Monday, May 13, 2013

Chatting with Eric about Beethoven

A few weeks ago, I decided to listen to the Big Beethoven Box from the Bach Guild  from beginning to end, and I wondered what the latest Beethoven listening project was for another Beethoven fan, RAW scholar Eric Wagner. (When I took Eric's class at Maybe Logic Academy on the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy, he assigned us to listen to Beethoven's No. 29 piano sonata, aka "Hammerklavier," at least once a week for the duration of the course.)

I meant to write to Eric about this, but to my surprise, he wrote to me first, and we had an exchange of emails about Beethoven, as follows:


Dear Tom,

I hope all goes well.  How goes your Beethoven listening?  I listened to a lot of jazz this month, but now I've returned to the Beethoven quartets.  I had stopped rereading Kerman's The Beethoven Quartets with the Op. 59 quartets.  I picked it up again yesterday and started reading about the Harp Quartet.  I plan to work my way through the rest of the book and the rest of the quartets.

Live long and prosper,

Eric


Dear Eric,

It's funny you should write, because I've been thinking about you and Beethoven recently. I have been listening to the Bach Guild's "Big Beethoven Box" (that I wrote about recently on the blog) and I decided a few days ago to listen to it from start to finish, so that I would hear each work at least once and figure out what I want to listen to again. I listened to the complete Egmont incidental music last night before I went to sleep.

Have you completed your listening project to listen to all of the piano sonatas? (I can't remember how many times you were going to listen to each one.) The Beethoven box has many of the late string quartets on it, and I downloaded the three Op. 59 quartets a few weeks ago and listened to them.

I have not read the Kerman book yet that you recommended. Roman Tsivkin recommended a book called "Beethoven His Spiritual Development" by a writer named Sullivan; I have that on my Kindle, but I haven't gotten to it, either.

                                                   Hail Eris,

                                                       Tom


Dear Tom,

I hope all goes well.  Rafi just sent me a link to Jazz Day live in Istanbul - http://live.jazzday.com/ , so I have that on right now.

I listened to each of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas eleven times to go along with Joyce's 11:32.  (I associate the sixteen string quartets with the sixteen flowerpots in Wodehouse's Leave It to Psmith.  I've read too much Crowley and Wilson, I guess.)  I found that 11:32 experience illuminating, and it led nicely into listening to the Hammerklavier a number of times for the Maybe Logic class.

A priest friend of mine lent me the Sullivan book to me about ten years ago, and I enjoyed it.  Kerman mentions it frequently.  The book didn't totally click with me.  I might enjoy it more if I reread it.

Live long and prosper,

Eric


Eric,

What did you think of the movie "Immortal Beloved"? I rather enjoyed it.

OK for me to post our Beethoven correspondence to the blog?

        Tom


Dear Tom,

I hope all goes well.  I did enjoy Immortal Beloved, especially the visuals during the "Ode to Joy."  I don't agree with the identity it gives to the "Immortal Beloved" however.

Yes, you may post our correspondence to your terrific blog.  I hope you enjoy the Sullivan book.  I continue to listen to the Harp Quartet.  You might listen to Rafi's radio show this week - lotsa Beethoven.  http://taintradio.org/author/rafizabor/ , 5 - 7 PM Friday, California time, and repeated 9 - 11 AM Tuesday.

Live long and prosper,

Eric


Eric,

I'll listen if I can.

I wanted to toss another thought out there.

Some of Beethoven's music was quite radical for his time. I'm thinking for example of the story about how some musicians did not understand some of his string quartets, and he replied dismissively that it was for a future age.

http://library.thinkquest.org/27110/noframes/repertoire/beethovenop59no1.html

Part of the reason I am interested in modern classical music is because it is challenging; if we want to listen to music in the spirit of Beethoven's original listeners encountering his music, we have to be challenged a little bit, I think. Beethoven's tonal music is profound but it does not, in AD 2013, have the shock of the new.

                                                                                                                Cheers,
                                                                                                                    Tom


Dear Tom,

Thanks for the Beethoven link.  I hope all goes well.  Joseph Kerman makes a point similar to yours about the Harp Quartet:  It's use of pizzicato seemed unusual to its original listeners, but modern listeners familiar with the Bartok quartets find it rather tame.

I don't follow contemporary music as closely as I used to.  In college some of my friends played in the New Music Ensemble.  I remember we had a particular fascination with the music of Elliot Schwartz.  I even heard his in fiftieth birthday concert in New York a few years later.

About ten years ago I listened to a lot of jam bands who occasionally afforded me "the shock of the new."

Live long and prosper,

Eric







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