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Beethoven Transcriptions

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A rare spontaneous share of a past podcast, in order to fill in the Second Symphony following last week's share.

All the works on this week’s montage are by Beethoven, adapted in other forms by other composers/arrangers, and one by Beethoven himself.

A while ago, I discussed how opera transcriptions were, in some way, the precursor of recordings and radio. Not everybody could listen to elaborate pieces of music – like an opera – at the drop of a hat.; but if you had a piano in the house, you could enjoy an aria by simply playing a piano reduction. I like to think of Beethoven’s “Piano Trio in D Major after his Second Symphony” as another example of that idea. Not everybody could gather a small orchestra in their living room, but you probably could find a couple of willing friends to partake in a reduction of that symphony for piano, violin and cello. From an entrepreneurial perspective, I think that was a brilliant idea! Musically, Beethoven captures the essence of his symphony (and then some) in this ingenious device.

An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved) is considered to be the first example of a song cycle by a major composer, in many ways the precursor of a series of followers, including those of Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann and Hugo Wolf. Here is a YouTuibe clip of the song cycle, as it was originally envisaged:

Franz Liszt, in the spirit of Mendelssohn’s Songs without words, adapted a good number of lieder as solo piano reductions without voice by Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven, Chopin, Lassen, and Mendelssohn. His adaptation of Beethoven’s song cycle is a fine example of of Liszt’s approach to the song without words.

Beethoven's String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95, is commonly referred to as the "Serioso," stemming from his title "Quartett[o] Serioso" at the beginning and the tempo designation for the third movement. The historical picture of this time period helps to put the piece in context. Napoleon had invaded Vienna, and this upset Beethoven greatly. All of his aristocratic friends had fled Vienna, but Beethoven stayed and dramatically complained about the loud bombings.

It is one of the shortest and most compact of all the Beethoven quartets. In character and key, as well as in the presence of a final frenetic section in the parallel major, it is related to another composition of Beethoven's middle period — the overture for Goethe's drama Egmont, which he was composing in the same year he was working on this quartet. Again, a performance of the work as originally envisaged:

Gustav Mahler is known today through his music, but in his own time was equally known as a conductor and arranger. The music of JS Bach held a certain fascination for Mahler throughout his life, and he reimagined Bach's music for the early 20th century orchestra. Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 95 was also arranged by Mahler, who believed that it needed expanding to work in large concert halls, and the result offers an alternative perspective on the work. Mahler arranged this quartet for string orchestra, mostly by doubling some of the cello parts with double basses.

Closing this week’s podcast is a jazz-inspired version of Beethoven’s well-known piano bagatelle Für Elise expanding it with orchestral accompaniment.

I think you will love this music too

I Think You Will Love This Music Too – Montage #324
“Beethoven: Transcriptions”
(Originally shared Friday, October 25, 2019)

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
An die ferne Geliebte S.469 (after Beethoven, op. 98), Louis Lortie, piano

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor, op. 95 ('Serioso')
(Orch. G. Mahler, 1898-99)
Wiener Philharmoniker
Christoph von Dohnanyi, conducting

Trio in D Major
(Transcription by Beethoven of his Symphony No. 2, op. 36) Beaux Arts Trio

Bagatelle in A Minor, WoO 59 ('Für Elise')
(Arr. R. Kapp, 1979-80)
Chick Corea, piano
Philharmonia Virtosi of New York
Richard Kapp, conducting

Original Playlist -
Podcast Links (Internet Archive) -
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