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Pauline Lerner

Happy Beethoven's Birthday

December 16, 2008 at 12:51 PM

Today is the 238th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven.  What better way to celebrate than to listen to recordings of his music by virtuoso performers?



We have often discussed on this site the importance of introducing and explaining classical music to the general public in a way that generates enjoyment and support.  Rachel Barton, a gifted raconteur as well as a gifted violinist, has done this beautifully with Beethoven's Kreutzer sonata for violin and piano.


You can hear her play the second movement of this piece in the following two clips.




The following clip of Nathan Milstein playing the third movement of this sonata has very good closeups of Milstein's left hand and some of his bowing hand.



Here are two clips of great twentieth century violinists with audio but no video.

First, David Oistrakh plays the first movement of the Kreutzer sonata.



Finally, Jascha Heifetz plays the first and second movements of the sonata.



I find it interesting that each of these virtuosos has his or her unique sound when playing the same sonata.  I could listen to them over and over all day.  That would be a great way to celebrate Beethoven's birthday.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on December 16, 2008 at 1:34 PM

Happy birthday Beethoven!!!!!!!!!!  As I said in one of my postings, he is one of my favorite composers and one of the most courageous persons I have heard from!  What a genius! When many would have fallen in deep depression (being deaph and a musician) he courageously composed some of the world marvels in terms of concertos and pieces!  What an extraordinairy human being and bravery example for all of us!


From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on December 16, 2008 at 10:34 PM

 Beethoven has been my favorite composer forever and ever . . .

From Anthony Barletta
Posted on December 16, 2008 at 10:35 PM

Great clips, Pauline - thanks for posting!  Fascinating background info!

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 17, 2008 at 9:21 AM

I'm glad to find that so many of my friends love Beethoven as much as I do.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on December 17, 2008 at 3:32 PM

Is 238 his real age since his father have lied to him all his life telling him that he was a year younger that what he was in reality. It was because his father wanted him to look more of a little genius when he was a kid. But, I don't care at all if it is 238 or 239, he is just as extraordinairy for me!  Maybe the bio I read was totally wrong too.


From Royce Faina
Posted on December 17, 2008 at 3:43 PM

Thanks to Schroder the piannist of the Peanuts cartoon Beethoven was my first Classical musician/composer to know. I liked Beethoven's music then (I was 5 years old) and I still do today.

From PM Rolf
Posted on December 17, 2008 at 4:57 PM

I love Beethoven too!! I get pissed off when people claimed that they don't like his music because it's too popular, one even said they are predictable, when all they heard was Beethoven 9th.

From Larisa Mihaela
Posted on December 17, 2008 at 6:28 PM

Ludwig van Beethoven...

Among the greatest titans of classical music, a genious , and a brave and noble human being. Much ahead his time , in his musical as well as in his philosophical ideas , he will always be a model for me , and in the very top of my favorite composers.


"...only art and science uplift the human being to divinity . A true artist is without vanity: he sees, to his regret, the art is boundless, he vaguely sences how long  the way to his goal is ;and , while others watch him with enthusiasm, he is sad for not succeeding to get there , where the greatest genious shines as the most distant sun.(...) I know no other privileges for a human being ,than the ones that make him be one of the best humans."

"I realize my powers are growing beautiful is to live your life a thousand times...I want to kneel destiny. "



From Paul G.
Posted on December 17, 2008 at 9:31 PM

I love the third movement of the "Moonlight" Sonata. It is my absolute favorite piece to listen to on piano. Here is a video of it for those of you less familiar with the piece:

In honor of Beethoven, I will go practice Allegro from the Sonata in F major right now. The first movement is all I'm working on but it's filled with so much "bipolar" emotion if your know what I mean... Going from happy, calm, agressive etc.

Happy birthday Beethoven.

From Anthony Barletta
Posted on December 18, 2008 at 2:23 AM

In honor of Beethoven's B-day I recently revisited 2 films about his life, Immortal Beloved and Copying Beethoven, both available on DVD.  I seem to enjoy the latter more each time I watch it. 

From Benjamin K
Posted on December 18, 2008 at 2:54 AM

"I get pissed off when people claimed that they don't like his music because it's too popular, one even said they are predictable, when all they heard was Beethoven 9th."

I love it when people do that because, boy, do I have a surprise for them! It is always a delight to watch somebody's face when you play them some of the avantgarde pieces Beethoven wrote.

One of those pieces is the piano sonata op.111, in particular the middle part of the 2nd movement. This is pure Jazz, yet Beethoven wrote it in 1822, long before Jazz was invented.

Also, many of the late string quartets are pretty avantgarde. In fact they could and probably should be considered 20th century (style wise), even though Beethoven wrote them in the 1820s. Play some of that, in particular the Grosse Fuge (op.133, and it's piano version op.134) and then ask them if they still think his music was "too popular" and "predictable" ;-)

By the way, the Grosse Fuge would be a very suitable piece to celebrate Beethoven's birthday. It meant a lot to him and during his lifetime he was denied the joy of having this piece appreciated by his contemporaries.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 18, 2008 at 5:48 AM

Anne-Marie, I'm aware that the year of Beethoven's birth is controversial.  Fortunately, it doesn't affect the quality of his music.

Royce, I'm glad that Schroder in the Peanuts comic strips got you started on the path to loving Beethoven's music.  Comic strips can be powerful.

Larisa, I love those quotations.  Where did you find them?

Paul G., I think practicing Beethoven's music is a great way to celebrate his music.

Benjamin K., I agree that some of Beethoven's work was avant garde.  He was a great innovator.

Anthony, I haven't seen either of the DVDs you mentioned.  Would you recommend  Copying Beethoven as the better one to start with?





From Larisa Mihaela
Posted on December 19, 2008 at 2:25 PM

Hi Pauline,

I have the quotations from a Beethoven's biography that I read about 1 year ago.From that biography and another 2 , and from listening deeply to his works , I wrote a project for school of about 30 pages than .That is why I have many things fixed in memory and I am fascinated with his great compositions.


The book from which I took the quotations is written by A. Alsvang (they were of course in different contexts , but I found them to be so representative for Beethoven's approach to music and life ,and so inspirational, that I used them separately on the front cover of my project.) The book was written (translated  actually) , in Romanian , my native language, so now I translated in  English the quotations .


Also , in memory of Beethoven , we violinists would better not forget about his violin concerto in D , one of the greatest works created for violin .:) Here is a link to Kogan playing it (my favorite version ) :


Have a good day,


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 19, 2008 at 9:53 PM

Larisa, thanks for the information about the the book and the link.  I, too, am very impressed with Beetrhoven's courage and determination.

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