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8.574040-41 - BEETHOVEN, L. van: Chamber Music - Piano Quartet, Op. 16 / Minuets and Dances (Sofia Kim, Kroh, Segal, Sarid, IU Wind Ensemble, Dorsey)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
Beethoven’s life in Vienna passed at a time of war, a period when the armies of Napoleon had brought difficulties to Vienna and to the Hapsburg Empire and even brought to an end the episcopal rule over his native Bonn. The wars of the time were reflected in some of the music of the period, and made still more directly evident in compositions for the military. In Beethoven’s case this is directly demonstrated in a handful of marches. Of these the March in D major, WoO 24, dates from 1816 and is scored for pairs of piccolos, oboes and bassoons, five clarinets, six horns, eight trumpets, three trombones, serpent and the usual percussion, triangle, cymbals, snare drum and bass drum. The piece is marked Marcia, con brio, and includes a Trio. The March in C major, WoO 20, an earlier work, is scored for a band of more modest size, but furnished, inevitably, with the Turkish element now fashionable. Beethoven composed the March around 1809 and in around 1822/23 added an F major Trio.
Other works for military band include the Polonaise in D major, WoO 21, written in Baden in 1810, the year of the Laxenburg tournament and celebration of the birthday of the Empress Maria Ludovica and Beethoven’s revision of marches for that event. The Écossaise in D major, WoO 22, is probably from the same summer in Baden and is similar in scoring. It includes a Trio.
Scored for four trombones, two of the three Equali were played at Beethoven’s funeral on 29 March 1827. Their title, Equali, indicates their nature as pieces for equal instruments or instruments of the same family. Beethoven’s three pieces were commissioned by the Stadtkapellmeister of Linz, Franz Xaver Glöggl and played at the Old Cathedral in Linz on All Souls Day in 1812. The Adagio in F major for three horns, Hess 297, written in 1815, has been conjecturally described as an instrumental study.
During Beethoven’s career and, indeed, the later years of Haydn and Mozart, there was public interest in automata for the provision of music. In a sense the interest was not new and musical machines of one sort or another had been a continued preoccupation—Queen Elizabeth I, after all, had sent an elaborate English mechanical instrument to the Ottoman Sultan in 1598, and there are many other examples, earlier and later, of this interest. Beethoven’s Grenadier March, Hess 107, was written about 1798 and dedicated to Prince Schwarzenberg. The Five Pieces for Musical Clock, Hess 103–106 were completed by 1800 for the exhibition of waxworks and musical automata displayed by Count Josef Deym, under the name of Müller, having returned to Vienna, after self-imposed exile caused by the death of an opponent in a duel. Deym needed to restore his fortunes, and had commissioned music from Haydn and Mozart, among others. He died in 1804, leaving his widow Josephine, the apparent object of Beethoven’s amorous inclinations, with four children and social problems to surmount from the fact that her husband had been déclassé, a result of his choice to embark on commercial ventures. The pieces for musical clock are transcribed for organ, an instrument the higher range of which corresponded to the higher register of the clock musical apparatus.
Beethoven’s few works for the organ include the Fugue in D major, WoO 31, a two-voice exercise in counterpoint written in 1783/84. This contrapuntal interest brought his 1801–02 arrangement for string quintet of Fugue No. 24 from the first book of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (Hess 38). His Prelude and Fugue in E minor of 1795 (Hess 29) comes from his period of study with Albrechtsberger in Vienna. His unfinished 1817 Prelude in D minor, (Hess 40), scored for string quintet, was, intended, perhaps, to precede a Fugue.
As a composer, Beethoven seems in the first decade of his career in Vienna at least, to have been preoccupied with wind instruments. He won particular success in 1797 with his Quintet in E flat, Op. 16, for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon, first performed on 6 April 1797 and dedicated to Prince Schwarzenberg, an early benefactor. At the same time Beethoven arranged the work for piano quartet, keeping the original tempo directions and the character of the work. The first movement has a dotted rhythm introduction, marked Grave, leading to a sonata form Allegro, ma non troppo. The slow movement, in B flat major, is followed by a final Rondo, which brings opportunities for pianistic display.
Music for dances served an essential social purpose, both in physical terms and as an accompaniment to other activities. Even the most distinguished composers were involved and it may be recalled that Mozart had been enlisted to provide accompaniment for court entertainments, when, as he remarked, he could have done so much more. Beethoven’s 6 Minuets, WoO 9, are preserved in a version for two violins and cello and were written in about 1799, the first, in E flat major, followed by dances in G, C, F, D and G major, each with a trio. The trio of the third dance is of particular interest in its use of plucked strings.
Beethoven’s 6 Ländlerische Tänze, WoO 15, (‘6 Country Dances’) survive in a piano version and in a version for two violins and cello, both published in Vienna in 1802. The melodies reflect the implications of the title of the dances. The 6 German Dances, WoO 42, scored for violin and piano, were published in Vienna in 1814 but were first published in Prague in 1796.
In early June 1794 Beethoven wrote a letter to his friend in Bonn, Eleonore von Breuning, thanking her for the present of a neckcloth she had sent him. Beethoven enjoyed the friendship of the Breuning family, who provided a welcome for him, particularly after the death of his mother in 1787. With his reply he includes a set of variations and a Rondo, for violin and piano. The latter work, the Rondo in G for violin and piano, WoO 41, was published in Bonn by Simrock in 1808. A less substantial work, the Duet for 2 Violins in A major, WoO 34, Hess 42, for two violins, was written for a visitor to Vienna. In 1822 the French violinist Alexandre Boucher, at this stage of his career priding himself on a certain resemblance to Napoleon, called on Beethoven, bringing an introduction from Goethe. Beethoven wrote the seven-bar piece for Boucher. The Canon, WoO 35, for two violins, dates from 1825. It was written for another visitor, Otto de Boer, a member of the Amsterdam Academy of Fine Arts. Beethoven’s fame had by this time spread abroad, with a visit to the composer a possible stop on a visitor’s itinerary.
Settings of folk songs provided a useful source of income to Beethoven, as it had done for Haydn and as it was to do for Beethoven’s successors. The many settings of Scottish, Welsh, Irish and varied folk songs include, in the collection of various songs listed as WoO 156, a Scottish song, without a text, dated July 1810, scored, as usual for these songs, for piano trio.
Violin Sonata in A major, Hess 46 survives only in fragments. Since the lacunae include the openings of the two movements, reconstruction is highly conjectural, while the fragments themselves are tantalising in their suggestions. The work dates from about 1790/91. The alternative Trio for the Second Trio to String Trio, Op. 9, No. 1: III. Scherzo, excluded from earlier editions of the work, has been accepted by some as an additional second trio movement and by others as a possible replacement for the existing trio. Either way, it is presumably an afterthought by the composer and, for whatever reason, was omitted from the edition published in 1798. The Duo for Violin and Cello in E flat major, Gardi 2, written, it is thought, in about 1790, survives in fragmentary form. It is followed here by the first movement of an unfinished Piano Trio in F minor, a work of about 1816, existing only in fragments that suggest something of Beethoven’s methods of composition.
The original finale to String Trio in E flat major, Op. 3, written in 1793 or 1794, differs relatively little from the final version. Its dating and the likelihood of its first English performance through an émigré Abbé from Bonn, is fully described in Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, an account revealing something of the vicissitudes of the period.
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