"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

August 4, 2011

Listening to the complete Beethoven (6)

Opus 86: Mass in C major (1807). A rather subdued setting of the Mass. Beethoven aimed for a simple, humble and spiritual style. The Mass in C did not become very popular, but is certainly one of Beethoven's most personal utterances.

Opus 87: Trio for two Oboes and English Horn in C major (1795). A slight older work.

Opus 88: Song: "Das Gluck der Freundschaft" (1803). Song on a theme that was dear to Beethoven.

Opus 89: Polonaise in C major (1814). A piano work in a popular vein, like the student works of the early 1790s.

Opus 90: Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor (1814). A small sonata in two movements, but a fine and delicate work. The first movement is virtually mono-thematic, the second is not a rondo but a beautiful song-like piece.

Opus 91: Wellington's Victory ("Battle Symphony") (1813). Beethoven in his most popular and banal mood: a battle between national anthems and the like. Already in the 1790s Beethoven wrote lots of military music.

Opus 92: Symphony No. 7 in A major (1812). This symphony permeated by lively and even obsessive rhythms, has been called an "apotheosis of the dance" (Wagner). In its time, the second movement allegretto was the most popular. The finale is full of restless energy and ends with a triple forte. Instead of traveling from "fate" to "victory", this work is a continuous celebration of joy.

Opus 93: Symphony No. 8 in F major (1812). This is a light-hearted, but not light-weight, work, containing many novelties. It is a not a simple case of "back to the 18th century." The second movement has probably nothing to do with the metronome, as is often assumed, but is rather an homage to Haydn's "Clock" symphony.

Opus 94: Song: "An die Hoffnung" (1814). Sophisticated and almost operatic treatment of a song Beethoven also used for his op. 32. Beethoven strives throughout to translate directly in musical terms what is actually being sung.

Opus 95: String Quartet No. 11 in F minor ("Serioso") (1810). A short and compact quartet that takes its name from the tempo designation of the third movement. Beethoven himself seems to have said that the work was written for a small circle of connoisseurs. It is an experiment in compositional technique Beethoven would draw upon again later in life.

Opus 96: Violin Sonata No. 10 in G major (1812). Beethoven's last violin sonata is a large-scale and magnificent work. It is also a work of great calm and ethereal beauty. Beethoven wrote the sonata with the technique of the famous violinist Pierre Rode, who gave the first performance, in mind. The finale is a set of variations.

Opus 97: Piano Trio No. 7 in B-flat major ("Archduke") (1811). This trio has been called the crowning masterpiece of Beethoven's cycle of piano trios. The first movement opens with the piano's statement of a broad, noble theme. The serene slow movement is a series of variations on a hymnlike melody. In the last movement lighthearted passages alternate with heroic outbursts.

Opus 98: An die ferne Geliebte, song cycle (1816). Beethoven's only true song cycle and the first important example of the form. All six poems by Alois Jeitteles concern the feelings of love as translated through nature. Although most songs are cast in strophic form, Beethoven constantly varies and develops his accompaniments.

Opus 99: Song: "Der Mann von Wort" (1816). Beethoven set Friedrich August Kleinschmid's text during a period of relatively low output for the composer. A trifle.

Opus 100: Song: "Merkenstein" (1814). Again a lesser work. The text to the songs was written by Johann Baptist Rupprecht.

Opus 101: Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major (1816). A romantic and bold sonata (in fact the first one for the so-called "Hammerklavier"), with a lyrical first movement, a march instead of a scherzo and a shift of the center of gravity to the long last movement.

Opus 102: Two Cello Sonatas (1815). Two compact sonatas written for the cellist Josef Linke.
No. 1: Cello Sonata No. 4 in C major. A very terse sonata without a proper slow movement. This is clearly a work of Beethoven's epigrammatic later period, rather than his expansive middle period.
No. 2: Cello Sonata No. 5 in D major. The first movement has a singing, dolce, first subject. It is quite a characteristic melody. The last movement is a fugue, the first instance of the contrapuntal thinking that would dominate Beethoven's last years.

Opus 103: Octet in E-flat (1792). A pleasant older work.

Opus 104: String Quintet (1817). An arrangement of the Piano Trio No. 3. 

Opus 105: Six sets of variations for Piano and Flute (1819). Light and cheerful diversions, variations on folksongs. Five of the six songs are from England, Wales and Scotland. The third one is an Austrian song.