Director: Jesus Lopes-Cobos
Year: 1997
Length: 2 hours 20 minutes

Review

Another Rossini opera, this one more in the tradition of opera buffa than seria, and it ends up being a particularly silly opera, in good Rossini style. The plot is pretty silly to the point of incredibly kitsch, peppered with xenophobia and Italian nationalism.

Still, it is quite entertaining, the music is at times pretty great, although you can hear Rossini recycling himself again and again and at times even borrowing from Mozart with whose
Die Entführung aus dem Serail this opera shares great plot and musical similarities. Actually Mozart's opera is smarter, depicts foreigners much more kindly and is of course more original.

In the end it is very enjoyable, however. I am not sure I could call it great art, but it is catchy, funny at times and very immature in its humour. At times it seems like it was written by a prepubescent boy, particularly the whole Pappataci scene. Still, it entertains.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia


From Wikipedia:

Rossini composed L'Italiana in Algeri when he was 21. The opera was composed in either 18 or 27 days, depending on which source one believes (Rossini, not surprisingly, pegged it at 18). It was a notable success and he made progressive changes to the work for later performances in Vicenza, Milan and Naples, during the following two years. The opera is notable for Rossini's mixing of opera seria style in opera buffa. The overture is widely recorded and performed today, known for its distinct opening of slow, quiet pizzicato basses, leading to a sudden loud burst of sound from the full orchestra. This "surprise" hearkens an early admiration for Joseph Haydn, whose Symphony No. 94 in G major "The Surprise Symphony" is so named for the same shocking, semi-comic affect.

The very silly, albeit musically impressive end of the first act:


Thursday, 4 December 2008

209. Gioachino Rossini - Tancredi (1813)






















Recording

Title: Tancredi
Performers: Ewa Podels, Sumi, Jo, Stanford Olsen, Pietro Spagnoli, Capella Brugensis, Collegium Instrumentale Brugense
Director: Alberto Zedda
Year: 1994
Length: 2 hours 27 minutes

Review

Here is the first of many Rossini operas on the list and interestingly it is not a comedy. Rossini is known first and foremost for his comical and farcical operas, this is, uncharacteristically, an opera seria.

This particular recording, which is great value for money as it is a cheap Naxos recording has the less common happy ending to the story. The version I saw on DVD had the quite revolutionary for the time sad ending of the revised edition by Rossini. Frankly I prefer the sad ending, but that is also because most of the characters are a bit annoying.

The plot is the same thing we have seen countless times, a drama based on mistakes which take far to long to be put right and could have been put right by one of the characters saying: "Uh, sorry, the letter was for you, not the other guy". Beyond that, however, Rossini is a composer of extremely attractive and catchy music, the arias of Amenaide in prison are great for example, the use of choirs is also great and is something that Italians would use and abuse throughout the 19th century. It feels quite new, which is possibly because there have been so many years since we've had an opera here. Still, if you compare it to Mozart's operas it has a very weak plot and the music, though beautiful, pales... but we can't compare the two. Rossini is still thoroughly enjoyable.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

This opera is considered by Stendhal, Rossini's earliest biographer, to be Rossini's greatest masterpiece. The title role of Tancredi is so demanding that casting was a big problem. It requires a true contralto or mezzo soprano with strong lower register who possesses great vocal agility and endurance (Tancredi has 2 full arias and 4 duets). The opera premiered in 1813 at La Fenice in Venice with Adelaide Malanotte in the title role. Tancredi was usually performed with the Venice (happy) ending.

Di Tanti Palpiti:


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

208 Carl Loewe - Ballads (1812-16)


















Recording

Title: Balladen und Lieder
Performers: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Jorg Demus
Year: 1969,71,82
Length: 34 minutes

Review

From this very good double album of Lieder by Carl Loewe the guys who made the list selected the Ballads as a highlight. That they are, but there are also other good lieder to get from this recording. Still I'll stick to talking about the Ballads.

There are 8 Ballads here, all of which show a pretty interesting range of emotions, Fischer-Dieskau is also pretty great at giving the different emotional intonations to the songs.

I have always been a bit ambivalent about Lieder, they start off by boring me and as they sink in I start liking them, the same happens with Schubert lieder, they need some familiarity to really get under your skin. It is on occasions like this, however that I wish I knew German to understand what exactly is being sung here. But hey, still pretty good music. Loewe is interesting, not as good as Schubert, but we'll get there.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

In his lifetime, his songs were well enough known for some to call him the "Schubert of North Germany", and Hugo Wolf came to admire his work. He is less known today, but a number of his 400 or so songs are still occasionally performed.

Hard to find, but here's a Loewe lied:


Monday, 1 December 2008

207. Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony no. 8 (1812)

















Recording

Title: The Nine Symphonies
Performers: Staatskapelle Berlin
Director: Daniel Barenboim
Year: 1999
Length: 26 minutes

Review

The 8th symphony is a bit of a lull for Beethoven between the exuberance of the seventh and the sheer greatness of the ninth. Still there are things to like here, the aggressiveness of the first movement, the jokey second movement and just the general variety of styles.

The last Beethoven symphonies have all come in quick succession, now we will have to wait a bit for the next one, but Beethoven was really happy with this composition. I don't rally understand why he would cherish this eighth symphony over his previous ones, but hey, I'm not Beethoven.

So another great symphony by the man, but not as great as the last five, in my humble opinion. Maybe as great as the fourth... well they are still all amazingly good, they are symphonies by Beethoven, after all.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Critics immediately noted that the Eighth did not reach the heights of its predecessor, launching a long tradition of complaining that the Eighth Symphony is not something different (more heroic, more emotive) from what it is. However, many listeners seem to be able to enjoy the symphony anyway, and it appears frequently today on concert programs as well as on recordings. When asked by his pupil Carl Czerny why the Eighth was less popular than the Seventh, Beethoven is said to have replied "because the Eighth is so much better."

Again Karajan doesn't disappoint:


Sunday, 30 November 2008

206. Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony no.7 (1812)


















Recording

Title: Symphonien Nos. 6 & 7
Performers: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Director: Carlos Kleiber
Year: 1974
Length: 39 minutes

Review

Possibly one of the cheeriest of Beethoven's symphonies, right next to the sixth, the seventh has a more dancy feel, particularly noticeable in the second part of the first movement.

One of the great things about Beethoven's works is the variety of emotion that they express and here you get that with the very famous and almost funereal second movement, following the exuberance of the first movement, the contrast is great.

So, this is Beethoven's great exploration of rhythm in music, as always it is a beautiful work and even if it does not rate in the top five of his symphonies it is still pretty amazing. This recording has been here before with the recommended recording for the fifth symphony, so you should really get it.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The work was premiered in Vienna on December 8, 1813 at a charity concert for soldiers wounded in the Battle of Hanau, with Beethoven himself conducting and double featured with the patriotic Wellington's Victory symphony. The orchestra was led by Beethoven's friend, Ignaz Schuppanzigh, and included some of the finest musicians of the day: violinist Louis Spohr, Johann Hummel, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Antonio Salieri, Anton Romberg, and the Italian double bass virtuoso, Domenico Dragonetti, who Beethoven himself described as playing "with great fire and expressive power". The piece was very well received, and the allegretto had to be encored. Spohr made particular mention of Beethoven's antics on the rostrum ("as a sforzando occurred, he tore his arms with a great vehemence asunder ... at the entrance of a forte he jumped in the air"), and the concert would inevitably be repeated due to its immense success.

Herbert von Karajan:


Saturday, 29 November 2008

205. Carl Maria von Weber - Clarinet Concertos nos. 1 & 2 (1811)


















Recording

Title: Weber/Crusell Clarinet Concertos
Performers: Antony Pay, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Year: 1987
Length: 44 minutes

Review

Carl Maria von Weber makes some flashy Clarinet concertos indeed and they are pretty great precisely because of that. He is not afraid of making a bit of a show off piece for the instrument, just look at the coda of the first movement of the first concerto, it's really exciting music.

It could, of course, be criticised for it's lack of subtlety, but Weber is also a really original composer and his music is perfectly integrated into the Romantic period and it is even forward looking.

This is how you do show off pieces, basically, you are good at composing, you make some original, interesting music, you have some great melodies and over that you put the virtuosistic playing, Weber doesn't make it live solely of virtuosism, that is just one more thing to excite the ears. I do love the clarinet as well, beautiful instrument.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

On the first movement of the first concerto:

This movement was very innovative for its time by sounding as if it were composed by a later composer, Felix Mendelssohn. It starts with the cellos playing the main theme later being followed with an explosion by the whole orchestra. The violins pick up the melody which eventually progresses, subsides, and clears the stage for the solo clarinet. The soloist begins with a painful song marked "con duolo". The clarinetist performs variants on that source which later results in a determined run played by the solo instrument. After that climax, the music dies off with the clarinet mourning a line marked "morendo". A grand pause enters which provides transition for the return of the cellos stating the main theme, but this time in the key of A-flat major rather than F minor. The soloist enters shortly afterward with a sweet response. The clarinet keeps playing a delicate melody then descends down towards the lower tones with a marking which reads "perdendosi", which tells the player to decrease in speed and sound. Then the tutti arrives singing a sweet, innocent melody. The clarinet reenters shortly after, still playing in a lighter mood than the beginning of the piece. Later, the soloist perform sets of playful triplets. After the triplets, the clarinet unleashes itself into the Baermann Kandenz, which was inserted by the dedacatee, Heinrich Baermann. This is a relatively short, lively, virtuosic passage that is played by most performers.


Sorry there's no better version, but this one is quite good anyway, movement 1, Concerto no. 1:


Friday, 28 November 2008

204. Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Trio in B flat major, op. 97, "Archduke" (1811)

















Recording

Title: Trios "Archduke" & "Ghost"
Performers: Beaux Arts Trio
Year: 1965
Length: 39 minutes

Review

Piano trios are nice things, and this is one of the best. As I have repeatedly stated before chamber music is really not my favourite thing, I prefer solo or orchestral, the stuff in the middle doesn't click as much. But this is indeed a great trio.

Possibly the most famous of all piano trios, the "Archduke" is also one of Beethoven's more playful compositions. By this time he was completely deaf, and although he played on the opening night reports tell us he was banging the keys extremely hard. So it wasn't the best performance.

The Beaux Arts trio is certainly not composed of deaf people, and while historical authenticity might be being sacrificed in the case of the pianist it does sound better this way. Deaf pianists are sooooo 1810s. The first movement is particularly great fun. In the "Ghost" trio I said that the Cello was very much a support instrument, kind of doing the bass of the thing, here it is much more evenly spread between the three instruments, which is another one of the reasons it is so good. Recommended.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The piece plays a significant role in Haruki Murakami's novel Kafka on the Shore and in Elizabeth George's mystery novel A Traitor to Memory.

Fibonnaci trio plays part of the first movement:


Thursday, 27 November 2008

203. Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata in E flat major, op.81A, "Les Adieux" (1810)


















Recording

Title: Beethoven Piano Sonatas
Performer: Arthur Rubinstein
Year: 1962
Length: 17 minutes

Review

This is a short and sweet sonata, with a very interesting programmatic theme that is perfectly suited to Beethoven's strengths. It is called "Les Adieux" because the first movement represents saying goodbye, the second the absence and the third the return of someone.

This allows Beethoven to be bitter-sweet in the first, almost despairing in the second and joyful in the third movement. If Beethoven was ever good at something it is in expressing emotion and the piano is the perfect instrument to do it in.

Even if this is less well known than other sonatas like the Moonlight or Appassionata it is just as good, if less melodramatic, which can actually be an advantage. Beethoven has become a much more skilled composer at expressing emotion since those earlier sonatas, sometimes less is more.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Yet, there is some uncertainty about this nature of the piece — or at least, about the degree to which Beethoven wished this programmatic nature would be known. He titled the three movements "Lebewohl," "Abwesenheit," and "Wiedersehen," and reportedly regarded the French "Adieux" as a poor translation of the feeling of the German "Lebewohl" (Kolodin, 1975). Indeed, Beethoven had written the syllables "Le-be-wohl" over the first three chords.

1st Movement:




Wednesday, 26 November 2008

202. Fernando Sor - Guitar Works (1810-30s)


















Recording

Title: Guitar Music
Performer: Adam Holzman
Year: 1995
Length: 1 hour 41 minutes

Review

The classical guitar is the Spanish musical instrument par excellence, in fact it takes about 3 seconds to figure out the nationality of this composer, as soon as you put the CD on. The best thing about this collection is how original the sound of the guitar is, when you are used to Beethoven or what came before.

Unfortunately there are bad points to this as well. Sor sounds like a very conservative composer, most of the music seems to belong to an earlier age, more influenced by Mozart and Haydn than what else was happening in the world. So, it is not very exciting compositionally.

On the other hand, the music is very catchy... which is not necessarily a great thing, there is always the problem with classical guitar music that it might sound a bit kitsch, and unfortunately that happens often here... so not my favourite thing, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Final Grade

7/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

In Spain he is sometimes known as the "Beethoven of the Guitar".

Have they ever heard Beethoven in Spain?

Well that's interesting: