Author Topic: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55  (Read 10068 times)

Offline martle

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #45 on: October 18, 2009, 09:49:23 pm »
This performance may cause severe reactions (nausea, dysentery, rage, etc).

 :D What? In that order??
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Offline Notoriously Bombastic

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #46 on: October 18, 2009, 11:32:16 pm »
I think any error is due not to Beethoven's intentions but rather to our own understanding of these. I am not particularly bothered by minor fluctuations in tempo - it seems to me a fairly natural result of instinctive musical performance rather than any fault in one's own natural clock. Karajan's performance of this first movement is a sheer travesty! Not only does he utterly disregard the tempo marking, but he even rewrites Beethoven's trumpet parts at bars 657-661 just in order for them to thump out the full theme instead of only that part Beethoven asked for! (The crassness here is, of course, that natural trumpets could have played the notes Karajan substituted had LvB actually wanted to have them.)

Afraid they couldn't - the entry at 655 is in octaves, and only the 1st trumpet owns the necessary notes to complete the phrase.  Also the F would be extremely nasty, less easy to lip down than on a horn.

It sounds like a sensible idea to me.  Just like rewriting second trumpet parts to avoid unison Ds after octave Gs.  (Example in Mvt 1 bar 45).  The lower octave is normally in the horns so it's not adding a new note, it keeps the balance, and is easier to play.

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Offline Notoriously Bombastic

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #47 on: October 18, 2009, 11:40:15 pm »
If the first movement is played at 60 bars to a minute and with the repeat, it should take a fraction over 14 minutes. That is just about what the version in message 1 does. I always thought Zinman with the Tonhalle was a bit of speed merchant but he takes a minute longer. Cluytens takes 14 and a half minutes but he doesn't do the repeat!

If one is going to play with modern instruments and forces, one might as well play with "improved" orchestrations as well...

The classic case of that happening in Beethoven symphonies is the horn "fanfare" that announces the second theme in the fifth. In the recapitulation some conductors have taken it from the bassoon and given it back to the horn on the grounds it's what Beethoven would have done if he could. I thought that sort of tinkering had gone out of fashion these days.

But for messing about with the balance, if I were conducting it I would make the violins play louder in bars 390 to 395 (the bit just before the recapitulation where the horn seems to come in a few bars early) even though they're marked ppp. Otherwise the contrast between them and the horn is lost on all but the keenest listener.

Beat me to the bassoon/horn example Tony.

There's several recurring Beethoven orchestration techniques that I find odd.  Afraid it's a bit late to dig out examples from scores

- very 'bright' flute parts, with both higher than the 1sts.  First chord of the Eroica for example.
- bassi written high but violas written low (below middle C)
- bassi decoupled, but a massive gap between the basses and the cellos/violas/bassoons

And any excuse to post a link to new horizons in musical appreciation

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Offline rauschwerk

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #48 on: October 19, 2009, 07:46:55 am »

Well you asked for it Dryphters! Here is the appropriate section taken from Karajan's Staatskapelle Berlin recording that amply illustrates his idiotic approach to tempo (which fluctuates to the point of incoherence), as well as his Gorilla-like approach to reorchestrating Beethoven's score. The passage is from bars 604-673 - he does this on every recording I've heard - note the stupid trumpet parts near the end...


In Berlin in 1962 he does keep a steady tempo in this passage. However, he takes the Poco andante in the finale fully 45% below the metronome, wrecking the proportions of the movement.

Nostradamus

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #49 on: October 19, 2009, 08:26:04 am »
I think any error is due not to Beethoven's intentions but rather to our own understanding of these. I am not particularly bothered by minor fluctuations in tempo - it seems to me a fairly natural result of instinctive musical performance rather than any fault in one's own natural clock. Karajan's performance of this first movement is a sheer travesty! Not only does he utterly disregard the tempo marking, but he even rewrites Beethoven's trumpet parts at bars 657-661 just in order for them to thump out the full theme instead of only that part Beethoven asked for! (The crassness here is, of course, that natural trumpets could have played the notes Karajan substituted had LvB actually wanted to have them.)

Afraid they couldn't - the entry at 655 is in octaves, and only the 1st trumpet owns the necessary notes to complete the phrase.  Also the F would be extremely nasty, less easy to lip down than on a horn.

It sounds like a sensible idea to me.  Just like rewriting second trumpet parts to avoid unison Ds after octave Gs.  (Example in Mvt 1 bar 45).  The lower octave is normally in the horns so it's not adding a new note, it keeps the balance, and is easier to play.

NB

I was thinking of the upper octave only - the F would be only fractionally out of tune (by ET standards - even if LvB was thinking of ET which is unlikely as a localised tuning parameter, even if globally [hence his use of keys showing enharmonic equivalence] he held ET as a structural norm).

But the important point is this I think: Beethoven still regarded (as did his Classical predecessors) the Trumpets as being used mostly in conjunction with - and usually still merely doubling - the Timps. It was, therefore, something of a "special moment" when he decided at that point to allow them to emphasize the theme - but they only did so for its opening before reverting to their usual role of providing a rhythmic and timbral backing (like the timps). Merely to exploit them (in later arrangements) as though they had suddenly become melodic instruments (which they were to become in later years through the advent of valve mechanisms) betrays an atavistic approach to this work that produces sonic results out of keeping with those envisaged by the composer's own imagination.

The passage sounds, to my ears, perfectly coherent and well designed when played in the explicit manner asked for by the composer. So it is a mystery to me why anybody should wish to tinker with it at all, and change its colour and balance in this way. (It seems rather like a later painter feeling somehow "unsatisfied" with the colours Canaletto used to paint water, and therefore deciding to get out his acrylic paints and add more varied shades to the original - balmy!)
« Last Edit: October 19, 2009, 08:29:45 am by Nostradamus »

oliver sudden

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #50 on: October 19, 2009, 11:36:25 am »
But the important point is this I think: Beethoven still regarded (as did his Classical predecessors) the Trumpets as being used mostly in conjunction with - and usually still merely doubling - the Timps.
I don't know if there's just a single important point here  ;) - another problem with filling out the trumpet line is that it puts a climax where Beethoven didn't write one (it's still only forte there) and the build-up after that to the real fortissimo becomes a bit redundant. If he'd wanted to write a big thumping unison line he certainly could have but in fact at that moment the winds are chattering away in a repeated-note version of the arpeggio theme, the violins and violas are scrubbing away in long tremolos and the basses are scurrying up and down the scale.

(Did he ever actually write a top concert Bb for trumpets, by the way? He certainly went up to the written G for the D trumpet but I've forgotten if he ever wrote notes sounding higher than that.)

Back in my school days I used to pencil in similar little 'improvements' for brasses and timps and winds but sort of lost interest when I realised that the process could never really stop, especially if you consider the possibility of not only 'correcting' the places he used the instruments but also using them where he didn't use them at all.

Also that the orchestrational limits are to some extent part of the composition - or at least that they form part of the drama of the piece as played, whether Beethoven planned them that way or not. For example, in the first movement of the ninth symphony there's a dotted figure with timps which is then jacked up a notch to where the timps can't take part (bars 102-3 and 106-7) - pedal timpani could play the whole figure but as it is the second bar of each figure has the ground cut out from under it by the disappearance of the drums. Maybe he would have been happy to have the drums each time; maybe the idea was precisely to emphasise the general sense of developmental drift. And even more obviously in the Scherzo of the ninth - the timpani are tuned to F and f, there's no timp on the tonic although a third drum wouldn't have been unprecedented. This means the timpani insist on the minor mode even though everyone else keeps trying to escape it - the crassest example is bar 338 where the orchestra is burbling along happily in D major and it's the timpani that turn everything back to the minor. (martle, I don't quite agree that Beethoven would write actual wrong notes for the timpani just because they can't project pitch so clearly - as far as I know the notes he wrote are always the notes he wants. Some later composers did indeed do that though.)

Certainly it's part of the package of Classical and Baroque orchestral music that modulation brings a change of orchestration with it; if you change that aspect I think you're subtly undermining the way form is projected through the instrumentation.

balmy!)
Especially on a warm summer evening.  ;)

Offline martle

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #51 on: October 19, 2009, 09:51:41 pm »
(martle, I don't quite agree that Beethoven would write actual wrong notes for the timpani just because they can't project pitch so clearly - as far as I know the notes he wrote are always the notes he wants. Some later composers did indeed do that though.)

Yes, you're right. I was regretting that remark not so long after posting. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the limitations imposed by the timpani's inability to re-tune quickly are often the object of LvB's ever-resouceful imagination?

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #52 on: October 20, 2009, 10:58:12 pm »
And even more obviously in the Scherzo of the ninth - the timpani are tuned to F and f, there's no timp on the tonic although a third drum wouldn't have been unprecedented.

The timps are tuned in exactly the same way in the finale of the eighth. There are a couple of occasions in which they play a sequence of alternating high and low notes. It's practically a solo but the bassoon is playing along as well. I wonder whether that had any bearing on the ninth.

As for high trumpets, I'm never sure whether trumpets in F are sounding higher or lower than they are written, but in the eighth, there's a long written high F, sounding B flat.

Offline Reiner Torheit

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #53 on: October 20, 2009, 11:11:42 pm »
As for high trumpets, I'm never sure whether trumpets in F are sounding higher or lower than they are written

Beethoven-era F-trumpets are/were pitched a fourth lower than the moden Bb orchestral instrument. Valve technology was applied to the F-trumpet a generation later, and this same alto-pitched trumpet remained in use until the C20th...  Bruckner and Mahler both scored for it, as did RVW and Holst.  It mainly fell out of use because accuracy is more reliable on smaller trumpets (viz the Bb and C trumpets which are in universal use these days) - the harmonics don't lie so closely together in the main "playing range", so the chances of hitting a bum note are fewer*.  The VPO still own (and use) F-trumpets in Bruckner and Mahler - purists would claim the timbre is less "sizzly" than Bb trumpets.  There's a short clip of Crispian Steele-Perkins handling and playing one here: http://www.music.ed.ac.uk/euchmi/ujt/ujt2494.html

* although this never stopped me ;)
« Last Edit: October 20, 2009, 11:20:48 pm by Reiner Torheit »
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oliver sudden

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #54 on: October 21, 2009, 08:09:34 am »
As for high trumpets, I'm never sure whether trumpets in F are sounding higher or lower than they are written
Beethoven-era F-trumpets are/were pitched a fourth lower than the moden Bb orchestral instrument. Valve technology was applied to the F-trumpet a generation later, and this same alto-pitched trumpet remained in use until the C20th...  Bruckner and Mahler both scored for it, as did RVW and Holst.
Indeed, but as far as the score-reader is concerned, at least in Beethoven, Bruckner and Mahler the F trumpet always (as far as I know) sounds a fourth higher than written. (Beethoven's Bb trumpet was twice as long as a modern Bb.)

And Tony, you're quite right - there are several high concert Bbs in the 8th (in both parts!).

Offline Roehre

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #55 on: January 27, 2010, 06:58:01 pm »
And it seems probable (to me) that he was working on them both either simultaneously or contiguously...    Eroica was publicly premiered on April 7th, 1805 (although there was a private play-through sometime in 1804 for Prince Lobkowitz),  and LEONORE (sic) was first given on November 20th of the same year.  However, allowing for the rigmarole, faffing-about, role-learning and rehearsal time involved, it seems likely that Beethoven must have been nearing a draft version of LEONORE (to present to the censors, if no other reasons) around six months prior to the actual performance?

The original planned date for the premiere of Leonore  was October 15th 1805.
By letter of September 30th the censors informed the Hoftheater that a performance that night was not allowed. The letter itself has not survived, but its existence is a logical conclusion from the contents of a letter by Sonnleiter to the censors (at the Police station!) dated October 2nd 1805 (Brandenburg no.237).
This makes it nearly impossible that the score of Leonore was not ready by the time of the public premiere of the Eroica


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Offline Reiner Torheit

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #56 on: January 27, 2010, 07:26:49 pm »
This makes it nearly impossible that the score of Leonore was not ready by the time of the public premiere of the Eroica

Thank you for this deeply-mined information :)
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Offline kleines c

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #57 on: February 23, 2010, 03:15:01 pm »
So what made Beethoven's 3rd Symphony such a revolutionary work?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/discoveringmusic/viewer/eroica1.shtml

Simon J H

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #58 on: February 23, 2010, 03:18:02 pm »
So what made Beethoven's 3rd Symphony such a revolutionary work?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/discoveringmusic/viewer/eroica1.shtml

The invention of the turntable :).

Offline Reiner Torheit

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Re: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, op. 55
« Reply #59 on: February 23, 2010, 11:07:05 pm »
So what made Beethoven's 3rd Symphony such a revolutionary work?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/discoveringmusic/viewer/eroica1.shtml

But there is nothing in any of all of this very worthy analysis which ever, at any point, attempts to say why it is revolutionary   :facepalm:

That it's different from a Mozart symphony is - graphically, at least, if not formally - clear.  But who can say that the difference is "revolutionary"?   You could just as easily conclude from the analyses that it's more abstruse, or more convoluted, or more elegant, or any number of other properties.

Is it "revolutionary" because we are conditioned to think this is what "revolutionary" music sounds like, because it sounds like Beethoven 3?
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