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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:19 pm 
Sanno
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So not a lot of interest in Mozart, I take it?

Anyway, I've decided to split the Beethoven post up, so as to avoid massive walls of text. So...

----------------

Ludvig van Beethoven
1770-1827 (late Classical / early Romantic)
b. Bonn; d. Vienna

The man: Beethoven was the son of a very minor German music teacher who, on recognising his son’s talent, was determined to produce a money-spinning child performer to follow in the footsteps of Nannerl and Wolfgang Mozart; as a result, Ludwig was beaten and berated from an early age, and dragged from his bed at night by an insomniac family friend to practice by candlelight. As a teenager, he attempted to escape to Vienna to study with Mozart (he seems to have heard the master play, but whether they ever met in person is unclear), but was forced immediately to return when his mother’s death and his father’s incapacitating alcoholism left him the primary care-giver for his two younger surviving brothers (four further brothers having died in childhood). His troubles were just beginning. He eventually was successful in reaching Vienna, this time to study with Haydn, and he was able to gain the financial support of a number of noblemen, eventually establishing himself both at the forefront of the new generation of composers and as an accomplished concert pianist – but his personal life was marked by a series of passionate and unrequited infatuations (usually with women far his social superior), his health was continually plagued by both great and small disorders, his moods were uncontrollable and he was increasingly dependent upon alcohol.

In 1798, somebody interrupted Beethoven when he was working – Beethoven was so consumed with rage that he collapsed with a seizure, and when he regained consciousness, he had gone partially deaf; his hearing loss was to worsen continually from that point on. His moods worsened, as did his relationships; he detested social rank, extolled the virtues of the guillotine, and could only fit into high society at all because the Archduke, one of his supporters, personally decreed that he was to be considered exempt from all social norms. He descended into suicidal depression, until reaching a turning point in 1802 when he wrote his “Heiligenstadt Testament” – a will, and an anti-suicide note, in which he determined to remain alive for the sake of his work. Nonetheless, alcoholism, illness, being an arsehole, his refusal to care for his appearance, and total deafness gradually forced him out of public society. He rowed with his brothers over their “immoral” wives, watched one brother die of tuberculosis, and fought through a lengthy custody battle for guardianship of his nephew, which ended in his nephew running away, and later attempting suicide before leaving to join the army. In his later years, he was sometimes left bedbound for weeks at a time by various mysterious ailments, and he died at 56, during a thunderstorm. The most likely cause of death appears to be chronic lead poisoning from the cheap, adulterated wine he was dependent upon, although theories such as lupus and syphilis have also been put forward.


The Style: more than perhaps any other composer, Beethoven evolved musically throughout his life. As a result, it’s common to speak of his Early, Middle (or ‘Heroic’) and Late periods.
Early Beethoven was a dedicated student of the works of Mozart (from whom he sometimes borrowed themes), and to a lesser extent those of Haydn, with whom he studied briefly. His earliest work can be regarded as competent but uninspired work in a Mozartian idiom, but his style gradually grew more confident and individual, and his piano sonatas in particular were highly accomplished. In these works, he can be thought of largely as an extension of Mozart’s more romantic impulses – different, on average, in interests from his predecessor, but fundamentally similar in approach. Early Beethoven is therefore at the culmination of the Classical era.

Following the Heiligenstadt Testament, and under the shadow of his growing deafness, Beethoven’s music took a radical turn, beginning with the astonishing 3rd symphony (the ‘Eroica’), for which he began compiling notes within days of writing his Testament. The Eroica is generally considered the single most important work of Western music, for the way in which it changed the conventions of music at a single stroke and became the model for the entire following century. Most obviously, it is at least twice the length of any previous symphony – the first movement alone is longer than many entire Classical symphonies – which it accomplishes through its greater structural complexity, which in turn allows it to be more surprising in its course, more traumatic in its emotional contours. Harmonically and orchestrally, it is richer, subtler, and also plain louder than what had come before, and it indulges in wild swerves in mood – most famously into its jet-black funeral march second movement. After the Eroica, some composers sought to continue its journey into more and more experimental territories, while others tried to reconcile its advances in harmonic and structural language with the greater cohesion and ready accessibility of Mozart or Haydn; but nobody could ever simply ignore it. Beethoven himself followed the Eroica with a rapid series of masterpieces in a similar vein: fist-shaking Romantic quests in which the human soul grapples at length, heart bloodily and messily exposed, with the implacable fates.

After a few years, however, his output slowed dramatically once more, and for the best part of a decade his writing was sporadic, before a final flourishing of new work in the last years of his life. At some point during the 1810s, he moved into his ‘Late’ style: less overt in its struggle, more indebted to his late study of Bach, and even more fundamentally experimental and unpredictable. This style is held to have come to its peak in his final works, the late string quartets, dismissed by contemporaries as “indecipherable horrors”. Indeed, his late period has never, with some exceptions, had the same popular appeal as his earlier work; yet in its prophetic foresightedness and fearless individualism, it has inspired composers ever since.

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:49 pm 
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Salmoneus wrote:
So not a lot of interest in Mozart, I take it?

It's very good. Of course now and then--just now and then--it gets a touch elaborate.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:09 pm 
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linguoboy wrote:
Salmoneus wrote:
So not a lot of interest in Mozart, I take it?

It's very good. Of course now and then--just now and then--it gets a touch elaborate.


Too many notes, as the old story goes...

Ironically though, I always think of Mozart as the unelaborate one, between the complexities of Bach and the prolixities of Beethoven...

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:36 pm 
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Enjoyable reads Sal!

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 6:54 am 
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Salmoneus wrote:
Ironically though, I always think of Mozart as the unelaborate one, between the complexities of Bach and the prolixities of Beethoven...


Frankly that's my view too; I struggle to see the emotion and intensity in Mozart whereas with Bach and Beethoven it's so obvious it's almost in-your-face, and that's why I like them more, which probably sounds kinda weird coming from an autistic person, but I prefer music that makes me feel things, and I just don't get that with Mozart.

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 7:38 am 
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Probably because of that enlightenment stiffness

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:51 pm 
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Frislander wrote:
Salmoneus wrote:
Ironically though, I always think of Mozart as the unelaborate one, between the complexities of Bach and the prolixities of Beethoven...


Frankly that's my view too; I struggle to see the emotion and intensity in Mozart whereas with Bach and Beethoven it's so obvious it's almost in-your-face, and that's why I like them more, which probably sounds kinda weird coming from an autistic person, but I prefer music that makes me feel things, and I just don't get that with Mozart.


I think, not to sound patronising, that age plays a role. I usen't to like Mozart all that much when I was younger, but I'm finding myself liking him more and more. Youth sees itself as all about great gestures of passion and sentiment, and naturally Beethoven appeals to that. But I think that as you get older, you tend to appreciate the quieter things more - Beethoven is all "raptures of joy" and "furious combat" and "helpless pit of despair" and all that; Mozart is more "nice slice of cake in a beautiful spring garden", "getting stressed by trying to get your work done when the children are being a nuisance", and "staring whistfully into the distance while thinking regretfully about the unrecoverable past" sort of thing. I suspect that the normal sequence of interest through life is Beethoven-Mozart-Bach. But there certainly is emotion in Mozart - Beethoven can make me feel excited, but Mozart can make me cry.

The other thing, though, is PR. I was reading something the other day in fact about how perceptions of Mozart have changed over time - at first, he was seen as this great 'Romantic', passionate, but also technically complicated composer. But in the 19th century, although he was idolised, he was also simplified - people increasingly saw him as delicate, refined, perfected. It's only in recent years that we've begun to remember the other sides of Mozart - to remember how gothic and weird and complicated and just plain varied he could be.

So I think a lot of people hear 'Mozart' and think, say, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the Sonata facile, the violin concertos, the Paris symphony, Exsultate Jubilate, and Elvira Madigan, and think "oh yeah, nice pretty vapid tinkly court music". We forget that if we go listen to Don Giovanni, the 20th piano concerto, the Requiem, the Haydn quartets and so on, we get quite a different sort of Mozart. It's still, to be sure, a much more restrained darkness than we see in Beethoven, but there is a darkness there, and real human feeling.

So I don't expect to change anyone's mind about Mozart, but... just try to keep an open mind. There's more there than you might at first think.

---------------

The other thing I'd say is: have you seen Amadeus? I know this isn't really a 'film' thread, but everybody should watch Amadeus.

It is, first and foremost, a really good film - I mean, it won eight Oscars, having been nominated for eleven, including Best Actor nods for both lead actors (something never achieved since). And the play it was based on won the Tony, too. F Murray Abraham's Salieri is one of the great acting tours de force in cinema history. But it also really serves the music, too - not just in the sense of introducing Mozart to people who aren't familiar with him, but more specifically in contextualising the music into Mozart's life (and the life of the times), to give a better understanding of the meaning of the music to a contemporary audience.

[it is, of course, a dramatic work of fiction. For those who don't know, it's based on the premise that Salieri, the composer whose crown Mozart usurped in Vienna, was consumed with murderous envy toward him - in reality, Salieri* seems to have at least admired Mozart, and they got on well (though the film acknowledges this by having Salieri put up a facade in public). The plot isn't taken from life, but from a work by Pushkin. The film also leans into the Mozart Myth, simplifying things somewhat - it suggests he never wrote sketches, for instance, when in fact he did (just less than many composers, and he doesn't seem to have needed sketches when composing for the piano). However, it should also be said that it does seem to capture Mozart's character fairly accurately (or at least, is within the possibilities described by contemporaries and in his own letters), and is broadly historically accurate, other than the Salieri plot - details may be embellished or slightly reordered in time, but although it's fiction (rather than a serious biopic) it does attempt to hew pretty closely to recorded facts and characters. It's probably more faithful in spirit than a lot of theoretically more serious modern biopics are.]


*Salieri continued to be respected as a music teacher for decades after Mozart's death - he taught Beethoven, for example - and was evidently regarded with affection by other composers (he was sometimes called 'Grandpapa' by his illustrious students). The one huge historical inaccuracy is the total character assassination against Salieri. However, ironically, the success of Amadeus has lead to a belated revival of interest in Salieri's works - I have a CD of his chamber music somewhere and it's decently pleasant. Some of his operas (where his talent was believed primarily to lie) have even been revived in recent years.


A clip: Salieri has an idea

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:18 pm 
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Yes, Amadeus is great. The premise of the "Salieri Hated Mozart" legend seems to come from a time when Mozart had a brief spat with Salieri and his arguments with the Italians in court at general. I personally like Bach more than Mozart and Mozart more than Beethoven, but I'm Frislander's age so that makes little sense. Then again, almost nothing about my musical taste aligns with my age.

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:21 pm 
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I know this isn't a movie thread, too, and that I'm not being directly addressed here, but yes, I have seen Amadeus several times. I saw it one last time with my dad only because every time my dad tried to watch it when I was a child, I'd always stop and rewind the whole thing shortly before the end for some reason. Probably the music at that point scared me or something. (A few songs used to have this effect on me at the time: Whenever I heard even a few notes that sounded really jarring to me for whatever reason, I'd categorically refuse to listen to the rest of the song and would either stop the music if possible or scream in a desperate effort to drown it out. In particular, it took me a really long time to develop any appreciation at all for the third line of the Mexican national anthem).


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:27 pm 
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Easy Listening: By some bizarre quirk of fate, the most famous work by Beethoven is a tiny little amusement – often in hindsight classified as a ‘bagatelle’, a type of fanciful little morsel – only discovered forty years after his death – Für Elise. It’s a trivial piece, probably remembered more for its use by piano teachers than for its music qualities, but it’s not a bad representation of Beethoven. The melody is, to be frank, not as great as Mozart, just a little wobble, but Beethoven builds it into something strangle compelling, something strangely ‘on edge’ in a way that Mozart would rarely have attempted, while still retaining a Classical elegance. It’s a rondo, and its contrasting sections show Beethoven moving into more emotive territory – in particular, the second contrasting section with its glowering mood and hammering bass, is a faithful first bite of Beethoven.

Beethoven began as a pianist, and the piano is perhaps where he feels most at home; in particular, in his early period he grew accomplished in his piano music much earlier than in other genres. The early-period piano sonatas are some of his most accessible and beautiful works, and two in particular have become probably the most popular works for the instrument: the Pathétique and the Moonlight. The Pathétique (the 8th sonata), composed in 1798, was the first work to gain him widespread acclaim, and it’s easy to see why: clearly inspired by Mozart’s own 14th sonata, the Pathétique stays within the limits of its era, remaining easy to understand and coherent in structure – but within that language, it makes a terribly bold statement, right from its thunderous first notes. Right from the start of the first movement, the score is littered with “sF” (sforzando – suddenly loud), “Fp” (loud and then immediately quiet), constant crescendos, alternations between loud and quiet, slow and fast – even when a dance-like theme breaks in, its pace makes it feel more manic (and on tip-toe!) than soothing. We even get to see the rare semihemidemisemiquaver in the wild! This is right at the very edge of what Mozart might have attempted – it’s in the same area as his minor sonatas (no.s 8 and 15) – but ordinary for Beethoven. The second movement may be a little less adventurous – it’s a harmonically very straightforward little rondo, with perhaps only a little more fondness for suspensions and other temporary ambiguities than Mozart normally went in for – but it sings so sweetly, so naively, without the ironies and restraint of Mozart, that it is clearly something new.

The 14th sonata, the Moonlight, is even better-known, and even more unusual, perched right on the verge of his transition into the Heroic Period. People know the soothing/troubling first movement, with its echoes of a transfigurated Bach, but the remarkably passionate, furiously raging [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTeHy_6FqmU]third movement[/url] is, while more simplistic, a better guide to the mood of what was to follow – something Mozart would not have dared attempt, and that none of his contemporaries could even have conceived of.

Outside of the piano, one of his most popular works is one of his most unashamedly Mozartian: the early-period Romance for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 (written many years before the Romance for Violin and Orchestra No. 1, needless to say...).

More substantial yet popular works include his violin concerto and his five concertos for piano (particularly the last three) – all from the ‘Heroic’ period, and, this being Beethoven, the length (if not weight) of symphonies. The violin concerto is best known for its finale; the 3rd piano concerto, for all three movements: the fun but intense first movement, the spiritual second movement, and the lively third movement.

The greatest of the concertos, however, is the fittingly-named “Emperor” (the soloist in the first performance was the Archduke of Austria), the 5th piano concerto. The first movement is an orgy of virtuoso piano performance, contrasting moods, and multiple recognisable tunes – it’s a triumph, but to be honest it’s 20 minutes of triumphalist triumph that may bore the uninitiated. The concerto’s immense popularity instead comes from the sublime slow movement (listen for at least two minutes, until the piano finally enters). That in turn leads in directly, without pause to the triumphant finale, in one of the great transitions (oddly, the theme of the third movement actually begins at the end of the second).

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 8:24 pm 
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Key works: Beethoven’s most epochal works were his symphonies: the 3rd through 8th were written in the ‘heroic’ decade, while the 9th is a late work. They are all great, but the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th are incredible. In a poll of conductors, the 3rd (“Eroica”) was voted the greatest symphony of all time, narrowly ahead of the 9th (“Choral”), with the 5th, 6th and 7th all in the top 20. In Classic FM’s Hall of Fame (a popular poll), the order was different: the 6th beating the 9th in the top ten (no non-Beethoven symphony higher than #25), with the 7th, 5th and 3rd following.

The Eroica, as mentioned, is a defining moment in Western music – although it’s not as popular with the public as with professionals, perhaps owing to its relative lack of catchiness and its difficult, fist-shaking emotions. Beethoven knew from the beginning how radical he was being, and appropriately enough the first movement starts with two hammering fists of chords – followed by a breathless, almost in media res, exposition. The really revolutionary content, however, is not the opening tune, but what he does with it: the development section that goes on for ever, diverted partway through by the unexpected entrance of an entirely new theme, as the composer bodily wrestles with his themes on a scale previously unprecedented (both in length and complexity and in sheer orchestral forces). By the time the monumental first movement does conclude, the listener is as exhausted as though he’d listened to Mozart’s last three symphonies all put together – and it’s not over. The Second Movement is just as remarkable in its own suicidal way, and the catchiest part of the work – a beautiful and defiant funeral march that has become a feature of sombre ceremonies around the world, but which here explodes into an orgy of desolation. Just listen to the two minutes or so following this point, as the passions rise pitch by pitch before falling away in exhaustion into a return to the theme. Slow movements were meant to be the restful recovery bit! This one’s as much a harrowing confrontation with destiny as the first movement is, if not more so. And if the first two movements divided audiences of their day, the last two continue to divide audiences in ours – triumph, mockery, or incoherent mess? Listen to the beginning of the finale – the finale of a great symphony, and after ten seconds of rushing around suddenly we’re in some sort of pizzicato comic dance!

The ‘Eroica’ was originally named ‘Napoleon’, and intended to do to culture what the French Revolution had done to politics. When he heard that Napoleon had declared himself emperor, Beethoven scratched his name from the score so thoroughly that he ripped a hole in the paper.

The 5th (the 4th, incidentally, is regarded as a work of very high quality, but one that lacks a certain spark – a ‘slender Greek maiden between two Norse giants’, with an unusually cheerful mood) is of course best known for its kinetic first movement, which spins itself entirely out of a single snatch of rhythm. The opening four notes (which Morse assigned to the letter ‘V’ in his code) would be played at the beginning of every BBC broadcast to occupied Europe during WWII, and the symphony, formerly known as ‘Fate’ (after the image of Fate knocking at a door) is now sometimes known as the Victory. The finale is almost as thrilling; but the second movement is a gem in its own right. Even if it is impossible not to hear the second theme as “Happy Birthday”.

The 6th is a more populist, but perhaps even more radical work, at least structurally. It has five movements, and they’re given explicitly programmatic titles (like “Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside” and “Thunder, Storm”) – something that would become commonplace late in the 19th century, but which was almost unprecedented at the time (at one point the music even features a sequence of imitation bird calls). It begins with a surprisingly quiet, gentle introduction, as the listener wanders in the country; just as well known is the third movement, in which we observe the happy goings-on of simple country folk; but this movement ends in a cliffhanger, which takes us to the Storm movement, in which the real Beethoven finally emerges as the storm gathers and breaks. This in turn leads without pause into the famous tune of the finale.

The 7th symphony, written at the culmination of the middle period, is a surprisingly subtle work (until the finale, described by one conductor as “a lot of yaks jumping about”) of high quality throughout, marked by its use of dance-like rhythms – but it is overwhelmingly best known for its driving 2nd movement allegretto, with its obsessive rhythmic pattern.

The 8th symphony is an oddly jolly work, featuring multiple parodies and seemingly comic moments, in an unusual structure; Beethoven believed it better than the 7th, and some professional composers have agreed; but by and large it’s overlooked by both critics and the public at large.

The same is not true of the 9th, a masterpiece that has drawn awe ever since. The audacity of the work is clear from its first notes, serious yet almost daring the listener to laugh at them – whether this is intentionally an imitation of an orchestra tuning up or whether that’s a coincidental impression is still debated – and the first movement is a colossal struggle through pain, contentment and triumph, dwindling into despair and a concluding funeral march that seems to invoke the much more extended funeral of the Eroica. Indeed, some have seen the first movement as a summary – and implicitly rejection – of the entire spirit and (musical methodology) of the Eroica and what followed it. That first movement is followed by a “scherzo” – a “joke” – that is anything but: it’s rapid tempo suggests not so much humour as panic, for all that it also includes moments of (manic?) cheer and humour. Although cast like most scherzos in a simple ternary form – ABA – that simplicity is a disguise, as the ‘A’ sections are both complete sonata-forms in their own right, and fugal to boot. The movement also features the first serious drum solos in the classical tradition. The third movement is relatively uneventful – a serene, pastoral slow (and seemingly almost improvised) theme-and-variations that would be a role model for a great deal of heart-on-sleeve Romanticism in the century to come – just listen to the theme entering a few seconds after this moment. Why does that link start a little too early? So that you can hear, between the closing of one bit of serenity and the the opening of another bit of yearning, the soft, foreboding echo of the first movement’s “tuning” theme. Beethoven does things like this throughout the symphony, linking movements together through subtle call-backs and premonitions. In particular, every movement (most notably the second) features little glimpses of a particular theme that might not be recognised at the time, but that will eventually tie the entire symphony together...

These three movements, other than being in the ‘wrong’ order, are conventional Classical forms – or at least had become so, two decades after Eroica – albeit each a remarkable, almost unparalleled exploration of the limits of that form. As a result, these three movements were instantly recognised as masterpieces...
...but then comes the finale, so staggering and controversial that many early performances simply refused to include it (fortunately, the third movement swells at the end into unexpected grandeur, making it at least a possible, even if a terrible, place to stop). It is in no form previously known – modern analysts have suggested a sort of sonata form, or a sort of a rondo, but most useful I think is the idea that the final movement is itself in the form of a symphony of four continuous movements upon recurring themes – the first movement of which itself has a ternary form, of which the central section is itself a theme and variations. As this description suggests, it’s a colossal movement, around 25 minutes of music (longer than most Haydn or Mozart symphonies).

But it’s more than just big and complicated. In the fourth movement, Beethoven takes the first three movements – the pinnacle of Western music to that point – and throws them away. Quite literally – the first section of the movement, after a stormy introductory presto takes the themes and moods of each of the first three movements in turn, and brusquely shouts them down. A fourth theme arises, and is shouted down in turn, but [url=https://youtu.be/QfrAXZC7GKA?t=2752]comes back, gentle but insistent, in a series of variations... rudely interrupted, at the height of its exuberance, by a return of the despairing presto. Will the old ways of thinking maintain their hold over the soul? Can the depressed and alcoholic Beethoven escape from the grasp of those old circuitous thoughts? Again the old music is shouted down, but this time the dismissive music is given literal voice: for the first time, somebody gets up to sing in a symphony. The words? The only words in the symphony that were actually written by Beethoven: “Oh friends, not these sounds! Let us instead strike up more pleasing and more joyful ones!” And for the first time, a choir joins in. The introduction of a choir was more than just an unprecedented experiment in tone – it was a bridging of the secular world of the symphony to the sacred world of the mass and the cantata, and it appears to signal Beethoven’s turn from the assorted modes of life, symbolised in the first three movements, with which he had attempted to confront the agonies of existed (shown proximally in the form of that furious presto theme), toward some sort of transcendental religious, spiritual or possibly political overcoming of pain, as the choir sing, with many interruptions and changes in style, Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”. The greatest moment, however (and there are plenty to choose from) may come with the second rendition of the first verse. After an incongruous Turkish march and some joyous (some say drunken) solo singing, arriving, with the ‘cherub’, before the face of God, the music explodes into a thrillingly chaotic double fugue, which runs out of breath, gasps once for air, twice, and then... well, here’s a little cinematic version of the leadup to that choral entry.

[For context: the conceit here is that as Beethoven conducts the symphony – his first concert in a decade – he is thinking back to an occasion when he escaped a beating from his drunken father by running off alone into the woods. If you continue watching past the ‘Ode’, the strange section following, in which Beethoven hums to himself, seemingly lost in reverie, as the audiece claps behind him, is an allusion to what actually happened at the concert. Beethoven by that time was of course completely stone deaf, so although he ‘conducted’ the symphony for the purposes of marketing (and his ego), the orchestra were actually following discrete lead of another conductor out of sight of the audience (and Beethoven). Beethoven had no idea that the performers were going faster than he was, and was too distracted to notice when they stopped; thus, with the symphony ended, he continued to conduct to himself, until Caroline Unger, one of the vocal soloists, took pity on him and turned him around to see the standing ovation behind him.]

If the Eroica was the starting gun to begin the Romantic era – and an entire ideology of suffering, innovative artists constantly in rebellion – the Choral was the unattainable pinnacle of music to which the Romantic aspired, but could never reach. It provoked religious raptures among composers who heard it, and ever since it has held an almost sacred place in Western culture. Nazis and Communists both adored its message of revolution and transcendance – but democrats, too, have been inspired by its utopianism. The Choral was performed by an international orchestra when the Berlin Wall came down. When Mao Zedong wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his revolution, he arranged for a performance of the Choral; when students massed in Tiananmen Square to protest against the regime, they steeled their resolve by playing a recording of the Choral over loudspeakers. In Japan, hundreds of concerts across the country, with choirs of thousands (ten thousand in Osaka) perform either the entire symphony or some portion of the final movement every year around Christmas and New Year – the tradition has gradually grown since the first performance by German POWs during WWI. Beethoven intended the ‘Ode to Joy’ as a universal anthem for all mankind; it hasn’t reached that status yet, but it is the official Anthem of Europe.

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 11:18 am 
Sumerul
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What's all this stuff about Beethoven being dramatic about, he never even tried to send an orchestra to the Himalayas to bring about the end of the world

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 11:24 am 
Avisaru
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...I'm sorry, what?

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:37 pm 
Smeric
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My best guess is a reference to this:

As I understand it, there's a story that Ravana intended to extend his empire to include Tamil Nadu in India. There, he met Sage Agastya who then challenged him to a music competition, specifically a veena-playing competition. If Ravana lost this competition, he would have to give up his territorial ambitions in India. Ravana had Agastya go first, with the intention of subsequently humiliating him with his own excellent veena-playing skills. However, Agastya played so well that his music melted the ice from Mount Kailash to the north of the Himalayas. Then Ravana realized how much superior Agastya's skills were to his own and returned to his kingdom.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:06 pm 
Sanno
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No, it's a reference to Alexander Scriabin, one of the greatest innovative figures of the late (or post-) romantic era. His ambition was to destroy the world - or, at least, translate it to some other form of being, and eradicate humanity in preparation for the arrival of a nobler species (not sure if those were aliens or divine visitors) - by staging a multimedia concert (with coloured smokes and lights and smells, etc) in the Himalaya. [Scriabin believed that each key was inherently linked to a colour, with the circle of fifths paralleling the colour wheel; he derived this belief from a combination of his own synaesthesia with his studies of Newton, Plato, and Madame Blavatsky].

Instead, he developed a small sore on his upper lip, and hence died, at the age of 43, and was immediately forgotten about by everybody. [the rise of Socialist Realism didn't help; his music was also banned from broadcast in the UK on account of its evil nature].

At the time of his death, he'd only sketched out parts of the 'Prefatory Action' to the Mysterium itself - reconstructions run no more than three hours for this prologue section.

Nonetheless, he is relevant to Beethoven, as Scriabin's piano sonatas are now widely considered the greatest such sequence since Beethoven's.

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:11 pm 
Smeric
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Huh, no kidding! Thanks for that explanation! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:52 pm 
Sanno
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Recondite works: Aside from the Choral Symphony, the last decade and a half of Beethoven’s life largely turned away from works for mass public acclaim. Nonetheless, several works of his Late Period are generally considered among his highest accomplishments.

A distinctive feature of the Late Period is Beethoven’s increasing fascination with fugue (see the multiple fugato sections in the 9th symphony), and his study of Bach; this is most prominent in his Missa Solemnis, which at times looks beyond Bach to Palestrina. It’s generally agreed to be a masterpiece, but it hasn’t captured the public imagination, and expects often find it “peculiar” and unsettling, in part as a result of its uniqueness in the Western repertoire (a combination of the 19th century and the early 18th, with echoes of the 16th for good measure). It includes sections of almost bewildering energy, and others of distinctive Romantic sweetness[/url] – and some massive fugues.

The mass is a genre in which Beethoven was never completely comfortable – he wrote only two, and neither is commonly performed. In part this is likely because the compositional logic of the mass undermines Beethoven’s own strengths, which were primarily in developing themes and creating unity across large and disparate movements; in the mass, on the other hand, there is a fixed text to be set, and the emphasis is on fitting each moment of music to the words – it thus tends to reward composers capable of working in miniature, which was never Beethoven’s forte (nor, for that matter, was he as naturally comfortable working with the voice as Bach or Mozart were – critics and singers have often complained that he treats his singers like mechanical instruments). He attempts this intense, miniaturist style earnestly in the Missa Solemnis, and creates a work in which experts can agree there is great genius... but whether it is entirely a success is more controversial. Similarly, Beethoven struggled with opera – he wrote only one, Fidelio – and ballet (again, only The Creatures of Prometheus): both works have a decently respected place in the repertoire, but are far from masterpieces, and the opera is best known for its four different overtures, the best known being “Leonore No. 3”. And on the subject of overtures, the Byronic Egmont Overture (the famous bit from a suite of incidental music) may not be as famous as the contemporaneous symphonies, but has become a popular favourite (and the unofficial anthem of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising). The less famous Coriolan Overture is in a similar vein. I suspect that when modern TV, film or video game composers are asked for “DRAMATIC MUSIC!”, their first instinct is to reach for the Egmont and the Coriolan...

Beethoven’s final works, however, were mostly written either for solo piano, or for string quartet. The string quartet was a genre he came to relatively late, but all 16 he wrote are considered great. The first six are from his early period, in a broadly Mozartian vein. The three ‘Razumovsky’ quartets of his middle period, on the other hand, were immediately recognised as changing the genre: twice the length of most quartets, reviewers of the day spoke of their fascination for “all connoisseurs”, but warned that they were “not easy to comprehend”. Here’s the 2nd movement of the 9th quartet[/url], one of the more approachable bits.

But there there’s the Late Quartets. These five-and-a-bit works were what Beethoven turned to after writing the 9th Symphony, and while they are almost entirely unknown to the general public, they have taken on an immense significance within classical music, often considered the greatest of all compositions. To say that they’re not easy to comprehend, however, would be an understatement – a contemporary composer labelled them “indecipherable horrors”. And yet every generation has found something in them that continues to seem relevent, even surprising. They are exploratory in structure and content, having up to seven movements, some of great length, but complex and innovative structures, often featuring close juxtapositions of wildly different emotions. A popular movement is the 3rd movement of the op. 132 – in its sparse desolation and its slow pace, it could almost be a work of the 20th century (works such as Barber’s Adagio certainly owe a debt to it), but it also contains sudden explosions of good cheer. Op. 130 gives us the sublime, harrowing Cavatina (one of the pieces engraved on the Golden Record sent into space with Voyager). It’s also unusual in having two final movements: the original “Große Fuge” was so immense and intimidating that, for perhaps the only time in his life, Beethoven backed down in the face of criticism and supplied an alternative (the last thing he wrote before dying). The Große Fuge may now be performed in its original place after the Cavatina, or as a work in its own right – and, from the perspective of absolute music, perhaps Beethoven’s masterpiece, “the most problematic work in the entire literature of music”. It would certainly be fitting to give the title to a piece that many admire but nobody really fully loves or understands: “Art demands of us,” Beethoven explained, “that we do not stand still”. When a friend complained that the relatively tame Razumovskys were “not music”, Beethoven answered: “oh, they’re not for you. They are for a future age.” We have perhaps caught up to the Razumovskys, but the future age of the Late Quartets has not yet been attained.

Beethoven’s own favourite work, for what it’s worth, was the op. 131 quartet. It has 7 movements, although one lasts less than a minute. It has many moments of sweetness and good humour, particularly in the central theme-and-variations movement – but it’s most striking movement is probably the militant finale.

The other instrument Beethoven turned to, the piano, had played an even larger role all through his career. His 32 piano sonatas are not all masterpieces, but they’re all good, and collectively they’ve been called “The New Testament” of music (after Bach’s Old Testament “Well-Tempered Clavier”). After the early Pathetique and Moonlight, the next most famous is the firey Appassionata (that’s the third movement; beautiful second movement here; or just skip ahead to the fireworks...). Equally intense, but less aggressive, is the Waldstein, with its glorious, transcendental finale.

His most highly respected piano works, however, come from the late period, and above all the immense Hammerklavier sonata. The final two movements are the most striking: the third is a sprawling, bluesy, almost improvisatory, tender slow movement, the longest slow movement in Beethoven and one of the longest in the entire repertoire, while the fourth is... well. It begins with, bizarrely, a slow section not divided into bars, but most of the movement is a fiery and greatly varied vast three-part fugue, employing almost every known technique of contrapuntalism. The Hammerklavier was at first considered unperformable by humans; certainly no adequate performance is known for thirty years, until Liszt accomplished it. This combination of extreme technical difficulty, fascinating musical variety and complexity, and sweeping symphonic length, have made the Hammerklavier perhaps the pinnacle of piano performance ever since.

That said, personally I don’t think anything could compare to the transcendental genius of Beethoven’s final sonata, the two-movement no. 32 (op. 111). The first movement is a sombre, awkward, stormy, negative piece; the second, the ‘Arietta’, is divine. It takes the simple form of a theme and four variations, although it feels almost more like a fantasy, that seems to be written in an entirely different musical language from anything that had gone before (or, frankly, that has come after) – a particularly distinctive feature is the movement’s use of a succession of highly unusual time signatures (9/16, 6/16, 12/32, and back to 9/16 but now with triplets for what is in effect a 27/32 metre) and syncopation. The movement’s spiritual climax in the third movement is sufficiently radical that modern performers sometime refer to it as the “boogie-woogie” section.

Nonetheless: my own personal favourite of the sonatas is the 12th, a relatively early work of only minor acclaim. Here, Beethoven shows the restraint and grace of Mozart, but the colour and sentiment of Beethoven himself, in a somewhat unusual structure. The first movement theme-and-variations is particularly cute (it’s best known via being nicked by Schubert for one of his impromptus), although it’s the third movement “Funeral march for the death of a hero” that the sonata is best known for – clearly prefiguring the Eroica’s funeral march a couple of years later, this was the only sonata movement of his own that Beethoven ever orchestrated, and the orchestrated version was the music played at his own funeral.

The most immense of his late piano contributions is, oddly, a satirical response to a popular meme. Anton Diabelli, composer of popular light music and junior publisher, had e-mailed out (or whatever it was they did in those days) a trite little waltz, asking each notable composer of his day to send back their own variation on his theme, with the ultimate intent of compiling them into a book that would be sold for charity to support war widows and orphans. Beethoven, who actually quite like Diabelli as a man, if not as a composer, eventually got around to responded. In total, Diabelli got 51 responses – 50 notable composers, from the Archduke down to the 11-year-old Franz Liszt, each sent in one small variation, and Beethoven sent in... the Diabelli Variations. All 33 of them. They’re widely seen as humourous in intent, mocking the vapidity of Diabelli’s original theme, but they’re also seen as a masterpiece, a microcosm of Beethoven’s art, ranging from perfect textbook fugues through to stormy Romantic fare, and ending, incongruously, with a minuet. The slow 32nd variation is my favourite[/url].

Not, of course, that he only wrote sonatas for piano. He also wrote five for cello (the 3rd is most played, but the 4th and 5th are most important as perhaps the beginning of the Late Period) and ten for violin. Of the latter, the 10th is often considered the best, but by far the most famous is the 9th, the so-called Kreutzer Sonata. It’s a somewhat unfortunate name. The sonata’s first performance was given by the famous black violinist George Bridgetower, with Beethoven accompanying on piano; Bridgetower seems to have immediately made a good impression on the antisocial Beethoven, earning an affectionate personal dedication of the sonata to Bridgetower as “great madman and mulatto composer”. Bridgetower (who had to sight-read the first performance) ad-libbed improvements that Beethoven accepted, and Beethoven even gave him his tuning fork as a memento; but unfortunately, a few days later, Bridgetower made an off-colour joke about a woman whom Beethoven turned out to have feelings for, and the friendship was immediately sundered. Beethoven demanded Bridgetower’s copy of the sonata back, and instead dedicated the work to his rival, Kreutzer – who promptly declared the sonata unplayable, and never even attempted it. Today the Kreutzer is seen as a great test for both violinist and pianist – particularly in its agitated, heroic first movement.
Finally, Beethoven did write for other chamber ensembles also. Best known of these works may be his “Archduke” Trio (for piano, violin and cello), which at the time was seen as doing for chamber music what the Eroica did for orchestral work. The slow movement is sumptuous.

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:06 am 
Sanci
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I was wondering if the "Egmont" was the Dutch noble who was beheaded by the Spanish in the 16th century, a kind of obscure bit of history that I wouldn't think many people outside of The Netherlands (or inside, for that matter) would know or care about. Turns out, there's a play by Goethe about him, and accompanying music by Beethoven. Interesting.

Still following this thread with great interest. There's so much to try, so I'm digesting it slowly.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:38 am 
Sanno
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Junes wrote:
I was wondering if the "Egmont" was the Dutch noble who was beheaded by the Spanish in the 16th century, a kind of obscure bit of history that I wouldn't think many people outside of The Netherlands (or inside, for that matter) would know or care about. Turns out, there's a play by Goethe about him, and accompanying music by Beethoven. Interesting.


Indeed. And for the sake of completeness, the Coriolan Overture is NOT an overture to Shakespeare's Coriolanus. Instead, it's an overture to a play by the incredibly obscure (at least, to me - maybe German speakers might disagree) Heinrich von Collin. The overture is not all that well-known, but it is infinitely more famous than the play...
Quote:
Still following this thread with great interest. There's so much to try, so I'm digesting it slowly.


Again, please don't take it that you have to listen to every piece from beginning to end before moving on to the next sentence. The idea is more just to have the links there for future reference.

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:54 pm 
Sanno
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A diversion!

Since we've finished the trinity and haven't gotten on to the second rank yet, I thought now might be time for something different. Since it's Black History Month*, I thought it might make sense to write a little about one of the greatest black classical composers. There haven't been many of note, and most have been Americans from the 20th century. But there have been at least two really important black European composers. Here's one...


Joseph Bologne (the Chevalier de Saint-Georges)
1745-1799
b. Basse-Terre; d. Paris

Who? – Saint-Georges was the illegitimate son of a French commoner who had made his fortune as a plantation owner in Guadaloupe, and his black slave (though the relationship may have been closer than that sounds: his parents later lived together in France, and while his father lived he seems to have favoured Saint-George over his legitimate white half-sister). He was sent to France at age 7 for an education, eventually enrolling in a military academy. There, he rose to fame as the greatest swordsman of his generation (he was beating fencing masters while still a student, and was described by other fencers as having “the greatest speed imaginable”; “lightning is no faster”), before being knighted and admitted to the royal bodyguard, where he soon befriended the Queen, and developed a reputation as one of Paris’ most successful lovers. Along the way, however, he’d also picked up equally dazzling skills on the violin, becoming one of the first musician-superstars (“enrapturing especially the feminine members of his audience”), before taking control of Paris’ best semi-professional orchestra and reorganising them to become arguably the best, and first modern professional, orchestra in Europe. However, he was refused control of the Paris Opera (the most prestigious musical post), allegedly because of the impropriety of a black man giving orders to the white female performers – although this was believed to be a politically correct mask for the performers’ real objection, Saint-Georges’ legendarily strict discipline. Under the patronage of the royal family (and later the House of Orléans), he had fame and fortune, and was dispatched as an agent to Britain, where he succesfully became one of the closest friends of the Prince Regent, while also liaising between French and British Abolitionists; in England, he performed to large crowds as both a musician and a swordsman, most notably in a duel with his friend, the (by then much older) famous openly transgender duelist and international spy, the Chevaliere d’Eon. While in London, pro-slavery forces attempted to have him assassinated – but as they sent only five armed men, this posed little practical danger.

When the Revolution came, the moderate Saint-Georges (who had ties with the Orléanists and Girondins) joined the national guard, lead the line of volunteers who repelled the Austrians from Lille when the professional army had been routed (and then conducted the requiem mass for those who had died), organised Europe’s first all-black military regiment (being appointed colonel), and at one point may have saved the Republic (when asked to join the defecting Dumouriez, he politely declined and personally rode hell for leather to outpace the mutineers to Lille to warn the garrison of their arrival and intent), but his political skills were limited and he soon found himself imprisoned, narrowly avoiding the guillotine. A later expedition to fight against the black uprising on Haiti did not rehabilitate his military career – he seems to have been disheartened by the wholesale slaughter on both sides, and in particular by the bitter racial conflict between the black separatists and the mixed-race loyalists, and he left the island early – and he devoted his later years to music, before dying an untimely death of an unknown fever.

What? – As a virtuoso violinist, unsurprisingly Saint-Georges’ earliest and most voluminous works are for that instrument: fourteen violin concertos, along with eight symphonies concertantes. He also wrote a fair volume of chamber music for his aristocratic patrons. In addition, he tried his hand at the most profitable genre of his day, opera, composing six comic operas, which met with varying degrees of success (although even those that failed were criticised for their libretti, rather than their music).

Such As? – I’m afraid I’m not sufficiently familiar with Saint-Georges’ oeuvre to select the best works. However, despite a long period of relative neglect, most of his works are available in multiple recordings today; Here, for example are the complete symphonies concertantes; right from the first movement of the first, we see see the Chevalier’s vigour, grace, and ear for melody. The same is true of his violin concertos. A slightly more personal touch is seen in this movement from one of his violin sonatas (originally performed by Saint-Georges, accompanied by Marie Antoinette on the piano...). Perhaps most interesting is his string quartet here – Saint-Georges was one of the first composers to follow Haydn’s example in writing string quartets.

In any case, throughout this music we can see a cultured and talented composer, who probably would be still acclaimed if he had lived in any other era. Politically, ironically (given that he was the son of a commoner and a slave), his associations with aristocracy and royalty led to much of his music being destroyed or banned in France under Napoleon. More importantly, however, he was a contemporary of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven - and though he's talented, he's clearly no Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven. His music has tunes and energy but it lacks to subtlety and ingenuity of the greatest masters, and as a result, like almost all other composers of that era, his name was eclipsed by his worthier rivals and by newer fashions. Only in recent decades has there begun to be a reassessment of Saint-Georges, as not only the greatest black composer, but as one of the greatest composers of the late 18th century.




Fun Facts: – Saint-Georges was familiar with both Haydn and Mozart; it was Saint-Georges who commissioned (on behalf of the local Freemasons, of whom he was a leading member) Haydn’s “Paris Symphonies”. He and Mozart were actually housemates at one point, when Saint-Georges was temporarily bankrupt and a young Mozart was stranded in Paris after the death of his mother, and both were taken in by the Duke of Orléans. Apparently, however, the two of them couldn’t stand each other – no surprise, as Mozart was an ill-disciplined libertine and Saint-Georges was a martinet out of a military academy. Mozart, in any case, apparently did not take well to seeing how much more successful Saint-Georges than him, at least at that time.
More intriguingly, Saint-Georges may well have inspired both ‘The Three Musketeers’ and ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’. In Saint-Georges’ black regiment, his second in command was a certain Thomas Dumas – father of the novelist, Alexandre. In ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’, the (allegedly) sympathetic young Albert has a father who rose from obscurity to glory through a military career under Napoleon, all founded upon an act of betrayal that left an innocent man, his own friend, sitting in prison. In reality, Saint-Georges was arrested and imprisoned in a fortress, on no charge, for thirteen months, beginning just ten days after his old friend and confidant, Lieutenant-Colonel Dumas, was mysteriously promoted two grades in the revolutionary army in one instant, to become Brigadier General. While Saint-Georges rotted in jail for no apparent crime, General Dumas rose to the heady height of Commissaire of General Security and Surveillance within the feared Committee of Public Safety (the de facto government of France at the time). We’ll never know why Dumas rose so high so fast, and whether it had anything to do with the sudden fall from grace of his old friend Saint-Georges – but it’s hard to believe that Dumas’ son was not aware of the rumours regarding his own father’s past when he came to write his great novel. Similarly, it seems unlikely to be a coincidence that the author of ‘The Three Musketeers’ was the son of the lieutenant to the most famous and chivalrous swordsman in recent French history!

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:52 am 
Lebom
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Are you sure that's The Man in the Iron Mask you're describing? The Man in the Iron Mask was a guy from the 1600s and the gimmick of the book is that he is the twin brother of Louis XIV if I remember correctly. It's been a long time since I read the book, but I don't recall the type of plot device you're describing having been used in that book, and the specific detail of Napoleon's army wouldn't work even if I am forgetting some subplot.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:20 am 
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Civil War Bugle wrote:
Are you sure that's The Man in the Iron Mask you're describing? The Man in the Iron Mask was a guy from the 1600s and the gimmick of the book is that he is the twin brother of Louis XIV if I remember correctly. It's been a long time since I read the book, but I don't recall the type of plot device you're describing having been used in that book, and the specific detail of Napoleon's army wouldn't work even if I am forgetting some subplot.


*hits head*

Damnit, I obviously meant The Count of Monte Cristo.

AKA "the book I spent half of last year reading damnit".

So no idea why my brain broke there...

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 3:29 pm 
Sanno
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TIER 2
In their consensus status as three of the greatest composers ever, the trinity of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are unchallenged. However, a number of other composers have been considered by many – though not most – to be at or near their level. The four composers listed here are of immense status in classical music, and each has some significant number of supporters who would claim their favourite’s right to be mentioned at least in the same sentence as the trinity.

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G.F. Handel
1685-1759 (Late Baroque)
b. Halle; d. London

Who? – German by birth (and born with the name Händel), Handel emigrated to England as a young man (having been educated through the German organist tradition, much like Bach), and quickly became an immensely popular composer of accessible music. He was apparently irascible, coarse in language and not particularly sociable, but among those who knew him he was prized for his dry humour, good nature and honesty (as well as his fondness for good food); he was caricatured under the title “The Charming Brute”. His reputation was greatly enhanced by his dedication to various charities (most famously the London Foundling Hospital), and on his death he was buried in Westminster Abbey before a crowd of three thousand wellwishers. Mozart and Beethoven both acclaimed his talent – the latter crowning him the greatest composer in the history of the world – but his music was often neglected by critics for a century and a half after his death, mostly kept alive by the enthusiasm of amateur performers. In the 20th and 21st centuries, he has largely regained his mass popularity.

What? – Handel’s early career was founded upon his Italianate operas; later in his life, he switched to plainer oratorios in English on religious themes. In addition, he wrote a number of significant works for royal occasions, and some for his private patrons. His particular talent was for emotional affect: his music is often simple in construction, but able to evoke strong feelings, most characteristically of exuberance. His natural ability to appeal to the masses was augmented by his technical skills, particularly in counterpoint, in which few are his rival.

Such as? – Handel’s most famous, and perhaps mostly easily representative, work is the first of his Coronation Anthems, Zadok the Priest – the melodies are not remarkable, but the first entrance of the choir is a moment of astonishing power. A similar effect is on display in his magnificent Music for the Royal Fireworks (his contemporary popularity can be seen in the 12,000 people who turned up at short notice to hear the first rehearsal) (this is one of the few multi-movement works in the repertoire in which almost every movement is famous). His notable Italian operas (long neglected, but now returning to fashion) are best represented by “Giulio Cesare in Egitto” – from which, “Da tempeste” is a strikingly florid aria best suited to those who actually possess a syrinx, while Piangerò la sorte mia is a more heartfelt, tragic piece. His single most famous opera aria, however, is Ombra mai fu from Serse (often heard in orchestral arrangements).

Handel’s masterwork, though, is the great oratorio, “Messiah”, one of the most performed large works in history: performances are ubiquitous around Christmas and Easter. Its 53 movements show a wide range of styles and emotions, as Handel subordinates his music to the sense of the libretto, telling the story of Christ from his being prophesied through to his resurrection. The gentle Comfort ye is an example of an accompanied recitative, in which Handel brings out both the music in the English and the sentiments of the words (followed here by the contrasting aria, “Ev’ry valley”); the joyous For unto us a child is born is almost the musical personification of Christmas; I know that my redeemer liveth is a heartfelt song played at endless funerals. And in one of the few strange traditions of classical music, the audience traditionally rise to their feet to listen to the Hallelujah Chorus.


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(F.) Joseph Haydn
1732-1809 (Classical)
b. Lower Austria; fl. Esterháza; d. Vienna

Who? – Haydn was the son of a wheelwright in rural Austria, who left his family at 6 to seek musical training. As a child, he worked as a chorister, but was frequently left unfed – the early desire to be good enough to sing at the sort of events where they served refreshments provided him with lifelong self-motivation. At 17 he was sacked and made homeless, but he taught himself composition and gradually worked his way up to be concert master for Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, one of the world’s richest men: this gave him comfort, but little free time, and eventually meant moving to Esterháza, the city-in-a-castle the Prince had constructed on a swamp in the middle of nowhere. Despite this isolation, he soon became known as the greatest living composer. He remained with the Esterházys the rest of his life, although when his third Prince scaled back the musical establishment he allowed Haydn to tour to London and to spend more time in Vienna.

Haydn was universally loved; his performers and other composers called him simply “Papa”. He is said to have been the embodiment of the Enlightenment man: kind, thoughtful, generous, loyal both to his employers and to his employees as well as to his friends, sociable, generous with his time and his praise, temperate, intelligent, flexible, honourable and with a lively sense of humour.

What?
– Haydn is known as the Father of the Symphony (although he did not invent it) and the Father of the String Quartet (as he did more or less invent it). Although his work demanded contributions to many other genres – masses, baryton trios, marionnette operas – and although he played a pivotal role in the development of many significant genres (such as keyboard sonatas, and trios), it’s primarily symphonies and quartets where his reputation lies. His style, which was continually evolving, took the shallow but accessible galant style and extended it through the introduction of more sentiment and more sophistication – and a fair amount of humour. He worked overwhelmingly in major keys, and is rarely more than briefly sorrowful or frightening: it’s music for popular concerts and for aristocratic dinner parties, although it’s always much better than it ‘needs’ to be. Because he is almost always cheerful and unthreatening, Haydn is often overlooked today; but in both his constant innovation and his precise mastery, he effectively established the foundations on which first Mozart, then Beethoven, and then the whole of what has followed since have built upon.

Such As? – Haydn’s most notable music generally falls within two periods: his mid-life “Sturm und Drang” period, slightly more passionate (and sometimes in minor keys), and his late-life “popular” style, which combines his greatest sophistication with a cheerful, likeable mood. The former style can be seen in symphonies like the Farewell (no. 45)* and Lamentatione (no. 26); the later is best known in his ‘London symphonies’, such as the Military (no. 100; here the 2nd movement, in which a serene country picnic is suddenly surprised by a Turkish invasion force) and the Clock (no. 101; here again the 2nd movement, in which the quiet ‘metronome’ rhythm was seen as ridiculous, an in-joke relating to a musical clock Haydn had bought the Prince[/url]; the first movement is an unusually dark piece for this era). Among the string quartets, the earlier style is seen in the “Sun quartets” (op. 20), such as Op. 20 no. 4; but the best are the “Erdödy quartets” (op. 76), such as the Emperor (no. 3, the slow movement; yes, that is the traditional national anthem of both Germany and Austria; and yes, Haydn originally wrote it, though this version wasn’t his first, so he’s quoting himself here) and the Sunrise (no. 4).
Outside the symphony and the string quartet, Haydn’s most acclaimed works are probably his two late oratorios: The Creation (the more popular) and The Seasons (perhaps more critically acclaimed). To be honest, I’ve never really liked them, but the first movement of The Creation, titled The Representation of Chaos is certainly remarkable, one of the most ‘modernist’ pieces of music written prior to 1860; to represent the formlessness of chaos, Haydn provides an endless churning of ambiguous harmonies shorn of their comforting cadences, often with unusual (muted) timbres and sudden changes in volume... it’s followed by a whispering, dark movement led by a recitative, and then, suddenly, God saith, “Let there be Light”, which after the ten minutes of primordial dark void is and remains one of the most astonishing moments in music.

*the Farewell is so-named for its final movement. The Prince had been keeping his court, including the musicians, at Esterháza for months longer than normal (the court migrated seasonally), and everyone was desparate to go home and see their wives (or girlfriends, or...), and on the verge of rebellion. Haydn dealt with the minor crisis diplomatically, by composing this symphony for the Prince; in the final movement, the music dwindles, as each musician stops playing, gets up, snuffs out the candle they were using to read their score, and walks out, until only two instruments (played by Haydn and his deputy) are left playing quietly in the near-dark. The Prince got the message, and let the musicians go home to their families. It's a perfect (and true) Haydn story: he endeared himself to his Prince by alerting him to a problem with his staff non-confrontationally and amusingly while stressing his own personal loyalty; he endeared himself to his musicians by interceding succesfully with the Prince on their behalf; and in the process he created a classic piece of music that displays both wit and musical innovation (it's the first major symphony to end with an anticlimax, and is literally a century ahead of its time), and shows how he was able to harmonise the twin artistic imperatives of writing for a specific contemporary audience and occasion (in this case, a specific day) while at the same time writing a work with general and lasting artistic appeal.

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Blog: http://vacuouswastrel.wordpress.com/

But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
as though her heart was brook: Why, why, why! Weh, O weh
I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 4:08 pm 
Smeric
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Still on Mozart. :-D

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Composers
PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:27 pm 
Sumerul
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Salmoneus wrote:
A diversion!

Since we've finished the trinity and haven't gotten on to the second rank yet, I thought now might be time for something different. Since it's Black History Month*, I thought it might make sense to write a little about one of the greatest black classical composers.

Surely you are referring to Julius Eastman, a minimalist and noted gay black guy who was purged from music for annoying John Cage, ended up a homeless crack addict, and, ironically, independently invented both black metal and 4chan in 1979, with a piece called "Evil Nigger", frequently performed as the second in a three-piece set of which the other two pieces are "Gay Guerrilla" and "Crazy Nigger". This is real

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