Portrait of Beethoven as a young man by Carl Traugott Riedel (1769–1832)
Kerman Week 2 – Op. 18, No. 1 – The First Half of Chapter 2
By Eric Wagner, guest blogger
Rest in peace, Aretha Franklin.
This week please read sections one and two of chapter 2 (pg. 30 – 44) and listen to Op. 18, No. 1. Please comment on this week’s chapter and continue to comment on last week’s chapter.
Pg. 34. Kerman refers to Mozart’s Symphony in E flat, also known as Symphony 39, K. 543, one of Mozart’s great three final symphonies. Mozart did not give his works opus numbers. A scholar named Köchel (1800 – 1877) catalogued Mozart’s works and originated the K numbers. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
I tend to think of Beethoven’s quartets by their opus numbers. When Kerman refers to them by their keys, I usually have to double check the table of contents to figure out which quartet he means. On classical radio they might refer to a quartet as “Quartet X”, as in one through sixteen. This would confuse me, except they mostly play the early six quartets Op. 18, making it easy to figure out which quartet they mean.
Pg. 37. Casta diva refers to an aria from the opera Norma by Bellini.
I listened to this quartet while following along with the score on Thursday, which I hadn’t done for years. It helped me hear the different personalities of the four parts. In classical quartets the first violin usually has the melody, and the second violin often plays this role as well. As a bass player, I often gravitate to the cello part. The viola part fascinates me more and more as I get older. The viola rarely gets the melody, and when it does, it usually only gets it briefly. The novelist Edgar Pangborn said of Bach, “Listen to the inner voices.” I think that also holds true for Beethoven.