Thursday, June 27, 2013

Beethoven - The Chaos Surrounding Him...

Let us be reminded of the veritably grotesque nature of the chaos surrounding Beethoven in Vienna, especially from about 1824 to his death three years hence:
A form of chaos created by the very composer himself; that is, the power and stature of this genius  by way of the elemental nature of  his manner of carving out the road he formed, and traveled along, through the creation of such a unique language we can today experience at our will.
In spite of the recognition Beethoven had accrued by the second decade of the 19th century,  he was both the victim of  the forces of greed and social controversy and  a revered  hero to admirers, many of them historical figures as well.
A kind of 'open letter' was written to the composer, which was publicly presented to him; a letter of recognition and adulation with such signers of the letter as Prince Lichnowsky, a powerful aristocrat in Viennese matters, who was one of very few in his entourage whom Beethoven considered a true friend ; Diabelli, whose name is immortalized in Beethoven's dizzying "Variations on a Theme by Diabelli;"  Czerny, one of Beethoven's most illustrious students, who himself authored what is still considered an intrinsic contribution to the development of keyboard technique through exercises, both for the fingers and the brain; and a host of other dignitaries; plus a number of other Viennese residents with position. This letter recognized the importance of Beethoven to the Viennese picture of its place in history, and a powerful expression of recognition of the genius this man had given to the world of Art.
At the same time, the scurrying around of, say, various publishers, each of whom had various ideas as to how to  'correctly' perform his music. There were the 'dark' powers, as it were, who contained their own ideas about Beethoven's music, regardless of the fact that Beethoven himself had given directions as to how to deal with the meaning of his unique language. Just one example:  after the invention of the Maelzel metronome, Beethoven injected metronomic directions  most carefully, and used pedal most sparingly in his 32 sonatas.But if one procures the Beethoven sonatas pedal markings are pandemic, far greater in number than Beethoven suggested. And look at Haslinger's publication of the  Opus 27   sonata (the so-called "Moonlight Sonata), and look at  the  metronomic  indication given to the second movement; namely, 84.  Then take a look at the London edition by Moscheles, which tells us that the tempo of this movement be 76. And so on...
How about the Vienna printing of the E flat sonata; then look at the London edition of the same composition, and you will see  differing  metronomic indications of each of the movements. And so on - despite the suggestions given by the composer himself. It appears that the great composer's sense of performance in his works, especially in the piano works, was somewhat more restrained, especially in tempo indications, than many of the publications that were produced. Beethoven himself remarked that it seemed to him that the more facile the technique of the performer  was, the more 'skating' OVER the material occurred than did true spiritual and self-probity in the formation of the ideas.
All this, while the great composer was experiencing serious encounters with his nephew Karl, who did consider suicide at one time, what with the young man's encounters with his particular world.
And through all this, the declining health of this defining genius, which, from 1824 to his passing, was a reality of constancy.
And yet - we have his music.
What a victory!

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