Happy Beethoven's Birthday!

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He was born 250 years ago.

Most people think mostly of his nine symphonies, which are wonderful. Some focus on the string quartets, which are among the greatest ever written. Some find his only opera, Fidelio, sublime.

But to me, it's the piano sonatas that were his greatest achievement.
 
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I learned just this week from an interview with virtuoso violinist Anne Sophie Mutter that Japan learned about the importance and quality of Beethoven's music from Germany when the two countries were allies during the war. That makes sense considering that when Sony helped develop the audio compact disc, they ensured that the medium would accommodate the length of Beethoven's Symphony #9. That's because in Japan, performances of that symphony by professional and amateur musical organizations throughout the country every year are akin to the performances in America of Handel's Messiah.

To clarify, Beethoven's birthday was on the 16th.
 
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But to me, it's the piano sonatas that were his greatest achievement.
You simply can't go wrong with his piano sonatas that are named, as opposed to only numbered; every single one is nothing short of musical magic.

I listen to all of his piano sonatas, piano concertos, symphonies, string quartets, violin sonatas, piano trios and his violin concerto, triple concerto, Missa Solemnis, and a few other pieces every year. On the other hand, his Choral Fantasy Op. 80 is one of the worst pieces I've ever heard written by a master composer during his mature years.
 
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You simply can't go wrong with his piano sonatas that are named, as opposed to only numbered; every single one is nothing short of musical magic.

I listen to all of his piano sonatas, piano concertos, symphonies, string quartets and violin sonatas as well as a few other pieces every year. On the other hand, his Choral Fantasy Op. 80 is one of the worst pieces I've ever heard written by a master composer during his mature years.
I enjoy all of the sonatas, named or not. But I agree that I don't care for the Choral Fantasy. Just by mentioning it you've now got the theme haunting my brain . :mad:
 
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My fauvorite is Symphony no.3
I don't have a favorite but that symphony, called the Eroica, is definitely one of my favorites. A wine made from Riesling and named after that symphony is also a favorite.

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By the way, anyone interested in a set of Beethoven symphonies with both terrific sonic and performance qualities will want to consider the set produced by Decca and performed by Leipzig's Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly. If you're married to the slower tempos of so many conductors, the faster tempos might be troublesome to you at least until you get used to them. The faster tempos are so important that the set's notes written by the conductor go into considerable detail about how and why he settled on them. Personally, I find them valid and refreshing.
 
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One of my best musical experiences was last year playing Beethoven 9th Symphony with an amateur orchestra and chorus. The bass trombone entry in the last movement was a magical experience ! Not sure the cello sitting to my left enjoyed it so much. :)

Ronnie
 
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The bass trombone entry in the last movement was a magical experience !
Were you the player of that bass trombone?

Through the Virginia Tech Library I get free access to Digital Concert Hall, the Berlin Philharmonic's home on the web. Almost all of their performances in the past 15 years are available for streaming from that site, so it's a treasure trove.

Last night my wife and I listened to two different performances of Beethoven's 3rd piano concerto with different pianists: Yefim Bronfman and Daniil Trifonov. The differences in their performances was revealing.
 
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Daniil Trifonov
My wife and I have been attending a piano recital series for decades at the Kennedy Center that features up-and-coming professionals not yet acclaimed as top-tier pianists. Some of the most famous world-class pianists over the last 70 years or so got part of their start on that piano recital series. I'm referring to the likes of pianists as long ago as Alfred Brendl and as recently as Lang Lang. When we heard Trifonov play on that series several years ago, we knew within the first eight measures, exactly as we felt when we heard Lang Lang, that he was going to be internationally famous within five years. It didn't take anywhere near that long, as he was booked in the major concert halls all over the world within two to three years. There is something about a musician that good that you can nearly instantly tell the difference between them and everyone else, who are proficient in their own right, that they are truly unusually gifted artists. That kind of revelation happens rarely, maybe no more than once every five to ten years, but there is no better experience in a concert hall.
 
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The symphonies, the piano sonatas (not just the named ones; the last two are transcendent), the quartets (op. 59, no.1 and op. 131 are my favorites; op. 18 are too often overlooked) the piano trios, the violin sonatas, the piano concertos, the violin concerto -- those are all on my list of favorites. And let's not forget the Diabelli Variations and the C minor variations, too. The string trio.s op. 9 are overlooked, too, but they're just perfect. I think they're more tightly constructed than the op. 18 quartets. The cello sonatas, particularly op. 69 and the last two, are also works that are sometimes overlooked.

For clunkers, there are Wellington's Victory and the Ruins of Athens. The Choral Fantasy doesn't quite work, though I wouldn't call it a clunker.

For all the Beethoven fans here, let me put in a plug for my friend Jan Swafford's Beethoven biography:

Swafford Beethoven

And he has just come out with a biography of Mozart, which I've nearly finished.

Swafford Mozart
 
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My wife and I have been attending a piano recital series for decades at the Kennedy Center that features up-and-coming professionals not yet acclaimed as top-tier pianists. Some of the most famous world-class pianists over the last 70 years or so got part of their start on that piano recital series. I'm referring to the likes of pianists as long ago as Alfred Brendl and as recently as Lang Lang. When we heard Trifonov play on that series several years ago, we knew within the first eight measures, exactly as we felt when we heard Lang Lang, that he was going to be internationally famous within five years. It didn't take anywhere near that long, as he was booked in the major concert halls all over the world within two to three years. There is something about a musician that good that you can nearly instantly tell the difference between them and everyone else, who are proficient in their own right, that they are truly unusually gifted artists. That kind of revelation happens rarely, maybe no more than once every five to ten years, but there is no better experience in a concert hall.
Lucky you.

We were able to stream live most of the 2011 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in which Trifonov took First Prize. That was the first time I had heard of him. He has become quite a star since then. He certainly is animated and intense.

Bronfman, by contrast, is a great bear of a man who sits almost perfectly still at the piano while the music just pours out.
 
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