Friday, 13 February 2015

Programming Beethoven symphonies

'There is never only one way' are words that should be pinned above every musician's - arguably everyone's - desk. Immediately below, we should probably append Schoenberg's generous 'The middle road is the only one that does not lead to Rome.' The standard presentation of Beethoven's symphonies as a 'cycle' has much to be said for it, although Daniel Barenboim's inclusion at the Proms of works by Boulez proved a stroke of genius. So, assuming that we might have Barenboim - or whoever your preferred Beethovenian(s) might be - at the podium, how else might we programme Beethoven's symphonies? I started considering this parlour game on a railway journey yesterday, and here were my selections, one symphony per (more or less) typical length concert. Doubtless my choices would be different today, let alone tomorrow. Looking back, I see a good deal of Mozart: I might say too much, but there can never be too much. Moreover, there is no Wagner, rather to my surprise. Please feel free to comment or to add your suggestions.

Bonn's greatest son

Bach - Orchestral Suite no.1 in C major, BWV 1066
Mozart - Piano Concerto no.24 in C minor, KV 491
Beethoven - Symphony no.1 in C major, op.21

Mozart - Kyrie in D minor, KV 341/368a
Handel - Music for the Royal Fireworks
Mendelssohn - Kyrie in D minor
Beethoven - Symphony no.2 in D major, op.36

Boulez - Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna
Stravinsky - Requiem Canticles
Beethoven - Symphony no.3 in E-flat major, 'Eroica', op.55

Mozart - Overture: Don Giovanni
Beethoven - Symphony no. 4 in B-flat major, op.60
Haydn - Missa in Angustiis, 'Nelson Mass', Hob. XXII:11

Mahler - Totenfeier
Birtwistle - Endless Parade
Beethoven - Symphony no.5 in C minor, op.67

Gluck - Overture: Iphigénie en Aulide
Beethoven - Symphony no.6 in F major, 'Pastoral', op.68
Berlioz - Symphonie fantastique, op.14

Cornelius - Overture: Der Barbier von Bagdad
Rameau - Suite from Les Boréades
Busoni - Tanzwalzer
Beethoven - Symphony no.7 in A major, op.92

Webern - Five Movements, op.5
Beethoven - Symphony no.8 in F major, op.93
Webern - Symphony, op.21
Brahms - Symphony no.3 in F major, op.90

Schoenberg - Prelude to Genesis, op.44
Henze - Violin Concerto no.3
Beethoven - Symphony no.9 in D minor, op.125


Paul Hurt said...

[Apologies - this comment will have to be in parts, as comments longer than 4,096 characters aren't allowed. This is Part 1.]

A very interesting piece (although I don't think I've ever seen anything in your blog which is less than interesting. It's a blog I've been reading for a long time and one which I turn to just about every day: indispensable.)

The suggestions you make are wide ranging and adventurous. My own are far more homogeneous. The supporting pieces (movements, not complete works) are all from Haydn symphonies, Haydn string quartets and Beethoven string quartets, that is, works which are well known but which don't have the popular appeal of the Beethoven symphonies.

The idea that minority views and preferences are necessarily inferior to majority ones, or that the music performed in the Royal Albert Hall is necessarily superior to the music performed in the much smaller Wigmore Hall is obviously an elementary mistake - as is the view that minority views are necessarily superior to majority views.

I think there's a linkage between distant keys - distant regions of tonality - and distant experiences. The journey is from home (or the home key) to new regions, more or less distant. Programming the more familiar with the less familiar gives the opportunity to make journeys.

I don't think that the inclusion of single movements from Haydn and Beethoven is a surrender to 'Classic FM values.' Programming an overture to a Mozart opera is commonplace, of course, and so too is the use of excerpts in discussions of a work. Sampling has its uses.

Beethoven. Symphony 1
3rd movement of Haydn, Symphony 88. The trio of the Haydn Symphony linked with the trio of the Beethoven symphony. Basil Lam, writing on the trio of the Beethoven Symphony, refers to 'the use of almost empty spaces in harmonic architecture,' accompanied by airy exchanges between first violins, horns and clarinets. In the Haydn trio, there's relative blank space in the musical canvas, an enthralling drone, and above it, stately melody.
2nd movement of Beethoven, Quartet Op. 18 No. 4 (antante scherzoso allegretto) linked with the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 1st symphony (andante cantabile con moto.) Although the linkages between the two Beethoven movements are obvious, the contrasts are more important, as is the way of great composers - which is why the identification of linkages throughout this comment is such a hazardous undertaking.

Paul Hurt said...

[Part 2]

Beethoven. Symphony 2
3rd movement of Haydn, Symphony 103. The minuet of the Symphony linked with the Scherzo of the Beethoven Symphony. Both make striking use of short, repeated emphasis-impetus figures.
1st movement of Beethoven, string quartet Op. 130 linked with the 2nd movement of the Beethoven symphony (larghetto.) The larghetto (written at the time of the Heiligenstadt Testament) is untroubled and unclouded throughout its length whilst the quartet movement's untroubled episodes (written in even more desperate conditions) are celestial, not sub-lunary.

Beethoven. Symphony 3
1st movement of Haydn, Symphony No 49, 'La Passione.' Linked with the 2nd movement of the Beethoven symphony, the 'Funeral March.' Both movements are obviously deeply felt. I don't know if the deep feeling of the Haydn movement comes over in an unusual recording of 'La Passione' which seems to be as authentic as can be (not a recording I've heard) which is described on the site

' ... for Haydn, who was expected to perform his works solely to the Prince and a limited audience, there were only usually about 12 – 16 players available for any one performance. This only increased to a very limited extent during his time at the court, but essentially our modern understanding of a Haydn symphony from these years at Esterház is very different from the reality as Haydn would have known it, in performance. For this recording, Arion gives an all-too-rare glimpse of this world that Haydn himself experienced. Using the number of players and instruments typically available at the palace*, we present a recording of three of Haydn’s most remarkable, and wonderful, middle period symphonies, written during his first years as full music director at Esterház.'
1st movement of Beethoven, Quartet Op. 59 No. 1 linked with the 1st movement of the Symphony. The obvious similarities of spacious 2nd period Beethoven, with some contrasted terseness.

Beethoven. Symphony 4
1st movement, Haydn, Symphony No. 104 ('The Drum Roll'). The introduction to the Haydn Symphony has an obvious linkage, in its dark probing, with the introduction to the Beethoven Symphony.
1st movement, Beethoven Quartet Op. 59 No. 1. The introduction to the quartet is searching, too, in more than one sense.

Beethoven. Symphony 5
2nd movement, Haydn, Symphony No. 102 (adagio), linked with the 2nd movement of the Symphony. The phrase complexity of the Beethoven is to begin with less than that of the Haydn but there's a cumulative increase in complexity.
4th movement, Beethoven, Quartet Op. 59 No. 3, linked with 4th movement of the symphony. How to be exhilarating in such very different ways.

Paul Hurt said...

[Part 3]

Beethoven. Symphony 6
4th movement, Haydn, Symphony No. 101 ('The Clock') linked with 5th movement of the Beethoven symphony - both are in sonata rondo form.
Beethoven, Quartet Op. 132, 3rd movement (Heilige Dankgesang eines Genesen ...). Thanksgiving after recovery from illness linked with the 5th movement of the Symphony, which begins with thanksgiving after the storm.

Beethoven. Symphony 7
2nd movement, Haydn Quartet Op. 74 No. 3, linked with the 2nd movement of the Symphony. The subdued opening of the Haydn Quartet, marked 'mezza voce,' and the subdued opening of the Beethoven symphony have similarities in their sound and emotional worlds.
7th movement, Beethoven Quartet Op. 131 (allegro) linked with 4th movement of the symphony simply because they are both headlong and impetuous and both very successful. (Beethoven wasn't invariably successful in his finales. The final movement of the Quartet Op. 59 No. 2, for example, is a comparative failure.)

Beethoven. Symphony 8
1st movement, Beethoven, Quartet Op. 74 ('The Harp'). The development section linked with the development section of the 1st movement of the symphony, both inspired in their energy and cumulative power.
2nd movement, Haydn Symphony No. 101 ('The Clock') linked with 2nd movement of the Beethoven Symphony - both written with an engaging and attractive lightness of touch.

Beethoven. Symphony 9
2nd movement, Haydn Quartet Op. 76 No 3 ('The Emperor') linked with 4th movement of the Beethoven Symphony, the 'Ode to Joy.' Both movements contain Very Well Known Themes, although the miracles of scoring in the variations of the Haydn quartet won't be familiar to all listeners.
5th movement, Beethoven Quartet Op. 132 linked with the last movement of the Symphony. In Beethoven's sketches, a theme similar to the theme of the quartet rondo was originally intended for use in the finale of the Choral Symphony, originally intended to be a purely instrumental finale.

Paul Hurt said...

A couple of errors in my Comment 2 above, in the section on Beethoven's Symphony 4:

Haydn's 'Drum Roll Symphony' is No. 103, not 104, of course.

And the Beethoven Quartet movement with introduction is the first movement of Op. 59 No. 3, not Op. 59 No. 1.

Mark Berry said...

A fascinating series of concerts. And no, I don't in any sense think of what you suggest in a 'Classic FM' sense. Context is everything. I also don't think one can ever have too much Haydn; sadly, we're unlikely ever to be able to put that to the test.