Friday, September 30, 2011

Montage #24 - Three "E"'s in Beethoven / Beethoven avec trois "E"


This montage is no longer be available on Pod-O-Matic. It can be heard or downloaded from the Internet Archive at the following address / Ce montage n'est plus disponible en baladodiffusion Pod-O-Matic. Il peut être téléchargé ou entendu au site Internet Archive à l'adresse suivante:







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English Commentary – le commentaire françcais suit

This month’s installment, the second in our Beethoven project is brought to you by the letter “E”.

There are three “E” in Beethoven (haven’t you noticed?) This week they stand for three major Beethoven works that begin with the letter E, and all three seem to share something in common: Beethoven’s political views and outrage towards tyranny and his change of heart with respect to Napoleon.

Egmont Overture, op. 84

When in 1809 the Burgtheater asked Ludwig van Beethoven, a great admirer of Goethe, to compose incidental music for a revival of his play Egmont, he accepted with enthusiasm The subject of the music and dramatic narrative is the life and heroism of a 16th-century Dutch nobleman, the Count of Egmont. It was composed during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, at a time when the French Empire had extended its domination over most of Europe. In the music for Egmont, Beethoven expressed his own political concerns through the exaltation of the heroic sacrifice of a man condemned to death for having taken a valiant stand against oppression. The Overture would later become an unofficial anthem of the 1956 Hungarian revolution.

Eroica Symphony, op. 55

The symphony No. 3 in E flat major, also known as the Eroica (Italian for "heroic"), is a landmark musical work marking the full arrival of the composer's "middle-period", a series of unprecedented large scale works of emotional depth and structural rigor. The symphony is widely regarded as a mature expression of the classical style of the late eighteenth century that also exhibits defining features of the romantic style that would hold sway in the nineteenth century.

Beethoven had originally conceived of dedicating the symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven admired the ideals of the French Revolution, and Napoleon as their embodiment. In the autumn the composer began to have second thoughts about that dedication. It would have deprived him of a fee that he would receive if he instead dedicated the symphony to Prince Franz Joseph Maximillian Lobkowitz. Nevertheless, he still gave the work the title of Bonaparte.

When Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor of the French in May 1804, Beethoven became disgusted and went to the table where the completed score lay. He took hold of the title-page and tore it up in rage. There exists also the copy of the score made by a copyist, where the words Intitulata Bonaparte ('dedicated to Bonaparte') are scratched out, but four lines below that were later added in pencil the words Geschriben auf Bonaparte ('written in honor of Bonaparte'). Further, in August 1804, merely three months after the legendary tearing-up scene, Beethoven wrote to his publisher that "The title of the symphony is really Bonaparte." The final title that was applied to the work when it was first published in October, 1806, was Sinfonia Eroica...composta per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grand Uomo ("heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man").

Upon hearing of the Emperor's death in Saint Helena in 1821, Beethoven proclaimed "I wrote the music for this sad event seventeen years ago" - referring to the Funeral March (second movement).

As has become the unofficial custom in this series, here is Leonard Bernstein's three-minute vignette on the Eroica symphony:



Also, you will find embedded in the French commentary a performance by a 20 year-old Glenn Gould of Beethoven's Eroica variations for piano.

Emperor Concerto, op. 73

“Nothing but drums, cannons, human misery of every sort!”

This is what Beethoven wrote on July 26, 1809 to Gottfried Christoph Härtel, his publisher in Leipzig.

In 1809 Austria was at war with France for the fourth time in eighteen years. In May, one month after hostilities began, Napoleon was in the suburbs of Vienna. The French artillery began its terrifying assault. On the worst night of all, that of May 11, Beethoven sought refuge in the cellar of the house of his friend Castelli, a poet. Once there, he covered his head with pillows, hoping to protect the remaining shreds of his hearing.

The Emperor Concerto is a magnificent affirmation made in terrible times. (The title, by the way, is not Beethoven’s and is known only in English-speaking countries.)

Late in the summer, Beethoven regained his ability to concentrate. By year’s end he had completed, besides the E‑flat Concerto, the String Quartet, Opus 74, in the same key; the Farewell Sonata, also in E‑flat; and two smaller piano sonatas, the wonderfully lyric No. 24 in F‑sharp major, Opus 78, and its snappy companion No. 25 in G major, Opus 79.

The performance I chose is a vintage recording featuring Vladfimir Horowitz, with Fritz Reiner conducting the RCA Symphony Orchestra (really, the NBC Symphony).In order to fit my self-imposed cap of under 90 minutes, I only included the first movement in the montage. Here are the last two movements:



I Think You Will Love This Music Too!


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Commentaire françcais



Notre volet du projet Beethooven ce mois-ci vous est présenté par la lettre“E”.

Beethoven s’écrit avec trois “E” (vous l’avez sans doute remarqué…) et les trois œuvres primées aujourd’hui ont non-seulement la lettre E en commun dans leurs titres, mais elles ont aussi un fil en commun.


Egmont, op. 84

Le sujet du drame Egmont de Goethe est le comte hollandais du XVIie siècle, Egmont, qui fut condamné à mort pour son opposition au régime despotique et oppressif de l’époque. Ce sujet résonne avec Beethoven en 1809, qui voit la montée de Napoléon et les conflits qui se multiplient en Europe. L’ouverture composée par Beethoven devint, en 1956, l’hymne officieux de la revolution hongroise.

Troisième symphonie “Eroica” (héroique), op. 55

La troisième symphonie est un point tournant pour Beethoven, ainsi que pour la musique de son temps – un virage significatif du monde classique au néo-romantisme.

Encore une fois, Napoléon Bonaparte est au centre de cette oeuvre. Initialement, Beethoven a conçu et dédié cette symphonie afin d’honorer le général Français, une dédicace qui fut vite changée suite aux guerres que Napoléon impose en Europe. La dédicace devient tout simplement « afin d’honorer la mémoire d’un grand homme ».

Suite à la nouvelle du décès de Bonaparte, Beethoven écrit en parlant de la marche funèbre du deuxième mouvement: "J'ai composé la musique pour ce triste événement il y a dix-sept ans".

Tout n'est pas tristesse ici - le dernier mouvement est une série de variations sur un thème du ballet "Die Geschopfe des Prometheus" (op. 41), exploité par Beethoven dans son op. 35 (pour piano). Voici d'ailleurs une prestation signée Glenn Gould, tirée de l'enregistrement témoin d'une séance radiodiffusée en octobre 1952:



(Si le coeur vous en dit, j'ai intégré une introduction de Leonard Bernstein au commentaire anglais.)

Cinquième concerto pur piano "Empereur", op. 73

“Rien que des tambours, des canons, et la misère humaine!”

Ces mots sont tirés d'une lettre de Beethoven datée 26 juillet 1809, et fait référence à une bataille en Autriche entre les forces du Kaiser et celles de Napoléon (une quatrième guerre en mois de 20 ans). Beethiven s'était réfugié chez un ami, et les coups de canon résonnaient encore dans sa tête plus de deux mois plus tard.

Plus tard cet été-là. il composa ce concerto, et d'autres oeuvres (des sonates pour piano dont Les adieux et un quatuor). La performance choisie en est une d'époque avec Vladimir Horowitz et Fritz Reiner qui dirige un orchestre de studio (probablement celui de la NBC rebaptisé RCA Victor Symphony pour l'occasion).

En raison d'un limite de temps que je me suis imposée pour mes montages, je n'ai inclus que le premier mouvement. Les deux derniers mouvements sont intégrés au commentaire anglais dans un clip YouTube.


Bonne écoute!