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Thread: Unpopular opinion: Beethoven sucked writing vocal music

  1. #46
    Senior Member jdec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by larold View Post
    I don't know if that's true. Beethoven was clear, however, that he could never write an opera about a superfluous subject … such as the Queen of the night, a Latin lover, minor Shakespearian character or a Chinese madam, all of whom were turned into famous operas.
    Well, I disagree, "the subject" of an opera was not what made it difficult to Beethoven to write more operas, as if the subject of Fidelio was the only serious or worthwhile subject available to Beethoven while he lived. Mozart could have written music for any opera in any subject he wanted, no question about it.


    Quote Originally Posted by larold View Post
    [I]
    Whether or not he could write as easily as Mozart is open to question. There is no question, I don't think, that his Missa Solemnis towers over any Mozart sacred choral work and probably over any other sacred choral work ever written except possibly for the Verdi Requiem. So I'm sure, had it been important to him, he'd have written other operas at a very high level of excellence.
    "No question"? Disagree with this too. The Great Mass in C minor and Requiem may be less lengthy (unfinished after all) than Missa Solemnis, but to me at least equally great in several aspects.
    Last edited by jdec; Oct-16-2018 at 21:05.

  2. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    I remember Bernstein’s diatribe about Beethoven quite well, since I saw it on YouTube – but I can’t find it right now. He does indeed go WAY off the deep end – Beethoven couldn’t write a decent tune, his rhythms were pedestrian and boring, his harmonies mostly off-the-shelf, his orchestrations a uniform shade of gray… But NONETHELESS (you can fill in the blank here yourself).

    It was obviously a rhetorical device, but way overdone. Some professor posted a lengthy demolition of Bernstein’s demolition of Beethoven, which is also on YouTube and worth seeing if you can find it.

    I also remember that Bernstein’s diatribe was later published in print, but toned down to a less objectionable level.
    I remember seeing these videos, which where shown as an introduction to Bernstein's performances of the Beethoven Symphonies with the Wiener Philharmoniker when they were shown on public television in the US (back around 1980). Sure, he wanted to be a bit controversial, but the message I took from it was not at all a teardown of Beethoven. It was an attempt to make the point that Beethoven's genius was putting together elements that might seem banal in isolation in brilliant ways. I found Bernstein's comments gave me interesting insights into Beethoven's music.

    And, quite frankly, there isn't a person on this board that has the insight into music the Bernstein had, and that fact that people want to use this video to "bash" Bernstein seems quite childish to me.

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  4. #48
    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    I remember seeing these videos, which where shown as an introduction to Bernstein's performances of the Beethoven Symphonies with the Wiener Philharmoniker when they were shown on public television in the US (back around 1980). Sure, he wanted to be a bit controversial, but the message I took from it was not at all a teardown of Beethoven. It was an attempt to make the point that Beethoven's genius was putting together elements that might seem banal in isolation in brilliant ways. I found Bernstein's comments gave me interesting insights into Beethoven's music.

    And, quite frankly, there isn't a person on this board that has the insight into music the Bernstein had, and that fact that people want to use this video to "bash" Bernstein seems quite childish to me.
    Nice appeal to authority... and ad hom, too. We are idio.ts, Bernstein is god, ergo he can say whatever he wants and we must accept it as the divine, revealed word.

    No, I don't think he makes a good analysis at all, and that is not a judgement on Bernstein in general terms, just of that silly video, nobody is questioning Bernstein's musicianship (again, another fallacy, our mouths never said that), just his obvious misleading claims in that 4 mins video. I think he misses the point by trying to force his effect shock caricature of view through a deliberate dishonest analysis, and in that way gives a distorted view of what Beethoven is doing there. If anyone is being childish, that's Bernstein in that video.
    Last edited by aleazk; Oct-16-2018 at 20:56.

  5. #49
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by larold View Post
    ...
    Beethoven was clear, however, that he could never write an opera about a superfluous subject …

    Beethoven seemed to be put off by certain topics, not so much whether the subject was “serious” or not. For example, he criticized Mozart’s Don Juan for its immorality, saying “…our sacred art ought never permit itself to be degraded to the level of a foil for so scandalous a subject.” But he was happy with the Barber and came close to worshipping Magic Flute.

    He definitely had a taste for bizarre or eerie subjects. He actually began work on Macbeth, evidently starting with the witch’s cauldron scene (music he reused). Later in life he was effusive in his praise of Weber’s Der Freischutz, a fantasy story of no great weight but with a somewhat similar scene, in the Wolf’s Glen.
    Last edited by KenOC; Oct-16-2018 at 20:57.


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  7. #50
    Senior Member JeffD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ManuelMozart95 View Post
    Is this a popular opinion or am I missing something? I don't have so much time listening to Classical so I want to know what's the concensus and if I am missing something.
    Just an aside. I can't for the life of me figure out why it matters what others think on this. If you like it listen, if you don't, don't, and if you sort of like it, just sort of listen.

    I promise you, we are all missing something.
    How did I become a senior member? I only recently figured out where the restrooms are.

  8. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by aleazk View Post
    Nice appeal to authority... and ad hom, too. We are idio.ts, Bernstein is god, ergo he can say whatever he wants and we must accept it as the divine, revealed word.

    No, I don't think he makes a good analysis at all, and that is not a judgement on Bernstein in general terms, just of that silly video, nobody is questioning Bernstein's musicianship (again, another fallacy, our mouths never said that), just his obvious misleading claims in that 4 mins video. I think he misses the point by trying to force his effect shock caricature of view through a deliberate dishonest analysis, and in that way gives a distorted view of what Beethoven is doing there. If anyone is being childish, that's Bernstein in that video.
    Let's not get argumentative. Appeal to Beethoven's authority doesn't help my argument, I admit. My point is simply that I found Bernstein's comments very interesting, even if he focuses on a few extreme examples to further his case. The salient point is that Beethoven was not primarily interested in "melodies," he was interested in whatever melodic fragments he could use to build musical drama. Often he found that "melodies" that in isolation are almost not melodies at all suited his purpose. The only thing I really objected to in the criticism of Bernstein is that he was "bashing" Beethoven. The overall tenor of his talk is reverence for Beethoven, and wonder that he could do so much with such simple building blocks.

  9. #52
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    The (Mozart) Great Mass in C minor and Requiem may be less lengthy (unfinished after all) than Missa Solemnis, but to me at least equally great in several aspects.

    Mozart's masterpieces are the equal to Beethoven … but having sung all three I believe the Missa Solemnis contains music -- vocal and instrumental -- that transcends the other two. I also think it is less episodic than Mozart's Requiem. Beethoven's great fugue in the finale and his famous "mental illness" interlude toward the end drive players mad … and inspire them to heights never before reached. His music is so difficult it drives everyone crazy yet it continues to get played and recorded because it does things for players and singers no one except Bach achieves.
    Last edited by larold; Oct-17-2018 at 18:18.

  10. #53
    Senior Member gardibolt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Beethoven hadn't the sheer skill of Bach in writing choral music or Mozart n writing opera. But he had got sheer genius. Why the Missa and Fidelio continue to move audiences
    And with regard to Bach, don't forget that writing choral music was literally his day job for some 40 years. He had a lot of practice; Beethoven, who frequently wrote to commissions, had far less incentive to be writing vocal music (setting aside the multitude of folk song arrangements, which while often remarkable, are all based on already-fixed melodies from Thomson that he couldn't change significantly).
    Hours of unrecorded, unpublished and unknown Beethoven works at The Unheard Beethoven

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  12. #54
    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    Let's not get argumentative. Appeal to Beethoven's authority doesn't help my argument, I admit. My point is simply that I found Bernstein's comments very interesting, even if he focuses on a few extreme examples to further his case. The salient point is that Beethoven was not primarily interested in "melodies," he was interested in whatever melodic fragments he could use to build musical drama. Often he found that "melodies" that in isolation are almost not melodies at all suited his purpose. The only thing I really objected to in the criticism of Bernstein is that he was "bashing" Beethoven. The overall tenor of his talk is reverence for Beethoven, and wonder that he could do so much with such simple building blocks.
    I used the term 'bashing' in reference to the rethorical device of reducing Beethoven's skills in a misleading way and with this use him in a functional way to canalize his own (Bernstein's) personal histrionics and showmanship. Thus, 'bashing' in the sense of insulting Beethoven in this abrupt way (bashing: 'strike hard and violently') and only for his personal gain and use, not bashing in the sense in which, say, some posters here bash Cage, which is a different thing since they don't like Cage while Bernstein does like Beethoven.

    Normally, I wouldn't care that much, but here it was just so exaggerated and misleading that becomes a bit irritating. One has only to hear the tone of voice of Schell when he asks 'in which thing was he good at, then?', somewhat outraged at the obvious falsity of the claims but also knowing that he had no musical authority (at least in comparison to Bernstein's) to counter them.

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