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Beethoven Beethoven the alchemist magician genius Piano

Beethoven the alchemist magician genius

Sonata No. 4 in E flat major Op. 7 – II. Largo con gran espressione.

Played very well by Paul Lewis

I was listening to a debate on the radio some months ago on the theme: Was Beethoven the Greatest? I remember one of those who were voting ‘Yes’ – making a comment along the lines of how, as great as he was, sometimes you just had to wonder what in the hell he was doing! I think she meant that when he gets edgy and ‘out there’ it’s hard to figure out what he’s trying to accomplish musically or emotionally/spiritually … or any which way!

And how about the alchemical transitions he spins? Where he takes us from somnambulist/ hypnotic – to raging punk – like riffs in a minute.

Sometimes listening to Beethoven I find myself on the edge of my seat, almost holding my breath, to see what comes next. Where does a musical genius go after 8, 10 or 15  notes in a sequence that are like a child experimenting? Knowing, that said genius is not childlike, we wonder how his boundless musical savvy  is going to lead us out of it; and into… what?!

OK – here’s such a moment. Starting at 3:10 into this piece and going on to about 4:20. Who else but Beethoven could do this?

How did he take us from there to there? Magic stuff. Actually this entire Sonata movement is ‘somethin’ else’!

Beethoven Chopin Schumann

Beethoven and more (by Ingrid Fliter)

In this review of the pianist Ingrid Fliter the critic says, “Her playing is not focused on the studied perfection and polish that is so often the case with younger competition-winning pianists today. Rather it makes these pieces come alive with a natural and unforced quality that underscores the very real perfection of the playing. It simply grabs the listener the way great Beethoven pieces should.”

Earlier he says, This is truly great Beethoven playing. It brings to mind the old recordings of Solomon, Hungerford, Myra Hess or Clara Haskil.

Wow – High praise indeed. Funny thing is .. I think I can hear it! Time to go shopping for much more of Fliter’s Beethoven.

here’s her take on the second movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata


How about some more Ingrid! Here’s Chopin’s Waltz #8 op. 64 no. 3 in A flat


And some Schumann: Symphonic Etudes op. 13 Anhang variation V


In Praise of Haydn

This is from a review of Haydn’s piano trios on Amazon.

In a letter Brahms says something to the effect `Nobody seems to understand Haydn nowadays. For years he gave us all our music’. Whatever precisely Brahms meant, it seems to me that the complete transformation in the idiom of music that made the music of Mozart and everyone since so astoundingly different from the music of Bach was Haydn’s achievement, and his alone.

What Brahms wrote – … ‘he gave us all our music’ – seems to imply what a  huge trans-formative influence he had on the great Classical composers who followed.

Here’s a piece I’ve just been listening to. It floats my boat! Hope it does yours too.

Horn Concerto #1 / second movement

Nikolai Medtner Piano

Medtner for Ben

This is the first appearance of Nikolai Medtner (b 1880 – d1951) on this site.

My cyber friend and spiritual comrade Ben, in California, urged me to investigate his music. Since he was admired by Rachmaninoff (and actually collaborated with him) I was motivated to find and listen to more (I had only one piece by him in my library) After listening to a number of pieces I’ll stick with his buddy Rachmaninoff, when I want that Russian melancholy, wistful and nostalgic stuff! They do sound very close in the overall mood they generate.

Forgotten Melodies op38 (1) Sonata-Reminiscenza- Allegretto tranquillo

John Field Piano This Dilettante!

This Dilettante!

As a self confessed Classical Music dilettante I continue to discover large gaps in my ‘knowledge-base’ The one I found the other day was so big you could drive a Queensland road train through it!

My brother in law, with whom I frequently discuss music, casually mentioned John Field (b1782 – d1837)

To discover that he studied with Clementi, collaborated with Hummel, Chopin admired his nocturnes and Liszt made a fuss about them too; was just another small humiliation for this dilettante, not having heard his music before.

Here’s part of what Liszt said, None have quite attained to these vague eolian harmonies, these half-formed sighs floating through the air, softly lamenting and dissolved in delicious melancholy. Nobody has even attempted this peculiar style, and especially none of those who heard Field play himself, or rather who heard him dream his music in moments when he entirely abandoned himself to his inspiration.

Bottom line: These piano pieces are very easy on the ears. Simpler in their construction than Liszt or Chopin, but certainly charming and appealing. The strong ostinato element in the pieces makes me wonder if modern minimalist composers of the ilk of Phillip Glass may not have found inspiration here.

*In music, an ostinato (derived from Italian: “stubborn”, compare English: obstinate) is a motif or phrase, which is persistently repeated in the same musical voice. An ostinato is always a succession of equal sounds, wherein each note always has the same weight or stress. The repeating idea may be a rhythmic pattern, part of a tune, or a complete melody in itself.[1]

Here are his nocturnes 1 – 7 (about 28 minutes worth)

Faure Piano

Faure Nocturnes

The French composer Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) was one of the foremost French composers of his time.

Here are a couple of his beautiful piano nocturnes.

We’re sitting in a piano bar way-station nibbling tasty hor dourves and watching the runway. The room is full of cultured wealthy philanthropists and spiritual seekers; awaiting the shuttle flight to Heaven: Level 3/room 16

Nocturne #4


Nocturne #3


Not enough Bach

In my ongoing musical education J.S. Bach somehow got sidelined. This was due to several factors: Extensive research into the piano masters of the past (especially as regards Chopin interpretations) A focus on wind instruments, fairly in-depth investigations of Haydn and Brahms; and most recently an obsession with Beethoven.

Even 5 or 6 years ago when I began my Classical Music Quest I glossed over Bach. I’ll try to include more of his music on this site in the future.

Concerto #4 in A major for Oboe D’Amore and Strings

Beethoven Cello

Beethoven Cello and Piano

The following quote is from an article by cellist Steven Isserlis titled, ‘How I fell in love with Ludwig.’ Here’s the link:

In the article he comments on this second movement: The last sonata, in D major, takes off in other new directions. After the dramatic opening movement, Beethoven gives us, for the first time in these works, a full slow movement, a prayer that must surely be the most beautiful movement ever written for cello and piano.

‘the most beautiful movement ever written for cello and piano’ Wow. And that’s praise from a guy who plays the cello.

Beethoven’s 5th (and last) Cello Sonata in D maj. / second movement

Hummel Piano

How wonderful Hummel

Today I was listening to my iPod to a playlist that contains a lot of my favorites. I was only listening with half an ear but kept thinking it was probably Beethoven. Each time the gentle, melodic and lyrical riff appeared (the one that starts the piece) I thought … aaahh yeah it probably is him. (*NOTE: Serious Beethoven lovers please forgive this dilettante!) Still in all I have listened to a lot of Beethoven and he’s my favorite. It must say something for Hummels’ mastery as a composer.

Here’s Hummel’s Fantasie op. 18 Larghetto e Cantibile



For more on Hummel (how he was a fellow student with Beethoven and when B appeared it nearly destroyed H’s confidence!) see this posting

Beethoven Beethoven Wept

Beethoven – a revelation (for Richard and Ben)

Ben to go with your double whiskey and Richard because I’m thinking about you

According to Wikipedia, Beethoven’s 6 Late String Quartets are …  widely considered to be among the greatest musical compositions of all time. This movement from the 13th String Quartet (the Cavatina) was chosen as the last piece to be played on the “golden record“, a phonograph record containing a broad sample of Earth’s common sounds, languages, and music sent into outer space with the two Voyager probes.

Jeremy Siepmann, a music critic, provides some background to this piece of music.

Beethoven wept.

String Quartet No.13 in B flat major, Op.130 – Cavatina: Adagio molto espressivo