Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 16, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

DA DA DA DUM....Today is Beethoven's birthday. Crank up your iPod and listen to something good.

Kevin Drum 2:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Just turned on "Johnny Peut Pas Danser", Beausoleil. Next up, "Industrial Disease". Happy B-Day Luddy!!

Posted by: black dog barking on December 16, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: godoggo on December 16, 2007 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Or, unplug your headphones, and experience it the way he would have.

Posted by: SC on December 16, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Sonata No.14... classic

Posted by: bend on December 16, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

I recommend the C#minor quartet. The late quartets are his soul.

For his symphonies, or piano concertos, get the David Zinman/Tonhalle sets on Arte Nova.

Among old-timers? Bernstein's a hack. His Berlin Wall Ninth is the worst Beethoven I've ever heard.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 16, 2007 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Does putting The Ninth (Furtwanger conducting) on a Playstation count?
Gadfly, string quartets are the pure essence of music.

Posted by: Mike on December 16, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Alle menchen verden bruder
Wo Dein sanfter Flgel weilt.

(All men shall be brothers
Under Your sheltering wings.)

It's worth noting that Schiller's original title of the 'Ode to Joy' (Freude) was the 'Ode to Freedom' (Freheit). He changed it to appease the censors. Just after the Berlin Wall fell, Lenny Bernstein led a concert, w/a hastily-organized pick-up orchestra, of Beethoven's 9th in the former East Berlin, substituting 'freiheit' for 'freude.' I can't begin to tell you the chills which went down my spine when I heard a huge choir respond to the basso soloist's call of 'freheit!' (freedom!) in a place where doing so would have been illegal even a week before.

Bernstein a hack? Any of us should be so lucky to be such a hack.


Posted by: Zorro on December 16, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

No comment from me. i lost 25cents in 4th grade betting that Mozart wrote "Rock me, Amadeus."

Posted by: absent observer on December 16, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

The Ninth is arguably the most glorious piece of music ever composed. I'm sure it must be possible to butcher it, but, thankfully, I have not yet heard such a performance.

Think I'll put on the Blomstedt/Staatskapelle Dresden version. It's the first 9th I heard where I could discern the personality of the conductor and the orchestra in the performance.

Posted by: Cap'n Phealy on December 16, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

The piano sonatas. The late quartets. Don't stick to the warhorse symphonies.

Posted by: jayackroyd on December 16, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

Q: What's Beethoven doing now?

A: Decomposing.

Posted by: it was funny in third grade on December 16, 2007 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

O ye men who thing or say that I am malevolent, stubborn or misanthropic, how greatly do ye wrong me, you do not know the secret causes of my seeming, from childhood my heart and mind were disposed to the gentle feelings of good will, I was even ever eager to accomplish great deeds, but reflect now that for six years I have been a hopeless case, aggravated by senseless physicians, cheated year after year in the hope of improvement, finally compelled to face the prospect of a lasting malady (whose cure will take years or, perhaps, be impossible), born with an ardent and lively temperament, even susceptible to the diversions of society, I was compelled early to isolate myself, to live in loneliness, when I at times tried to forget all this, O how harshly was I repulsed by the doubly sad experience of my bad hearing, and yet it was impossible for me to say to men speak louder, shout, for I am deaf.


Posted by: rea on December 16, 2007 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

There's a reason that the great Ludvig Van's symphonies (bonus points if you can catch the movie reference) are warhorses: they're nothing short of brilliant. Even the 'lightweight' symphonies are incredible, especially considering how they were written in the so-called 'classical' period, before such blatant expressions of emotion were either expected or accepted in music.

I happen to love the Beethoven piano sonatas I've heard as well; I'm hardly a neophyte where classical music is concerned. But if the mighty 9th can't move you, well, you must be even more stone deaf than Beethoven was when he composed it.

Incidentally, I'm playing the 9th for my 2 year-old daughter as I write this. My hope is that she can get this music right in her gut the way it needs to be.


Posted by: Zorro on December 16, 2007 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

'The Devotchka (young women) was smecking (laughing) away, and not caring about the wicked world one bit. Then the disc on the stereo twanged off and out, and in the short silence before the next one came on, she suddenly came with a burst of singing, and it was like for a moment, O my brothers, some great bird had flown into the milkbar and I felt all the malenky (tiny) little hairs on my plott (body) standing endwise, and the shivers crawling up like slow malenky lizards and then down again. Because I knew what she sang. It was a bit from the glorious 9th, by Ludwig van.'
--Alex from Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange

Posted by: Quotation Man on December 16, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

the first movement of beethoven 3 is one of the finest pieces ever written.

Posted by: jiimy jameson on December 16, 2007 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

True enough, not just a movie reference. The book's much more brutal, to boot.


Posted by: Zorro on December 16, 2007 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

The symphonies, like Mozart's are getting the quick-brisk treatment these days (Marin Alsop of the Baltimore Symphony, for example). Played at the speeds Beethoven notated (he played with a new invention, the metronome), the majestic 5th and somewhat funereal 7th become rhythmically tricky. Seemingly the only composer to have done a successful Beethoven-ish symphony since was Brahms. Maybe Beethoven would have liked Ligeti's piano music?

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties on December 16, 2007 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Zorro, it's exactly that Bernstein Beethoven Ninth I was talking about. The finale sounded like a fricking funeral march.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 17, 2007 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

I'm finishing a Ph.D. in music theory and have taught the 9th to undergrads more times than I can count. I have a Bernstein recording from the early 60s. I'm a fan of Lenny for the most part, but the slow movement takes over seventeen minutes under Lenny's baton. I believe (score is at the office, so I can't check) the original metronome marking as given by Beethoven is quarter note = 60. I once clocked Lenny's quarter note at 32.

Lenny was an amazing interpreter of Mahler, but sometimes he turned everything into Mahler.


Posted by: Wes F. in Cincinnati on December 17, 2007 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

This is one of those 'William Tell Overture'/'Lone Ranger' things:

I hear (or see) a reference to Beethoven's 9th ('DA DA DA DUM'), and my mind immediately goes to Belushi as Beethoven on SNL.

I have no class whatsoever.

Posted by: Robert Earle on December 17, 2007 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

I hear (or see) a reference to Beethoven's 9th ('DA DA DA DUM'), and my mind immediately goes to Belushi as Beethoven on SNL...I have no class whatsoever.

The year is 1977, and the setting is a music classroom in small-town Iowa. The music teacher, Mr. Nelsen, has a "problem" and is perpetually sporting wood. When he gets into it and waves that baton on his tippy-toes during the 9th, it is punctuated indeed!

Posted by: Warped at 13 on December 17, 2007 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

Rich People's Movies I Might Have Dreamed 'Swriting

1. Phenix City Story
2. Ode To Billie Joe
3. Billy Tunk
4. Last Man The Outlaw
5. Hippie Chicks
6. Onions And Fries Poorr
7. Mississippi Burning
8. Elvis
9. Meet The Beatles
10. The Loneliness Of The –Long-Distance Runner
11. If….
12. As If
13. Last Man Curve
14. Lisence To Drive
15. Goldfinger
16. For Your Eyes Only (m, f)
17. A Hard Day’s Night
18. The Magical Mystery Tour
19. Fool On The Hill Film
20. The Mafia
21. Invaders From Mars
22. Space Invaders
23. Little House On The Prairie
24. Green Acres
25. Fiddler On The Roof
26. Miracle Mile
27. Year Voice :-::::: Broke
28. Sweetback, ..I
29. Viet Nam The ………..!People
30. Harvest Of Shame
31. Old People
32. Wit
33. All About Eve Part IV
34. Lethal Weapon II
35. Agnes Of God
36. Lethal Weapon III
37. Elvis II
38. Rain Dance
39. John And Mary
40. Thunderheart
41. Hawaii
42. Unforgiven
43. Beer Wine
44. Lamb Ribs Are Peoples Chosen
45. What Every Baby Knows
46. A Stranger Among Us
47. Butter Cat
48. Shaggy DA
49. I Am The !!!!!!!!!Blocks
50. Day After
51. Titicut Follies
52. Pineapple Rrings
53. Baie Of the Breakers
54. Wine Sine
55. Weird Science
56. alice’s Restaurant
57. Real Genius
58. The Grateful Dead Twon
59. Sergeant Peppersu Lonely Hearts Club Yellow Submarine
60. Sergeant Pepper Goes To Vietnam
61. Beer And Ramirez
62. Dazed And Confused
63. Leonard Part Six
64. Requiem For A Dream
66. Renaldo And Clara
67. Hangnail
68. For A Few Dollars More
69. The Good The Bad And The Ugly With The Hangnail Part III
70. Lethal Weapon I
71. Reds
72. Lethal Weapon IV
73. Hamburger Hill
74. Apocalypse Now
75. Born On The Fourth Of July
76. Jackie Brown
77. Platoon
78. King Rat
79. Flower Drum Song
80. Ventura County
81. Monterey County In Entire Soledad
82. Cooley High
83. Godfather
84. Godfather II
85. Taxi Driver
86. The True Life Story Of Doctor Led Zeppelin
87. The Exorcist
88. Godfather III
89. A Prayer For The Dying
90. Bloody Sunday
91. Carlito’s Way

I don't know them.

Beethoven pretended to be def.

He was tonaly insane.

This is for Sullivan Amy.

If she's safe quite alive.

Kevin wanted a signoff if anyone at my family was convinced he's Bill Clinton.

He'll get it.

Or Amy.

Or Late Madame Drum.

In the xelanguage of whoever wrote Onions And Fries Poorr this replaces a lunar period.

Beethoven did much good.

Roll, over.

Last thing is the screenwriter was probably black, Culinary Istitunto Americana, white, Southern, left-wing, and Kfauvery. Soldier, spy. Tinker, no. Tailor, that's Barkleyb.

Soviet idiot that he was he decided to go serve in some foriegn free parliament for a few years. Also wrote dazed and confused. Wonder if it's israel?

Beethoven's wife made him do it, off conjugal shcuffle.

Posted by: Good Bye Phil Clinton Impersonator on December 17, 2007 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

SocraticGadfly, to each his own taste.

The main thing about this particular performance of the 9th isn't so much the music making itself- it was, in the best of opinions, a bit rough, certainly due to the pickup nature of the orchestra. It was, as I said, the political moment of it all, along w/the classic Bernstein move to replace 'freude' w/'freiheit' ('joy' w/'freedom'). This performance is, in this way, somewhat similar to Roger Waters' performance of 'The Wall' at the Wall (1990). Was the performance uniformly inspired musically? No- it was very much a snapshot of the times in popular music (Cyndi Lauper singing 'Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2 stands out rather painfully). It's the political moment of it all. Ditto Lenny's Berlin 9th.


Posted by: Zorro on December 17, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Wes, that's exactly what I'm talking about. And, Zorro, as far as "snapshot," even conductors not giving HIP performances weren't going THAT slow.

What difference does it make if one word's changed, if the music itself is a dirge?

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 17, 2007 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

My favorite Beethoven music is his string quartets, particularly the later ones.

Today, though, I am listening to Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 17, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK
.... Beethoven's 9th ('DA DA DA DUM').... Robert Earle at 2:17 AM
That would be the Fifth. Posted by: Mike on December 17, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK


When I referred to the Bernstein/Berlin 9th + Roger Water's Wall @ The Wall as 'snapshots,' I tried to be fairly clear that I meant that they were snapshots of a particular moment in history. I can't be the only person here who remembers the remarkable feeling that 'wow... good might actually triumph over evil after all' when the Wall fell. It's that feeling which is captured in a snapshot w/'freiheit' in Lenny's Berlin 9th.

How quickly, relatively speaking, that feeling of optimism evaporated...


Posted by: Zorro on December 17, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Fairly early on in the Ray Charles bio-pic, RAY, Charles is shown sitting alone at a stand-up piano musing. To show his mood, he plays MOONLIGHT SONATA.

I also saw (and cried through) Bernstein's Berlin Wall NINTH. The "pick-up" orchestra and chorus were made up of elements of East and West German orchestras. The symbolism of their combined playing that symphony was incredible.

Posted by: Lew Wolkoff on December 17, 2007 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

No one's mentioned the late piano sonatas, so I will. The last 3 (No. 30, 31, and 32, published as Opp. 109, 110, and 111) are some of Beethoven's most divine creations, especially the finales of each. The Op. 109 sings with radiant beauty, the Op. 110 rises from despair to ringing triumph, and the last variation of Op. 111 with a quiet trill high in the piano's register above a flowing accompaniment below sounds like the night sky full of stars.

Posted by: Norsecats on December 17, 2007 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

As great as the 9th is, I keep coming back to the 5th, particularly the first movement. The more I listen to it, the more I think it's the greatest piece of music ever written.

Tochter aus Elysium!

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