Beethoven 's Legacy Tuesday mornings, 10:00- 12:00 Raven Theater, Healdburg
January 7: Beethoven, Romantic Hero
January 14: Beethoven and Schubert Beethoven's 32 Variations in c minor and Schubert's Sonata in C minor Beethoven's Op 110; Schubert's A Major Sonata
January 21: Beethoven and Mendelssohn Beethoven's Op. 132 and Schubert's Quartet No. 2 in A minor
January 28: Beethoven, Liszt and Wagner Beethoven's Symphony No. 7
February 4: Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms An ferne die Geliebt and Schumann's Symphony No. 2
February 11: Klimt and T.S. Eliot Ode to Joy and the Four Quartets
During the year that marks the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven's birth, we celebrate the power of one lone individual to forever change the world. Beginning with a summary of Beethoven's heroic journey from abused child to triumphant piano soloist and his remarkable resilience in the face of disability and despair, we will explore how Beethoven found a new musical language to express the extremities of joy and suffering of life in a way that liberated music and continues to inspire and transform listeners of all ages, races and religions. We will look at how Beethoven created the archetype of the Musician as Hero and how both his life and his music shaped and defined Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, Wagner, Brahms and was a touchstone and turning point for the painter Gustav Klimt.
The word "romantic" actually comes from the French word "roman", meaning a novel. This was an era in which literature was a dominating influence in music, from the inspiration that poetry provided as the foundation of lieder (song cycles) to the influence of narrative in even purely instrumental music ( such as in Berlioz's revolutionary Symphonie Fantastique). While the musical hero of this epoch was undoubtedly Beethoven (witness his plaster bust on top of the piano Fran Liszt is playing in the painting of salon life, at left, the great philosopher-poet-playwright-scientist and statesman Wolfgang von Goethe was no less a pivotal influence. For the Romantics, Beethoven embodied the image of the individual as hero, pouring out personal angst in the midst of titanic struggles, shattering the bonds of convention to pursue his own unique and authentic vision while Goethe best articulated the themes of love and yearning. In his epic play Faust, Goethe ultimately asserted the primacy of mystery beyond reason. The story of a man who sells his soul to the devil but is redeemed through love had the two themes that were deeply imbedded in the Romantic psyche: passion and a fascination with the supernatural.
Goethe's poem "Holy Longing" captures the spirit of this age perhaps better than any other. The language of this poem (death, strange, silent, obsession with darkness, desire, magic, insane, troubled guess, dark earth) places us in a very different universe than the Apollo's pretty kingdom in the Age of Enlightenment. This is Dionysus's realm: intense, raw, visceral emotional depth.
Holy Longing Tell a wise person, or else keep silent, because the mass man will mock it right away. I praise what is truly alive, what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm water of the love-nights, where you were begotten, where you have begotten, a strange feeling comes over you, when you see the silent candle burning.
Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness, and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter. Now, arriving in magic, flying, and finally, insane for the light, you are the butterfly and you are gone. And so long as you haven't experienced this: to die and so to grow, you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.
(Translated from the German by Robert Bly)
There were enormous cultural shifts in how musicians were perceived. In Bach and Mozart's time, composers were seen as servants to Popes and Kings, and would eat in the servants quarters with maids and butlers and the rest of the household staff. With Beethoven, the first successful free lance instrumental composer, this all changed: it is estimated that one fourth of all Vienna turned out for the maestro's funeral in the rain. In the Romantic era, with the rise of the concert hall, following Beethoven's legacy, composers became viewed as the prophet of the people. Franz Liszt could be viewed as the first rock star: women fainted at his concerts which grossed the equivalent of millions of dollars.
Musical shifts were similarly dramatic. Minor keys take over, steady beats becomes fragmented, rhythm becomes more complex, disjointed and unpredictable- all hallmarks of the Dionysian aesthetic. Even the very names of pieces (“Fantasy”, “Impromptu”, “Nocturne”, "Elegy", "Humoresque", and a bevy of character sketches conjure up the theatrical, nighttime world of the dark, mysterious and paradoxical god. Musical instructions include terms like "rubato" (robbing time) and "morendo" (dying away).
This is an age of extremes. Dynamics range extremes (pppp to ffff) and sudden or dramatic changes ("sfz", "attaca", abrupt endings or sudden silences) appear in scores. Both intimacy and grandiosity are present. It is reported that Chopin never played above a mezzoforte because he was so weak from tuberculosis, and one of his Preludes is only 3 lines long. Meanwhile, Mahler's Symphony No. 8 lasts an hour and a half and is nicknamed the Symphony of a Thousand because of its monumental forces.
Cast of Composers We Will Encounter:
Franz Schubert- In his all too brief life, Schubert showed evidence of becoming Beethoven's musical heir. Alas, his idol killed him. Schubert was a pall bearer in Beethoven's cold and rainy funeral and died of pneumonia soon afterwards. While his symphonies, chamber music and piano sonatas are all sublime, the song "Die Erlkonig" might be considered most representative of the spirit of Romanticism. Vividly recounting Goethe's creepy poem of a young boy whose life is snatched away by the spectre of an Elf King as he rides through a forest with his father, it is a miniature masterwork of storytelling. Personally, I suspect J.R.R. Tolkein had this lied in mind when he wrote the scene in The Lord of the Rings of the Nazgul chasing the Hobbits. Schubert's dying wish was to be buried at his hero's feet in Vienna.
Felix Mendelssohn- t Felix was a passionate champion of the symphonies and concertos, and was the first to perform many of these works in his concert tours in Great Britain and Scotland . Heartbroken at his hero's death, he penned one of the most moving tributes ever as a cry of his grief: the String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, his homage to Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 132.
Robert Schumann- literary and musical genius who succumbed to madness. Both the Davidsbundertanze Op.6, and Carnival feature two sides of his musical personality: "Florestan", the dynamic, dramatic hero and "Eusebius", the introspective, dreamy and melancholy poet. We will explore the importance of Beethoven's song cycle An Die Ferne Geliebt (T o the Distant Beloved) in rousing Schumann from depression and discover the way its melodies make their way into the triumphant conclusion of Schumann's SYmphony No.
Franz Liszt- Hungarian virtuoso whose keyboard technique is still considered unsurpassed by many music historians, his devotion to Beethoven began almost from birth. As an eleven year old child, he was given a "kiss of benediction" by the maestro. For the rest of his life, Liszt would work tirelessly to bring Beethoven's music to the far reaches of the world, as both performer and teacher. He arranged the symphonies for piano transcription , produced the first Beethoven festivals and personally financed the monument that stands in Bonn, the town of Beethoven's birth- the first statue ever commissioned t o honor a composer.
Johannes Brahms – Musical conservative, loyal friend and unsung hero-many people (including Robert Schumann) have felt that Brahms was Beethoven's true heir. His music weds a disciplined mastery of 18th century structure with the depth of emotional expression that was the aim of the 19th century. By turns rousing, energetically infectious, swooning with passion and opening to a state of sublime heart-opening acceptance, almost every one of his 130 published works is a gem.Intermezzo Op. 118 No.2 in A Major is the music I want played at my own funeral.
Richard Wagner is the most devisive figure of music history: love him or hate him, you cannot ignore him.e. Though he was one of the most egotistical, amoral and thoroughly repugnant human beings who has ever lived, he exudes a fascination and obsession amongst his fans that is unequaled. He decided to become a composer and musician at a relatively late age after of mystical dimensions. Beethoven's CHoral Symphony opened his imagination to dream of a gesamtkunstwerke - music that evokes mythological grandeur where the orchestra plays a critical and psychological role in the development of the drama.