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Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven Composer

Discussion and Introduction to Beethoven's 'Pastoral Symphony' (Naxos): Narration by Jeremy Siepmann

Performances: 1
Tracks: 125
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  • Discussion and Introduction to Beethoven's 'Pastoral Symphony' (Naxos): Narration by Jeremy Siepmann
    Pr. Instrument: Narrator
    • On Beethoven's Openings
    • Opening phrase of the 'Pastoral': Mood, Symbolism and Musical Function
    • Musical Acorns: the outline of melody; the shape of a question
    • The 'question' in the 'Pastoral' repeated...
    • ...and answered
    • The opening phrase ends on a note full of pregnant expectation
    • Starting with a stop
    • The rhythmic profile of the opening phrase; a two-part construction
    • Phrase One, Part One
    • Phrase One, Part Two
    • The properties of rhythmic ambiguity; the 'question' of Phrase One answered
    • Phrase Two: from meander to march
    • The makings of a conversation: contrast and variation
    • Repetition as a major factor, but it's never mere repitition; each time something new is added
    • From soft to loud and back again; instrumental enrichment from horns and double-basses
    • Mega-repetition: violins play exactly the same little fragment ten times in a row
    • But no two repetitions are quite the same; varieties of contrast
    • More variation: pitch rises; violins joined first by the clarinet, then by the oboe
    • Return to the opening idea, but with new instrumentation and articulation
    • Clarinets, horns, bassoons and flutes now join expansive variation
    • 'New' insistent rhythm derived from the first four notes of the piece
    • With the dawn chorus, a whole forest is waking up; feelings of rapture
    • First violins play a derivative of the opening figure, joined by wind and strings
    • Sudden change of key, from the home key (tonic) to the dominant
    • Arrival at the highly contrasting second main theme
    • Unusual properties of second main theme
    • Rhythmic clash between simultaneous groups of three beats and groups of two
    • Winds fall silent as the violins and violas interrupt with a new theme
    • Winds answer with the same morse-like rhythm but at half the speed
    • Crescendo leads to strings' acceleration of the pace with no increase in tempo
    • Beginning of coda, directly based on morse-like rhythm of the main theme
    • Strings reiterate small fragment of the new theme 13 times in a row
    • A simple, rising violin phrase leads to a repeat of the Exposition
    • The nature and function of the Development section in sonata form: 'harmonic' rhythm explained
    • The nature of harmonic rhythm illustrated
    • A typically Beethovenian exercise in the frustration of experience
    • Repetitiousness and magic effected largely through instrumental colour
    • Then come four, almost identical bars
    • Even greater magic, with sudden switch of key and tone colour
    • Entire Development section up to this point
    • The Development continued
    • Increased unease and suspense as harmonic rhythm accelerates
    • Arrival at the point of Recapitulation; back to the beginning, as a reminder
    • Beginning of Recapitulation
    • More Beethovenian frustrations of expectations which he himself has just set up
    • Harmonic rhythm speeds up, giving the impression of an accent on every beat
    • Prevailing mood restored; new theme from clarinets and bassoons
    • Violins and violas take up theme; horns, cellos, double-basses accompany
    • A hush falls, followed by a return of the movement's most familiar tag in strings
    • Clarinet takes up the running triplet figures of the main closing theme
    • First violins take up the opening phrase again, accompanied by double-basses
    • Beethoven slips in one last surprise; cue to complete movement
    • First Movement (complete)
    • General introduction; the birth of a melody
    • Brook music quickens; syncopated horns; theme changes hands; evocation of birdsong
    • The 'motto' theme introduced by violins and treated to round-like overlappings
    • Transitional 'bridge' theme sets off for new key group. But is it? And does it?
    • Will he, or won't he? Beethoven keeps us guessing
    • The run-up to the Second Group
    • Arrival at the Second Group; but where is the actual Second Subject?
    • A new tune is introduced by the bassoon
    • Tune is repeated three times
    • ...which the full orchestra now takes up in varied form
    • Theme carried by flutes and first violins in a charmingly waltz-like development
    • A reminder of the precedent
    • Back to the prevailing triple-metre with violins, bassoons and flutes
    • Another reminder of precedent...
    • ...and a cue to some unexpected departures
    • The transformational magic of Beethoven's 'tone-painting' - and a new variation
    • Conversation of clarinet, flute and oboe on the way to the Development
    • Harmonic movement emphasised by violins; oboe takes up the First Subject
    • Flute and oboe discuss the First Subject, before arriving together at the Transition
    • Gains in volume and intensity lead to a new key-change
    • More thematic transformation through the agency of tone-colour
    • Harmonic fluidity - instability - as the central engine of the Development section
    • Harmonic instability, thematic dissolution increase, then lessen with approach of Recapitulation
    • Recap. and transformation: key and material are right, but what a change of presentation!
    • Just when we know that's coming, Beethoven changes the rules (or at least the harmony)
    • Transformation by reorchestration; switch to long sustained chords; then everything stops
    • The silence is broken by voices of nightingale (flute), quail (oboe) and cuckoo (clarinet)
    • First violins bring back the motto theme
    • Cue to complete movement on CD 2
    • Second Movement (complete)
    • Beethoven and the Scherzo: and introduction; Part One of opening phrase taken by the strings
    • Immediate response; Part One is answered by a much more singing, continuous legato
    • Entire orchestra gives out opening theme, this time fortissimo and with powerful accents
    • A musical ball game. The contrast of this and the first two movements could hardly be greater
    • After quietly teasing suspense, Beethoven mocks village band, first the oboe, then the bassoon
    • Clarinet joins in, then horns take the tune - the dance no longer boisterous but lyrical
    • Strings sweep the village musicians aside and hurtle us into the new, boisterous 'Trio' section
    • The air is alive with the sound of (mock) bagpipes, tambourines and fifes
    • Coda; begins as the movement itself begins, but soon diverges in harmony and instrumentation
    • Original layout compressed; order of events is changed and Beethoven springs a big surprise
    • Third movement (complete)
    • Unparalleled portrait of nature's power over humanity, with some stupendous orchestration
    • Self-generating form and terror of total unpredictability; 'anxiety motif' from the violins
    • The 'lashing rain' motif - downward-driving arpeggios from the first violins and violas
    • The 'lightning' motif, and its recurrence later in the movement
    • 'Rain' motif, derived from descending scale pattern from the violins at the outset
    • Shivering tremolandos from the strings and increasingly eerie harmonies from the wind
    • Steady crescendo in strings; terrifying, downward spelling-out chords in the violins
    • Extremes of dynamic contrasts; the unsettling, disturbing, undermining effects of chromaticism
    • Abandonment of the melody, and most traces even of rhythm; sustained, discordant harmony
    • Storm dispersed, the sun reappears, bathing sodden earth below with its life-giving rays
    • Cue to complete performance of Fourth Movement
    • Fourth movement (complete)
    • 'Yodelling' figure from clarinet, then horn, then violins, who introduce the main theme
    • Details of instrumental magic in the interplay of horns, cellos, clarinets and bassoons
    • Main theme heard three times in a row - and yet never the same way twice
    • Now we get the whole orchestra, playing full out, with violins all double-stopping
    • Transition to the next section, based on the last two notes of the main theme
    • The rhythmic basis of new transition theme, first in violas, then taken up by first violins
    • Another rhythmic detail of extended transition comes increasingly into the foreground
    • ...and is then heard in expanded version, taken in sequence by the strings, from the top down
    • New phrase, introduced by violins, brings us resoundingly back to the opening material
    • Main theme, re-orchestrated; unexpected drift into another key and a new, gently flowing theme
    • Hints of a return to main them; long 'pedal point'; running commentary from the violins
    • Main theme returns, but significantly altered, and not entirely intact
    • Running commentary now heard in the middle, with alternating pizzicatos both above and below
    • Part Three of main theme given to entire orchestra, leading to final appearance of Theme two
    • Extended coda; overlapping variations of main theme, rather in the manner of a round
    • Suddenly the scene changes. A variation of the 'running commentary' cited in tracks 34 and 36
    • The crowning glory, as the Shepherd's Song of Thanksgiving takes on a 'heavenly' magnificence
    • Cue into complete performance of Fifth Movement through the 'gateway' of the Fourth
    • Fourth and Fifth movements (complete)

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