December 17, 1993 |
For a movie industry in which the flavors of the month are family entertainment and sequels, "Beethoven's 2nd" is a dream come true. Kids and dogs. From a previous hit movie. All over the screen. The good news is that, like the original "Beethoven," the sequel establishes a workable comfort zone for all ages. There's craftmanship involved in making a good family film - that is, one that keeps kids in their seats and adults from nodding off. Anyone can make bad ones - just ask Disney, which churned them out through the '70s.
January 6, 1995 |
"Immortal Beloved" is a movie about Beethoven's business manager. This may surprise those of you who'd been anticipating a bio of the great composer, and perhaps another virtuoso performance from leading man Gary Oldman as Ludwig von. Adjust your expectations. In its attempt to probe the mystery surrounding some of the composer's last writings, "Immortal Beloved" turns into a suspense thriller that follows Beethoven's longtime secretary Anton Schindler (Jeroen Krabbe) in his quest to discover the identity of the woman known in Beethoven's letters as "immortal beloved," to whom the composer left a portion of his estate.
October 11, 1989 |
Because Beethoven returned again and again to a kind of music - piano sonatas, string quartets, trios - one or two of each genre tend to stand for the whole catalog. Audiences hear the same three piano sonatas, and the same two violin sonatas, from those who hope to be known as Beethoven performers without having to understand the whole musical landscape. In their Beethoven recital last night at the Port of History Museum, pianist Peter Serkin and violinist Young Uck Kim played some of the other violin sonatas, the relatively early ones that show Beethoven searching, testing, and growing.
October 5, 1998 |
For Karl Middleman, context is almost everything. The conductor of the Philadelphia Classical Symphony uses his concerts to explain the settings, the composer's life and times, and the plan behind the music. The orchestra plays examples to illustrate all that, and the stage is fronted by artwork to help the audience understand the period. On Saturday, Middleman took on Beethoven, mixing 100 minutes of music with 60 of commentary. Concerts were marathons in Beethoven's day, and the search for authenticity now may require programs of comparable length.
September 18, 1993 |
Beethoven was a dangerous man. Listen carefully to those Saturnian cellos and basses that initiate the finale of the Ninth Symphony. Listen to the way they soberly, somberly, reluctantly, edge us near, then veer away from, before ultimately plunging us forward into the symphony's unexpected chorus. Ferocious joy. Ferocious destruction is in this music, where the brass as often puncture as punctuate declarations of hope and aspiration. Beethoven was demonic, and no telling what worlds he could have overturned given a few more symphonies.
December 11, 1988 |
The Philadelphia Orchestra's biggest recording project has just been completed. The release, on EMI, encompasses Beethoven's nine symphonies, plus three of his overtures on six discs in a box. They represent performances and recordings between October 1985 and February 1988 and much more besides. They stand to Riccardo Muti as a summary of the transformation he has effected with this orchestra since he became music director in 1980. A Beethoven set may seem an unlikely choice for a conductor so deeply involved with Italian opera, but Muti has consistently presented himself as a man with wide enthusiasm and knowledge.
May 4, 1996 |
The way Wolfgang Sawallisch was conducting, you might have thought that was Haydn on the program. But it was Beethoven, early Beethoven, and Sawallisch made his opinion clear that the composer's Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21 has more in common with Haydn's symphonies than do any of Beethoven's written after his Second. With the Philadelphia Orchestra Thursday night at the Academy of Music, Sawallisch molded a Symphony No. 1 that was controlled, of medium tempo and, in every way, moderate.
October 18, 2006 |
No need for special Beethoven anniversaries: The classical music world is a continuing celebration of this pivotal composer, one who has been hugely stimulating of late. Christoph Eschenbach, Osmo V?nsk?, and especially Bernard Haitink have found new revelations in the symphonies, and fine piano sonata recordings are being made by Andr?s Schiff (ECM), Paul Lewis (Harmonia Mundi), and Fran?ois-Fr?d?ric Guy (Naive). On the evidence of Monday's Kimmel Center concert, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia belongs in that august food chain.
March 1, 2002 |
Any composer who sets out to write a string quartet must make an accommodation with Beethoven. In 16 quartets, Beethoven ascended from virtuosity to eminence to transcendence. At the end, there seemed little room for improvement. Most composers make their Beethoven adjustments privately. But Ralph Shapey, the 81-year-old who has resisted easy accommodation to any form or dogma, is more public. The composer's Quartet No. 10 was played for the first time Wednesday by the Juilliard Quartet at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater, and he subtitled his three-movement work: "Ludwig and I. Es muss sein.
March 30, 1986 |
The Beethoven symphonies have long been regarded by conductors and audiences as the first works truly appropriate to the modern orchestra. Beethoven was a romantic, wrote big works and heard big sonorities, and orchestras have adopted him as their own, playing the later symphonies with forces that could also play Bruckner. The odd thing is that Beethoven's orchestras in Vienna and Leipzig were composed of a dozen violins, two desks of violas and cellos and pairs of winds. Those numbers suggest the strings must have been habitually overbalanced, by our standards, and the total sonority much more transparent.