notes provided by Michael Moore
“Dear Beethoven! You are going to Vienna in fulfillment of your long frustrated wishes. The Genius of Mozart is mourning & weeping over the death of her pupil. She found a refuge but no occupation with the inexhaustible Haydn; through him she wishes to form a union with another. With the help of assiduous Labor, you shall receive the Spirit of Mozart from the hands of Haydn.”! Count Ferdinand Waldstein, Bonn, November 1792
Let all be Welcome to our ‘Let’s Welcome Spring!’ Concert, which may well serve to bring us some Welcome relief from Wrestling with IRS and from the Latest Report on the Mueller Report AND the latest speculation about what’s happening in SRI Lanka. Lanka apparently means ‘island’ or at least it does in the Ramayana. I’m sure you’ll be delighted to know that SRI is said to mean “glowing” (derived from Sanskrit, of course), and uses the same letters as IRS which has rarely if ever been seen as ‘glowing,‘ although it does get too hot for some of us. But the relevance here may be derived from focussing on the Young Beethoven, while too young and German to have a bride to rescue as did Rama, he had clearly been to Vienna once before, in the summer of 1787, an eager but somewhat scared 16 year old, sent by the Elector Archduke Maximilian Franz (youngest brother of the emperor Joseph II), in search of fame and in search of the legendary, nay, quasi divine Mozart. The idea was that any fame that the Beethoven lad might win would reflect credit on his patron. And further even the very idea of catching the elusive Mozart excited the hearts of both the young genius and the Elector Max. [An Elector in those days was a German prince who had a vote in the ‘election’ of the Holy Roman Emperor, who, in the words of Voltaire was neither Holy, nor Roman, and most of the time, not an emperor either. ]
Mozart himself was no legend, but the hard working producer of high grade musical artifacts. As such, he was fresh from the hearty vindication of his opera Le Nozze di Figaro/Marriage of Figaro in Prague (after its ambivalent reception in 1786 Vienna: the emperor stated “Too many notes Mozart!” and the composer replied “Which ones didn’t you like, Majesty?”) But now extremely busy finishing Don Giovanni in time for its Prague premiere in the fall: it was clear that he had no time for bumpkins from Bonn. So what did happen between the two geniuses? We simply don’t know. Beethoven had been in the city only about two weeks, walking the fabled streets (he was a great walker all his life, right up until the end 40 years later: following up his leads; performing whenever invited to; otherwise eager to hear the music of others, whenever he could. And he did hear Mozart play, or said he did, said that his tone was ‘scratchy.’ He was just beginning to enjoy himself when suddenly he received word from home that his mother was deathly ill and fled home to receive her last blessing. It would be five years, years of becoming the manager and chief breadwinner in his own family– two younger brothers and a drunken dad, Johann the not so good court tenor before he could get back to the Capital
once more, this time with considerable help from the wealthy aristocratic music lovers at court, men such as
When, more than five years later Beethoven was finally granted the opportunity to try Vienna again, Mozart had already been dead for 11 months. This time it was between him and Haydn. By grim coincidence, several weeks after his second arrival in Vienna, he got word that his drunken and abusive father had died. Not only did he not return home this time, but his diary shows no trace of the death, as it maps him making his way, bearing his art into the salons & palaces of the rich & cultivated. Within two and a half years, he had helped both his younger brothers to settle in Vienna and, every bit as important, to find work there.
By this time the Electoral Court at Bonn, the court he had grown up in, had been dissolved. But by this time, some of his most enthusiastic supporters had settled in the Capital themselves.
He had already met Haydn twice. The first time was at Christmas 1790 when the impresario Johan Peter Salomon, a native Bonner himself, had brought Haydn to Bonn on their way out to London and their first great expedition in Great Britain. The buzz up in Bonn that year had been about Beethoven’s huge Cantata on the Death of the Emperor Joseph II. The very fact that the 19 year old Ludwig had been chosen to compose such an important piece was evidence enough of the high regard in which he was held at home. When soon after, Joseph’s brother Leopold II also died, young Ludwig was again commissioned to compose another great Cantata The visiting Haydn, who was on the way to conquer London and Great Britten was shown the work and was sufficiently impressed so that when he returned to Bonn 20 months later on his way home from his triumphant First English Tour, it was then arranged that Beethoven would come to Vienna and study with him. Perhaps the untimely death of Mozart while Haydn was away had made the older man especially willing to take on another promising youngster.
Almost a century after these happenings, the aged Johannes Brahms, who had had almost no formal education because of the necessity for him to help support his family — mother, younger siblings and even his drunken father — and therefore had become, all his life, an avid student of music & history; philosophy & literature. So when he came upon the two manuscripts of the Cantatas, and was so moved at the time, that he said “Even if there were no name on the title page, none other could be conjectured—it is Beethoven through and through! The beautiful and noble pathos, sublime in its feeling & imagination, the intensity, perhaps violent in its expression, moreover the voice leading & declamation, and in the two outside sections all the characteristics we may observe & associate with his later works.”
There were several reasons why the arrangement of young Beethoven to study with the aging Haydn did not work. First, Haydn found himself much too busy catching up with his life at home and, in the absence of Mozart who was to have followed on a similar
tour, Salomon turned to Haydn again, who was only too eager to repeat the joyous experience of being treated like the God of Music instead of a servant whose job was to entertain aristocrats & their guests! And Papa, himself always mindful of money, had been delighted to find himself showered with wealth everywhere he went, in & about London. He had already begun composing the ‘second six’ of his now famous London Symphonies (##99 – 104) and the six “Aponyi” string quartets (opp. 71 & 74), solo sonatas & the ‘trios’ we have so often enjoyed hearing Jill & her favorite companions playing for us. In these circumstances, it can hardly be surprising that Ludwig’s counterpoint exercises …(ho-hum..) lay uncorrected!
One of Ludwig’s several complaints against “Papa” Haydn was his lack of attention to the work the young hotshot had done for him. So, in Haydn’s absence, Ludwig turned to Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, a leading organist and master of counterpoint admired by Mozart and many others. He set Ludwig on the path to becoming the matchless contrapuntalist of his own day [viz. the Diabelli variations opus 120 and the famous/infamous Grosse Fuge, once the finale of Ludwig’s B-flat String Quartet #13 and finally Quartet #17, about which Stravinsky said (in 1968) it is an absolutely contemporary work which will remain contemporary for ever.!” Meanwhile the ‘hotshot’ himself had caught on almost immediately as a pianist & perhaps even more as an all but miraculous improviser … although only gradually as a true composer.
Nevertheless, he was going his own way and having a good time of it.
While Haydn was away on his second London sojourn, Artaria, one of Haydn’s chief publishers, brought out Ludwig’s 3 Piano Trios in D, E-flat & C-minor, for his opus 1 —
one of the best-selling genres of the day. And they sold very well indeed, works which Haydn had advised him not to publish, counseling him especially to avoid minor keys, lest he depress his aristocratic audience! The C minor Trio, of course, was Beethoven’s favorite of the three trios opus #1… and would remain so: a quarter of a century later, the work would reappear as the Quintet for piano & string quartet in C minor opus 104!
That same year, Beethoven introduced both his earlier Piano Concerto #2 in B-flat (revised in March, 1795) and the new #1 in C (December 1795), later published as op.19 & op.15. The earlier work in B-flat — one of my own favorites — was revised several times and finally appeared as #2, opus 19. The C major work, begun quite a bit later but finished first has always been known as the glorious #1 and as opus 15. When Haydn had departed on his second expedition to London, he left behind a Beethoven who was establishing himself as a performer, the rising star of the salons with his pianism & miraculous improvisations. When he returned, he found that his pupil had arrived as a published composer of music fresh & powerful, one who was already making the connoisseurs miss dear Wolfgang Mozart the less. Furthermore, he was winning the battle with what Harold Bloom has called “The Anxiety of Influence”: he was aggressively determined that he was not going to be known as Papa Haydn’s Pupil, but only as himself — Ludwig van Beethoven: self-created, like Sophocles’ young Oedipus!
Mozart ́s wildly popular opera, Die Zauberflöte/The Magic Flute, inspired Beethoven to write the Seven Variations for Cello & Klavier 10 years after the opera ́s premier. The aria “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” is a duet between Pamina and the silly bird- catcher, Papageno. Pamina comforts Papageno, who is bemoaning his lack of a “Papagena”, by singing this simple ode to love. In Beethoven ́s opening theme, the piano plays Pamina ́s opening lines and the cello subsequently answers in the tenor ́s role. In the following variations, Beethoven explores different moods and embellishments of the theme and even adds a bass-baritone variation. Never surrendering to pure virtuosity, these variations are more a musical exploration than instrumental showcase, yet they finish with a conquering finale. Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir
The Cello & Klavier variations on the duet tunes from Die Zauberflöte are remarkably good: interesting and ingratiating, partly because the Mozart melodies are so fine, so delightful, so ingratiating and they keep coming back in different ways. You’d think that Ludwig Bullinachina shop mignt not be able to understand this music, but he does it very well, gracefully, musically. And the A Major opus12 violin sonata, like all three of those inaugural works, makes for good listening too…and the whole (short) first half of this patched together program very pleasant indeed.
The 3 Violin Sonatas op. 12 , like all Beethoven’s 18th Century works before the Six String Quartets opus 18 quartets, explore genres Haydn employed either not at all, or very sparingly, with the exception of the solo piano works. Surprisingly Haydn wrote no violin sonatas although he knew some excellent violinists, having conducted several of them who payed in his weekly concerts in Esterhaza There is very little information about Beethoven in 1797, we know only that he worked on these sonatas in 1797 and into 1798, but not in what order. They began to be performed in 1798. We hear nothing else about them before they were published in 1799. And then: a) they got some terrible reviews, especially one complaining that there was ‘nothing natural’ about their style and they were too “learned…learned…learned.” b) they proved to be astonishingly popular, repeatedly selling out in Vienna and being reprinted/pirated all over. (Beethoven made nothing or very little from this, but it sent his later prices soaring, and made him even more in demand as a performer.
They were dedicated to Antonio Salieri (who had given Beethoven a few lessons Italian prosody forsong settings), so the Imperial Court Kapellmeister’s name went out on the cover of all these editions. In 1796 Beethoven had dedicated his opus 2 piano sonatas to Haydn, the most famous composer in Europe, for the similar reasons.
Although the title page uses the traditional “for harpsichord or forte-piano with violin,”a harpsicord would sound absurd and the violin is equal in these sonatas. All are in the late-Mozartean 3 movement format, but Beethoven contrives to make each of the 9 movements different from its two counterparts. This does not mean that he anticipated
their being played one after another. He was thinking about how they would play at home over time.
If the D major #1 is the most impressive with its big noble opening gestures in unison and it’s theme & variation 2nd movement; and if the E-flat #3 has its big brilliant first and last movements tempered by the long soulful Adagio in between, the Sonata #2 in A we hear today seems to be saying, “Okay, guys! Let’s have some fun!” It’s the shortest, the happiest, sweetest, funniest, most playful and most charming of the three, in fact of all Beethoven’s Ten violin sonatas — piacevole!!
1. Allegro vivace 6/8 in A major going to F# via C# major and only to E-major, the dominant, for a closing theme, a march in a unison over 4 octaves. Violin begins with an incessant um-cha-cha rhythm (ideal for Piano) while a delightfully upskipping 2-8th note motif in Piano moves down the scale from right hand treble to left hand bass. They do it again, this time reversing the direction of the skip not up but down as it moves down the scale. Next: Piano’s 22 note upswoosh in 16ths to a pretty cadence, which they try again together in canon, a big mistake! Then they switch parts and do it all again; by now the ‘right’ instruments sound wrong. Next they go tearing off in triplets to a new themelet in the dominant E major — For one bar! — and wind up in F# via C# major (7#’s). But I’m spoiling this by explaning the jokes, never a good idea. We can feel the laughter inside us and don’t need to know why it’s funny. Just listen to all the different ways they keep playing with the 2-note (& triplet) skips: like kids giggling as the try on silly hats. When you hear the march in 4 octave unison, you know the end is coming and thank god there’s a repeat! Next: the world’s shortest development section: 34 quick-waltz bars. In C major. Of course. Why not? The Recap is more of the same but too short. But there’s a nice coda that does some wonderful juggling with the 2-note motif in three hands at once! 2. Andante, più tosto Allegretto, 2/4 in A minor [pretty near Allegretto], a tempo that ‘pretty much’ leaves it up to the artists to make it really sad, or a parody. Let’s try a generic approach: we’re obviously in a comedy, a pretty silly one so far, but now it’s turning Romantic. In Romantic comedy we can listen to the lover’s complaint and enjoy her (?) melancholy and also the Comforter’s part — in F major here — because we know it’s a comedy and she’s going to have her love… And we can all go to the beach party that’s coming up in the next movement. But first a nice long coda in two parts, so ABA- CA.
Allegro piacevole, 3/4 in A major colored by B minor; E minor/G major; Dmajor/B minor; E major-Cmajor-Aminor; F# major/minor amd back to A major. Piacevole joins two word elements that mean to wish and to please. This swift but complex little waltzing rondo offers us great variety in the harmonizing of the perky rondo theme which alternates with four episodes and closes, like the earlier movements with another significant coda. An ingratiating piquancy is achieved with the constant minor key coloring. A rising arpeggio gesture(later up&down) in triplets increases from the 3rdepisode on, gradually taking over, in E, C & A major flashing upward and falling back like leaping trout. The finale wants us to be pleased. I am; But What about YOU??