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13. Beethoven – Wrap-up and further listening

July 24, 2011

Ludwig van Beethoven inherited the Classical era, broke all the rules, and ushered in the Romantic era, changing music forever. He elevated the status quo like no other composer ever did – after Beethoven, you could not write a symphony without it being automatically compared to and evaluated against Beethoven’s. His musical innovations accelerated the evolution of European culture for decades to come – he was THE standard for about a century, all the way until, arguably, a Russian named Igor Stravinsky changed all the rules again, and ushered in Modernism.

Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies were not the only mark (or more like, impact crater) that he left in classical literature – he was one of the most versatile composers ever, second only to Mozart, only because Beethoven’s weakness as a writer of great melodies made him relatively weak in the genre of opera. But, Beethoven perhaps more than made up for that in his achievements in other genres: his concertos (especially those for violin, and his 5th piano concerto) are easily among the greatest. Many of his piano sonatas are primary works of standard piano repetoire. Of particular note, his late string quartets are some of the most profound works of music ever written – astoundingly innovative, artistically powerful, and so advanced that they’re practically visions of the future, which his contemporaries could not comprehend.

Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61, I. Allegro ma non troppo (part 1)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61, I. Allegro ma non troppo (part 2)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61, II. Larghetto
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61, III. Rondo. Allegro

A titan of a work among violin repertory.

Piano Sonata No. 14, “Moonlight,” Op. 27 No.2, I. Adagio sostenuto
Piano Sonata No. 14, “Moonlight,” Op. 27 No.2, II. Allegretto
Piano Sonata No. 14, “Moonlight,” Op. 27 No.2, III. Presto agitato

One of Beethoven’s most famous piano sonatas. The first movement has a very commercialized popularity of it’s own. 3 very different movements – 1st movement dark and brooding; 2nd movement lighter and cheerier; 3rd movement fast fiery.

Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op. 80 (part 1)
Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op. 80 (part 2)

Known “colloquially” as the “Choral Fantasy.” A single-movement work, a sort of cross between a choral symphony and a piano concerto, done in free-form. The main melody, sort of (which takes awhile to appear) sounds remarkably like the “Ode to Joy” of the 9th symphony finale. This was kind of the “warm-up” to 9th symphony, perhaps – Beethoven was half-way to perfecting the “Ode to Joy” melody, and here is what he had come up with thus far. Maybe.

Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” in E flat major, Op. 55 – I. Allegro con brio
(part 1)

Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” in E flat major, Op. 55 – I. Allegro con brio
(part 2)

Subtitled “Heroic” in Italian. The symphony that broke open the Romantic Era. An unprecedently innovative symphony, one which left half the audience baffled and the other half hailing a genius. Powerful, exciting, and twice as long as many symphonies of his predecessors. Was originally dedicated to Napoleon, until he made himself Emperor of France. Beethoven got mad and scratched out the dedication to him on the cover of his manuscript, and scratched so hard that he made a hole in the page. True story.

Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. “Emperor”, Op. 73 – III. Rondo. Allegro ma non troppo

The final movement of Beethoven’s 5th and greatest piano concerto.

Next: Impressionism! and Maurice Ravel

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