We are nearing the end of our very brief and incomplete survey of Beethoven’s life, legacy and music. The music you will be listening to for this week and next, will be music written during what has come to be known as “the late period”, that being the years from 1812 until his death in 1827. The music written during this time in Beethoven’s life was both looking to the past for inspiration, in particular the music of Bach and Handel, but he was also exploring new territory and writing music in a way that had not been done before. The Ninth Symphony is a great example of implementing new ideas with the addition of choir and soloists to an orchestral composition. After Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, other composers after him began to also add the vocal component to a symphonic work.
The first excerpt is from the Piano Sonata No. 31 Op. 110 in Ab Major. It is in four parts and you can follow along with the music of this excerpt played by Vladmir Ashkenazy. The last movement is a fugue, a form of writing that was very popular in the Baroque era.
The next two excerpts will be the Ninth Symphony. This is a long work and so we are going to divide up our listening of this symphony between this week and next week. Nearly everyone recognizes the very famous Ode to Joy that is from this magnificent work and in the first excerpt you will watch and listen to an unlikely musical event, but which illustrates so well how Beethoven’s music continues to speak to us and inspires. The second excerpt will be of an actual performance of the Ninth Symphony which lasts over an hour. Listen especially to the rather chaotic beginning with the open fifths grounding this work and pointing in the direction of creation and beauty out of chaos. The first movement is about 18 min. long, the second movement about 12 minutes, so for this week listen to just those two movements but try to listen to them at least three times so that you become more familiar with them. Conduct along with the music and be grateful that Beethoven didn’t give up, he persevered, kept writing even when so much was against him and gave the world this wonderful music!