Beethoven and the Unfinished Revolution

Rigidity – fluidity © Charles Thibo

Breaking the rules. Non-conformity. Deviating opinions. Orthodox behaviour. If you recognize yourself in these attributes, you must have few friends. You are probably one of those people who are considered demanding, strenuous even. Interacting with you requires a true (physical?) effort, a certain mental flexibility, an iron-grade friendship and unlimited trust. Qualities that are praised in every job description, but when it comes to personal relations, suddenly these qualities are valued much less. Ludwig van Beethoven certainly was a strenous personality. A burden to his friends and patrons. And if that weren’t enough already, he also challenged conventional wisdom about what a string quartet should sound like. Oh, boy!

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Beethoven, Ney and Germany’s Devastation

Big week Gotha attack
Gotha 241318 FEB 1944.

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the storm, it says in the Book of Hosea. Nazi Germany set the world ablaze after creating a climate of hate against Jews and anyone opposing the Nazis’ imperialist dreams. The German attack on Poland triggered World War II, and by February 1944 the Germans were reaping the storm, the storm of fire and destruction. On this day 75 years ago the Allied Command launched massive aerial attacks by day and by night, targeting the cities of Leipzig, Brunswick, Gotha, Regensburg, Schweinfurt, Augsburg and Stuttgart. More than 10,000 tons of bombs were dropped within a week on Germany to destroy its aircraft factories.

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An Exuberant Concerto from a Fiery Czech

Myslivecek Venice
Venice, painted by John Singer Sargent

One could easily mistaken this outstanding violin concerto for a less known composition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But it’s not from Mozart! It’s from one of his teachers, Josef Myslivecek. Myslivecek introduced Mozart to several compositional models for symphonies, Italian opera seria*, and violin concertos. Both Wolfgang and his father Leopold considered him a good friend from the time of their first meetings in Bologna.  They found his dynamic personality irresistibly charming – in his letters Mozart calls Myslivecek full of “fire, spirit and life” – until a mutual allegations of betrayal estranged the Mozart’s from Myslivecek.

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A Festive Symphony from Haydn’s Pen

Haydn festive hymn
The light in the darkness. © Charles Thibo

Are you already in a festive mood? Christmas is less than a week away, and whatever your creed is, Christmas is something special, be it in Europe, the Americas or even Asia. Here is something solemn, uplifting, festive in every respect: Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 11 in E flat major (Hob. I:11). The composer most likely wrote it between 1760 and 1761, just before or just after he had been appointed to the court of Paul Anton Count of Esterhazy. His contract with the count stipulated that Haydn would compose a new piece anytime his employer wished to hear something new and that the count would have the exclusive rights to the piece, a ruinous clause that the Esterhazys’ luckily never used.

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