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Thread: Beethoven

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    Senior Member Johnny's Avatar
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    Default Beethoven

    I know there's already a fav Beethoven Symphony thread. Hopefully this will be sufficiently different to justify itself.

    A thread for a discussion of all things Beethoven. What are your favourite pieces? Favourite versions of pieces? Least favourite pieces? Least favourite versions of pieces? How do you rate him compared to the other composers? Post video links and amazon links! And would also appreciate recommendations towards any books about the man. Reliable books (ones that are more concerned with what the evidence actually says, rather than traditional anecdote/legend). People should also feel free to just marvel at how somebody created the stuff he did. How anybody could do that. Let alone a deaf man.


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    What are your favourite pieces?

    Six is the best I can do, cleverly divided into categories.

    Solo work: Piano Sonata No. 32, Opus 111, though all of the Sonatas are sublime
    It's Richter (in Leipzig) here, followed closely by Arrau. Actually, everyone but Michelangeli (Great first movement, terrible second) and Kempff is fine.

    Symphony: Nos. 3 & 9.
    I won't venture to give too many opinions here. Klemperer for the 3rd is fantastique (The link is to just one of his magnificent performances). For the 9th - Karajan '63, Gardiner, Furtwangler.

    Chamber Work: String Quartet No. 14, Opus 131, among other stiff competition
    Quartetto Italiano does well in this repertoire. Alban Berg Quartet is good for a different type of approach.

    Concerto: No. 3, for Piano and Orchestra
    Annie Fischer / Fricsay and Rudolf Serkin / Bernstein are the best I've heard. Michelangeli's approach with this work has also enamored me as of late. (Extremely unique)

    Choral: Missa Solemnis, Opus 123
    I have only heard Klemperer here, a worthy recording by any standard.

    Opera: You asked the wrong person, though I'll be getting to Fidelio some day (once I'm pass my Mozart stage)...

    Favourite versions of pieces?

    What is written above, more or less.

    Least favourite pieces?
    Least favourite versions of pieces?

    Why must we indulge on the negative? I pass.

    How do you rate him compared to the other composers?

    A great composer, but IMHO not the greatest (Bach). A lot of his works are quite well-known and hearing them over and over again can eventually be a bit tedious. Eventually one gets to the point where they realize that his symphonies aren't the greatest thing out there, period. I find that (many) of his works are a bit overrated in relation to the oeuvre of many other great composers. Oh well, he's good. Listen to him and enjoy what you hear.

    Johnny, I suggest you buy the Karajan '63 cycle for yourself as well as a pair of good headphones. Orgasm is reached best at full blast.

    Good night.
    "Summit or death, either way, I win" ~R. Schumann

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    Senior Member Johnny's Avatar
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    Won't deafness also (ironically?) be achieved at full blast though?

    Thanks for the detailed reply. I do think it may be almost as useful though to point out recordings to stay away from as it is to point out ones to search for. For example, the version of the sixth symphony I got last week (one of the Naxos cds) was pretty awful IMO.

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    I like Toscanini BBC Symphony Orchestra for the 6th, it's on youtube. It was recorded a long time ago though (the 30s I think), so if you want pristine sound quality you won't get it there.

    Beethoven's last public performances were 1814/15 or so, so that's when the deafness became a very serious handicap. By 1817-19 he had lost at least most of what he could hear. This period from 1814 to 1817 or thereabouts was the time when he didn't compose so much music.

    His single most important achievement might be the series of piano sonatas he did over his life. His weakest area is generally thought to be vocal music.

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    Super Moderator jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny View Post
    What are your favourite pieces? Favourite versions of pieces?
    For the symphonies: Otto Klemperer for No.3, Carlos Kleiber for Nos.5 & 7, Karl Bohm for No.6 and Wilhelm Furtwangler for No.9. For a complete cycle of the symphonies I'd give the nod to Herbert von Karajan. He recorded the Beethoven symphonies four times. The 1963 cycle is generally considered to be the best. If you would like to have a second complete cycle go for Klemperer since his recordings are bound to be both great and very different from whatever other versions you may have bought before.

    For the opera "Fidelio": Wilhelm Furtwangler with (singers) Martha Modl and Wolfgang Windgassen.

    For the violin concerto: Jascha Heifetz (violin)/Charles Munch (conductor). I also love the Anne Sophie Mutter/Karajan recording.

    For the complete (five) piano concertos: Leon Fleisher (piano)/George Szell (conductor) or Daniel Barenboim/Otto Klemperer. I also love Martha Argerich & Claudio Abbado in Nos.2 & 3.

    The two most popular violin sonatas are Nos.5 & 9. Go for Itzhak Perlman (violin)/ Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano) or Gidon Kremer & Martha Argerich.

    The most famous piano sonatas include the "Pathetique" (No.8 op.13), the "Moonlight Sonata" (No.14 op.29 no.2), the "Tempest" (No.31 op.31 no.2), "Waldstein" (No.21 op.53), "Les Adieux" (No.26 op.81a), "Appasionata" (No.23 op.57) and "Hammerklavier" (No.29 Op.106). There are many great recordings of these and the other Beethoven piano sonatas. Personally I'm a sucker for Emil Gilels.

    For the string quartets: The Quatetto Italiano. There are no doubt other versions that are great as well, but this is the (only) set I have and I love it. Since you are a newbie to classical music and thus still have to grow into the genre I wouldn't recommend the string quartets as the area of Beethoven's music to start out with though. Avoid the late ones in particular until you've familiarized yourself with his other music. But eventually you will have to get them because they rank with his greatest achievements.
    Least favourite pieces?
    I don't hate it, but I admit that the "Missa Solemnis" has never done it for me, even though it's considered one of his most important works.
    How do you rate him compared to the other composers?
    Very high, obviously. The equal of Bach, Mozart and (as far as I'm concerned also) Haydn. But ranking them (and a few others) into any sort of ranking order is a matter of splitting hairs and personal preference will inevitably always play a huge part in these things.
    Martha doesn't signal when the orchestra comes in, she's just pursing her lips..

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    Senior Member Conor71's Avatar
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    I would recommend exploring as much of Beethovens works as you can, take your time and enjoy the experience! - personally I started with the Symphonies then moved on to the Concertos, Piano Sonatas, Fidelio, String Quartets and Chamber Music .
    I havent listened to a whole lot of different versions of Beethovens works - with that in mind, performances from my collection which I would recommend would be:

    Herbert Von Karajan - 63' Symphony cycle



    Daniel Barenboim - EMI Piano Sonata Cycle



    Alban Berg Quartet - SQ Cycle



    I have found Beethoven to be one of the most appealing Composers I have explored and rate his works very highly - I honestly dont think he wrote any duds, not any that I have heard anyways!.

    I wish you luck on your Beethoven journey .

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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    My oh my! You folks seem to prefer those "ancient, old" recordings of Beethoven symphonies; Karajan, Klemperer, Bernstein, Furtwangler etc.

    Time to move on with historically informed, period instruments. I have three versions, complete symphonies (plus some overtures that came with the recordings): The Academy of Ancient Music/Hogwood (I think the first complete recording on period instruments), The London Classical Players/Norrington and Anima Eterna/van Immerseel.

    Check out the clip from Anima:-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiHPjVSnrT0

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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    I don't hate it, but I admit that the "Missa Solemnis" has never done it for me, even though it's considered one of his most important works.
    I like the Gloria.

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    Super Moderator jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    My oh my! You folks seem to prefer those "ancient, old" recordings of Beethoven symphonies; Karajan, Klemperer, Bernstein, Furtwangler etc.
    Well, there's room for both modern and period instruments I think. I'm interested in adding some HIP Beethoven to my collection in the future.
    Martha doesn't signal when the orchestra comes in, she's just pursing her lips..

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    The cycles I have so far are:

    Karajan (77)
    Klemperer
    Szell
    Gardiner
    Masur (74) from the Beethoven Edition

    I'm definitely ready to explore more of the HIP route , I've heard the Immerseel and really like it, that will probably be my next beethoven purchase. Out of what I own I think I tend to go with the Gardiner followed by the Karajan the most. The Szell was my introduction to them and holds a special place, but there's more exciting performances I'd rather hear now. The Klemperer I'm still going through...Beethoven performed too slow loses some of that magic, I think.

    The Immerseel set is high on my "to get" list.

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    Senior Member DrMike's Avatar
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    While some of the older Beethoven symphony cycles are great, and some of the new HIP recordings are intriguing, my recommendation is to go with Osmo Vanska's recent cycle on BIS. These are great recordings. I enjoy the Immerseel/Anima Eterna recordings, but Vanska's is so much more fulfilling.

    And the symphonies are definitely a must in a Beethoven collection. I also highly enjoy Szell's recordings with the Cleveland Orchestra, and they have the added benefit of being pretty dirt cheap - they are on Sony, and I have been finding the discs at my local B&N for only ~$7.99 each (most containing two symphonies). Don't let the price fool you. His recording of the 3rd is generally praised.

    Piano Sonatas - If you are interested, get all of them. If not, get the "highlights" - Moonlight, Appasionatta, Pathetique, Waldstein, Hammerklavier, among others. I love Kempff's recordings of the middle period sonatas. I'm told, though, that his late sonata performances don't have the same appeal. I have the cycle by Goode on Nonesuch, and it is quite good.

    Missa Solemnis - If you enjoy the 9th symphony, this may interest you. It was written around the same time. Klemperer's recording is wonderful, but Gardiner also gives a good show. One of the great choral works, in my opinion.

    Concertos - Triple Concerto, Violin Concerto, Piano Concertos - get them all.

    String Quartets - I am not that enthralled by the early quartets, but the middle period quartets (esp. the Razumovsky and Harp Quartets) and the late quartets are very nice. For the middle quartets, I have a recording by the Takacs Quartet on Decca that I have very much enjoyed. In addition, the Brodsky Quartet does a good job. For the late quartets, I have only the Emerson String Quartet's recording, which I enjoy, but have been looking to add another recording to my collection - possibly the Takacs Quartet's recording. Takacs does a wonderful job - I also have their recording of the early quartets, as well as other chamber music from Brahms and Schubert and Haydn. All are wonderful, with great sound.

    In my opinion, Beethoven is at the top with Bach. It has nothing to do with volume, rather how much their music moves me. They battle for the top spot. Yes, some of their works (the 9th symphony) do get over-played, but that does not mean that they still aren't incredible works. And even with the 1st and 2nd symphonies, which probably only get less recognition because of what followed, and not for any flaws they possess, his symphonic cycle is the most perfect of symphonic cycles (sorry, Mahler, Beethoven beats you out, in my book). For both of these masters, it is hard to find an area in which they do not hold a commanding presence, if not the top spot. (By the way, that is all my opinion)

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    There are plenty of older Beethoven threads.

    So I won't elaborate too much about composer himself and how I think about him.

    Let me state that I hate performances by Anima Eterna and other historical snouts. It's good for likes of Haydn, but not for forwardlooking composer who actually influenced the orchestra to get larger.

    Some kewl things not mentioned yet:





    Sorry, I meant this:


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    Senior Member muxamed's Avatar
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    What are your favourite pieces? Favourite versions of pieces?

    Beethoven is one of my favorite composers. It was through his music I entered the famtastic world of classical music. I, as many others started with his symphonies. I still like them much even if I don't return to all of them frequently. Those that I do return to frequently are Nos. 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9. There are many good and great recordings of these works, any of the mentioned above would do. I really like Harnoncourts complete set and I do warmly recommend it to anyone who wants to explore Beethoven.

    For me, Beethoven was a great composer of orchestral music but even greater composer of chamber music. It was through his piano sonatas, violin/piano sonatas, cello sonatas and string quartets that he showed his real personality and inner being.

    There are some beautiful recordings of piano sonatas done by Brendel, Gilels, Richter etc.

    As for the string quartets there have been a couple of wonderful complete cycles recorded through history, the latest one by the splendid Takacs quartet. Earlier recordings that I can recommend are Lindsays from the 80's, Alban Berg from the 80's, Vegh, Quartetto Italiano and Talich Quartet from the 70's. The one that is nearest to my heart is Talich quartet's recordings.

    Least favourite pieces? Least favourite versions of pieces?

    No.

    How do you rate him compared to the other composers?

    As I wrote above he is one of my favorite composers, maybe the absolute favorite.

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    What are your favourite pieces?

    The symphonies, piano sonatas, string quartets, piano concertos, several other chamber works

    Favourite versions of pieces?

    The complete symphonies:



    But I also like the Cluytens set... which is grossly inexpensive:



    For individual symphonies Kleiber's 5th is a no-brainer:



    I quite like Gardiner's HIP set... especially the 3rd:



    For the 6th I'd also go with Bohm:


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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    For the piano sonatas? I like these sets:





    I also like these recordings of selected sonatas:






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