Beethoven is the $#!+

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Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 01:10 pm
Giving this thread a title reminded me that I ought be listening to Beethoven. Now, there is another thread titled 'What is the meaning of ought' or thereabouts. I really don't care for that in this thread, as this is the Aesthetics Forum. But then, describing the beauty of Beethoven may be a sort of instruction to listening to Beethoven... Or whatever it is one has to describe in regards to Beethoven.

I really enjoy all of his music, but right now I am listening to Prometheus Overture, Op. 43; it is what it is.

I've talked a lot about music lately with friends, and I don't know what to say about our talks, but publicly listening to Beethoven gets different responses out of people.

Many people simply say, Awesome music man; I love the classical; I can play that on this here guitar; etc. And these people will be playing a drinking game with paper airplanes designed to mock that guy who burned down his house and flew an airplane into an IRS building.

Another one of my friends says that Tenacious D does classical music far better than Bach or Beethoven. We disagree about covers, too; me saying that the originator can never be beat.

I want to say something about repsect or understanding, maybe even creativity. 'The poetry of the soul is who we are', or something like that. But I am left wondering if what Grandma said was true, or at least in good faith: "THAT IS THE DEVIL'S MUSIC!!!"

But I said this thread was not going to be about 'ought'.

There are some creators that bear no comparison, surely. I think Beethoven is one such. To argue with people on the matter would be a waste of time. I want to ask my friend, "Surely you can hear?!"

Well, can you?
 
hue-man
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 02:14 pm
@jack phil,
My favorite Beethoven song is Moonlight Sonata.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 04:12 pm
@jack phil,
Beethoven is, indeed, very great. And I think his greatest, and most moving works are his last three quartets.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 05:25 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;131978 wrote:
Beethoven is, indeed, very great. And I think his greatest, and most moving works are his last three quartets.



I presume you mean Op. 131, 132, & 135. I am currently listening to Op. 131. I think the novice would find some of Beethoven's earlier works more accessible. I do, however, think his later works are in general better, but not as easily appreciated as things he did earlier (perhaps the "middle period" Beethoven is the best for beginners to whet their appetites for more; more of both Beethoven and other "classical" music). The same can be said, I think, for most great composers, who seem to generally get better over time, though they may also become less easily appreciated.

As for Beethoven being great, isn't he normally regarded as among the "top three" composers of all time, along with Bach and Mozart?

Anyway, he was very great indeed. And it is understandable if one lacks the words to properly describe his music, much of which is awe inspiring.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 05:32 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;132017 wrote:
I presume you mean Op. 131, 132, & 135. I am currently listening to Op. 131. I think the novice would find some of Beethoven's earlier works more accessible. I do, however, think his later works are in general better, but not as easily appreciated as things he did earlier (perhaps the "middle period" Beethoven is the best for beginners to whet their appetites for more; more of both Beethoven and other "classical" music). The same can be said, I think, for most great composers, who seem to generally get better over time, though they may also become less easily appreciated.

As for Beethoven being great, isn't he normally regarded as among the "top three" composers of all time, along with Bach and Mozart?

Anyway, he was very great indeed. And it is understandable if one lacks the words to properly describe his music, much of which is awe inspiring.


Yes, I mean those works. I don't think they are accessible to beginners. Probably, the Fifth Symphony, of Beethoven's most significant music is that. But, it is his chamber music I find the most moving. You are lucky to be listening to 131. (Which reminds me.....). I would put Brahms in there too, but many would not agree. If Elgar had written more, I would count him too.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 06:19 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;132020 wrote:
Yes, I mean those works. I don't think they are accessible to beginners. Probably, the Fifth Symphony, of Beethoven's most significant music is that. But, it is his chamber music I find the most moving. You are lucky to be listening to 131. (Which reminds me.....). I would put Brahms in there too, but many would not agree. If Elgar had written more, I would count him too.



I am more conventional in my judgement of classical music than you are (though I was not when younger). I am happy to say that Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven are the three greatest composers of all time. (If I were going to add a fourth, it would probably be Haydn.) And of these, Bach is my favorite, though I became interested in such music largely through listening to Beethoven, who was my favorite when I was young. I think the middle period Beethoven is easier to get emotionally involved with than many other composers' work. But, perhaps, that is more a comment on myself rather than an accurate judgement of how others feel.

This makes me think of something else that is relevant to aesthetics: I often find that acquired tastes are more enjoyable than things immediately enjoyable, though that is not always the case.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 06:22 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;132052 wrote:
I am more conventional in my judgement of classical music than you are (though I was not when younger). I am happy to say that Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven are the three greatest composers of all time. (If I were going to add a fourth, it would probably be Haydn.) And of these, Bach is my favorite, though I became interested in such music largely through listening to Beethoven, who was my favorite when I was young. I think the middle period Beethoven is easier to get emotionally involved with than many other composers' work. But, perhaps, that is more a comment on myself rather than an accurate judgement of how others feel.

This makes me think of something else that is relevant to aesthetics: I often find that acquired tastes are more enjoyable than things immediately enjoyable, though that is not always the case.


Yes, because acquired tastes are usually the result of learning and maturation.
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 06:43 pm
@jack phil,
Interesting coincidence. I'm right now listening to Beethoven's "Symphony #4 in B Flat." (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan conducting.) As a side note, I've found that the Berlin Philharmonic recordings are generally top-shelf quality.

What of Stravinsky though? I have a copy of Stravinsky himself conducting "The Rite of Spring" and it's fantastic.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 06:50 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;132068 wrote:
Interesting coincidence. I'm right now listening to Beethoven's "Symphony #4 in B Flat." (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan conducting.) As a side note, I've found that the Berlin Philharmonic recordings are generally top-shelf quality.

What of Stravinsky though? I have a copy of Stravinsky himself conducting "The Rite of Spring" and it's fantastic.


It is. Very exciting. It is said that when the piece was first played, conducted by Stravinsky, one of the audience stood up at the end and shouted, "He is mad, he is mad!". And Stravinsky bowed to the audience and replied, "He has understood me". "Il me comprends".
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 06:56 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;132074 wrote:
It is. Very exciting. It is said that when the piece was first played, conducted by Stravinsky, one of the audience stood up at the end and shouted, "He is mad, he is mad!". And Stravinsky bowed to the audience and replied, "He has understood me". "Il me comprends".


I understand that Stravinsky was outraged with how Disney used the piece in the way that they did in Fantasia. He did not have dinosaurs in mind, when he wrote it.
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 07:03 pm
@TickTockMan,
I have recently become enamoured with early and mid 19th century minimalist composers especially Arvo Part.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 07:08 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;132077 wrote:
I understand that Stravinsky was outraged with how Disney used the piece in the way that they did in Fantasia. He did not have dinosaurs in mind, when he wrote it.


I winder why that would outrage him?
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 07:11 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;132068 wrote:
Interesting coincidence. I'm right now listening to Beethoven's "Symphony #4 in B Flat." (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan conducting.) As a side note, I've found that the Berlin Philharmonic recordings are generally top-shelf quality.



He recorded Beethoven's symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic three times (plus some of them were probably also recorded live); once in the 1960's, in the 1970's, and in the 1980's. (He had previously recorded them all with the Philharmonia Orchestra.) And at least two of those recordings have been issued in remastered versions. Which recording is it that you have?


TickTockMan;132068 wrote:
What of Stravinsky though? I have a copy of Stravinsky himself conducting "The Rite of Spring" and it's fantastic.



Yes. I have that too. It is more spare than some other recordings of it.
 
Twirlip
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 07:30 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;132017 wrote:
I presume you mean Op. 131, 132, & 135. I am currently listening to Op. 131. I think the novice would find some of Beethoven's earlier works more accessible.

I earnestly beg to differ, and would not like any 'novice' or 'beginner' to be put off from listening to the late Beethoven quartets by such remarks. I am a complete duffer at music, haven't the slightest understanding of musical theory, have no concept of what keys are for, can hardly recognise a classical musical structure (unless it's a theme and variations, when I have a fighting chance, or maybe a scherzo and trio), have never played an instrument except the recorder at primary school, grew up in a largely unmusical family with no burning interest in either classical or popular music, but, in spite of all this, the first piece of classical music which really spoke to me at the deepest level was Beethoven's late string quartet in E flat major (whatever that means!), Op. 127, especially the slow movement. It was just a direct emotional and spiritual communication, for which very little had been done to prepare the ground. (Previously, my most intense musical experience had been listening to a piece of rock music, 'Yours Is No Disgrace', from The Yes Album, by Yes. I also quite enjoyed Bach's Brandenburg concertos, and I really liked Dvorak's New World Symphony, but nothing got right through to my soul like that late Beethoven piece. It was my introduction to Beethoven, not something for which I had to be prepared gradually.)
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 07:53 pm
@Twirlip,
Pyrrho;132017 wrote:
I presume you mean Op. 131, 132, & 135. I am currently listening to Op. 131. I think the novice would find some of Beethoven's earlier works more accessible. ...


Twirlip;132096 wrote:
I earnestly beg to differ, and would not like any 'novice' or 'beginner' to be put off from listening to the late Beethoven quartets by such remarks. I am a complete duffer at music, haven't the slightest understanding of musical theory, have no concept of what keys are for, can hardly recognise a classical musical structure (unless it's a theme and variations, when I have a fighting chance, or maybe a scherzo and trio), have never played an instrument except the recorder at primary school, grew up in a largely unmusical family with no burning interest in either classical or popular music, but, in spite of all this, the first piece of classical music which really spoke to me at the deepest level was Beethoven's late string quartet in E flat major (whatever that means!), Op. 127, especially the slow movement. It was just a direct emotional and spiritual communication, for which very little had been done to prepare the ground. (Previously, my most intense musical experience had been listening to a piece of rock music, 'Yours Is No Disgrace', from The Yes Album, by Yes. I also quite enjoyed Bach's Brandenburg concertos, and I really liked Dvorak's New World Symphony, but nothing got right through to my soul like that late Beethoven piece. It was my introduction to Beethoven, not something for which I had to be prepared gradually.)



I am not trying to get someone to avoid the later works; I am trying to get people to not judge him solely by his later works, and to give his earlier works a listen. I do, after all, say that I regard his later works as generally better than his earlier works.

And, while I am at it, I might as well say that it is often a good idea to give a piece another listen later on in life, if one does not particularly like it early on, when it is a piece that is generally regarded as great. In the case of the Brandenburg Concertos by Bach, I always liked them, but I did not fully appreciate them at first. They are sublime, if played well. The recording of them by Tafelmusik conducted by Jeanne Lamon is one I recommend. It has only been from listening to them many times over many years that I have come to a better appreciation of them. I never tire of them, nor does my wife. There is something very special about them. But enough of this, as this is supposed to be a Beethoven thread, and he is great enough to deserve his own thread without too many digressions.
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 12:56 am
@Pyrrho,
kennethamy;132084 wrote:
I winder why that would outrage him?

The short version: It didn't fit his creative vision.
The long version: Classical Classics - Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Classical Notes, Peter Gutmann

Pyrrho;132087 wrote:
He recorded Beethoven's symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic three times (plus some of them were probably also recorded live); once in the 1960's, in the 1970's, and in the 1980's. (He had previously recorded them all with the Philharmonia Orchestra.) And at least two of those recordings have been issued in remastered versions. Which recording is it that you have?


I have the 1963 remaster that also includes "Eroica." Apparently it is volume 2 of a 10 CD set, which our lone record store in town does not have in it's entirety. Bummer. I suppose I could download it from iTunes, but for classical music I generally prefer to buy the CD and burn it for my iPod at a higher bit-rate than iTunes offers. Plus there's that whole support local family-owned business thing as well . . .


Pyrrho;132087 wrote:
Yes. I have that too. It is more spare than some other recordings of it.


Agreed, the Stravinsky-conducted version comes across a bit less lush than other versions I have heard, but it has a certain raw power to it that I enjoy. Plus, it is Stravinsky conducting.

I used to have a really excellent version of Sacre du Printemps on vinyl, but I don't know what's become of it. I think it was a Deutsche Grammophon version as well, but I can't remember now.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 07:20 am
@jack phil,
There is a drive to the 1960 Berlin set that is very compelling (for example the explosion at the end of the bridge passage in Sym. 5). Since I have a hour drive to work, I spend last year listening exclusively to the cycle, and although I have recordings of each symphony that I prefer, it is to my ears, the best complete review.

And, while one must acknowledge that Beethoven is at the pinnacle of greatness, a musical version of Nietzsche's Overman, this doesn't preclude the enjoyment of other composers. [Aside: I once read something to the effect that Beethoven began writing music for everyone, then beginning with the 9th and the Solemnis only to a few kindred souls, and finally with the last quartets, only for god.] To the list above, I might suggest Handel, Brahms, and of course, Bruckner---even Saint-Saens or Pucinni.

I am sometimes struck with the idea that the great composers are great philosophers, and vice versa.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 12:11 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;132226 wrote:
...
I have the 1963 remaster that also includes "Eroica." Apparently it is volume 2 of a 10 CD set, which our lone record store in town does not have in it's entirety. Bummer. I suppose I could download it from iTunes, but for classical music I generally prefer to buy the CD and burn it for my iPod at a higher bit-rate than iTunes offers. Plus there's that whole support local family-owned business thing as well . . .



There are various online sites that sell CDs. You can also get that set remastered yet again for hybrid SACD. (A hybrid SACD can play on a regular CD player, but you will only get the CD layer of the sound, not the SACD layer, when played on a CD player. Probably, the CD layer is the same mastering as was done for the DG Complete Beethoven Edition, but I am unsure of that.)

That series, taken as a whole, is generally regarded as Karajan's best traversal of the Beethoven symphonies, though not everyone agrees on that point. I think it is his best performances (overall, not necessarily of each symphony), but I don't think the differences are as great as some people seem to imagine. They all seem to have a similar style, which should hardly be surprising, being conducted by the same person, with the same orchestra (though, of course, some of the members would have been changed between those decades).

I have not heard the SACDs, though I have heard both the original CD release (which I own) and the first remastering (which is owned by one of my brothers, and is what you have of the 4th). I think the remastering is better, and would guess that the newer remastering for SACD is better still.

The original release set can be had for very little money, so it is worth considering if one is poor. But otherwise, I would recommend going with a remastered version.

And this is my favorite set of the Beethoven symphonies, though, again, there is much disagreement about whose performances are the best. This set, however, is often in such discussions.



TickTockMan;132226 wrote:
Agreed, the Stravinsky-conducted version comes across a bit less lush than other versions I have heard, but it has a certain raw power to it that I enjoy. Plus, it is Stravinsky conducting.

I used to have a really excellent version of Sacre du Printemps on vinyl, but I don't know what's become of it. I think it was a Deutsche Grammophon version as well, but I can't remember now.



My comment was not intended to indicate any disparagement of Stravinsky's conducting of the Rite of Spring (the "Yes" that started my post was in agreement with your statement "it's fantastic"). "Spare" was meant purely descriptively, not as a pejorative evaluation. In this case, it may or may not have been what Stravinsky really wanted (as the limitations of the orchestra may have prevented that), but it has all that it really needs. Sometimes, less is more, and I think the less from Stravinsky on this really is more than what one typically gets. It has a raw visceral power that others often lack.

I suppose I should clarify the above; I have been presuming that you have been referring to the stereo recording Stravinsky did in 1960 (released 1962) with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, instead of his earlier mono recording from 1940 with the New York Philharmonic. I have never heard the 1940 recording; I have the 1960 recording, and my comments above are about that one. (I believe that the 1940 recording is out of print, though it has been released on a couple of different CD labels, and now would cost a lot of money to obtain. It is said to be a superb performance, with very poor sound quality of the recording.)

"Classical" music gets very complicated, when one starts to get into the question of which recording one should get, as there are many considerations to balance, including not only the quality of the performance, but the sound quality of the recording.

I have generally found that conductors matter more than orchestras, and soloists matter more than conductors (in pieces with very prominent solo parts), when making selections of which performance is "best". And, of course, generally speaking, newer recordings have better sound quality than older ones.

---------- Post added 02-25-2010 at 02:32 PM ----------

jgweed;132264 wrote:
There is a drive to the 1960 Berlin set that is very compelling (for example the explosion at the end of the bridge passage in Sym. 5). Since I have a hour drive to work, I spend last year listening exclusively to the cycle, and although I have recordings of each symphony that I prefer, it is to my ears, the best complete review.



I agree. It is my favorite as well.


jgweed;132264 wrote:
And, while one must acknowledge that Beethoven is at the pinnacle of greatness, a musical version of Nietzsche's Overman, this doesn't preclude the enjoyment of other composers. [Aside: I once read something to the effect that Beethoven began writing music for everyone, then beginning with the 9th and the Solemnis only to a few kindred souls, and finally with the last quartets, only for god.] To the list above, I might suggest Handel, Brahms, and of course, Bruckner---even Saint-Saens or Pucinni.

I am sometimes struck with the idea that the great composers are great philosophers, and vice versa.



I very much disagree. I don't think that being a great composer has anything to do with being a great philosopher. I am particularly struck by that thought when I read a translation of the words to Mozart's Requiem, which is superb music, but if it is philosophy, it is dreadful philosophy. (By the way, I recommend the recording of Mozart's Requiem performed by the Staatskapelle Dresden, conducted by Peter Schreier, on the Philips label, which one professional reviewer described as a "revelation". I agree with that sentiment.)

In a manner of speaking, powerful music appeals to the emotions, but great philosophy appeals more to the intellect. Sophistry that masquerades as great philosophy often appeals to the emotions. (As has been said before me, witticisms are no substitute for logic. But, of course, many are seduced by witticisms.)
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 06:50 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;132370 wrote:
There are various online sites that sell CDs. You can also get that set remastered yet again for hybrid SACD. (A hybrid SACD can play on a regular CD player, but you will only get the CD layer of the sound, not the SACD layer, when played on a CD player. Probably, the CD layer is the same mastering as was done for the DG Complete Beethoven Edition, but I am unsure of that.)

That series, taken as a whole, is generally regarded as Karajan's best traversal of the Beethoven symphonies, though not everyone agrees on that point. I think it is his best performances (overall, not necessarily of each symphony), but I don't think the differences are as great as some people seem to imagine. They all seem to have a similar style, which should hardly be surprising, being conducted by the same person, with the same orchestra (though, of course, some of the members would have been changed between those decades).

I have not heard the SACDs, though I have heard both the original CD release (which I own) and the first remastering (which is owned by one of my brothers, and is what you have of the 4th). I think the remastering is better, and would guess that the newer remastering for SACD is better still.

The original release set can be had for very little money, so it is worth considering if one is poor. But otherwise, I would recommend going with a remastered version.

And this is my favorite set of the Beethoven symphonies, though, again, there is much disagreement about whose performances are the best. This set, however, is often in such discussions.

Thanks for the information. How do you feel about Claudio Abbado as a conductor? I have him conducting (with the Berlin Philharmonic) Mozart's 28th, 29th, and 35th which I like tremendously. I don't own a ton of classical music, but this is definitely one of my favorites.

Pyrrho;132370 wrote:
My comment was not intended to indicate any disparagement of Stravinsky's conducting of the Rite of Spring (the "Yes" that started my post was in agreement with your statement "it's fantastic"). "Spare" was meant purely descriptively, not as a pejorative evaluation. In this case, it may or may not have been what Stravinsky really wanted (as the limitations of the orchestra may have prevented that), but it has all that it really needs. Sometimes, less is more, and I think the less from Stravinsky on this really is more than what one typically gets. It has a raw visceral power that others often lack.
I did not take your remark as disparagement, so no worries. And yes, it's the 1962 recording that I have. The year of my birth, as an aside.
 
Ding an Sich
 
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 08:33 am
@TickTockMan,
I remember listening to Beethoven's 9th Symphony and crying at the choral part of it. So beautiful....
 
 

 
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