Classical Scanner: The Doves and Crocodiles of Beethoven

Almost 300 years since his death, Ludwig Von Beethoven (1770–1827) place is assured in the pantheon of seminal Classical composers. But during his lifetime Beethoven’s music was met with as much ambivalence as acclaim. Critics declared his music “the most barbaric of dissonances” and likened his instruments to a “fracas” of sound. Before Beethoven, classical music was akin to the neatly ordered china shop, complete with fine lace and filigree, and Beethoven not only knocked over the porcelain, but stubbed his toe on the display table while railing against the shopkeepers.

"III. Menuetto: Allegro molto e vivace" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"I. Adagio molto - Allegro con brio" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"II. Marcia funebre: Adagio assai" Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra

"IV. Allegro ma non troppo" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"I. Allegro con brio" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"IV. Allegro vivace" Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra

"II. Scene by the brook: Andante molto mosso" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"II. Allegretto" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra; Zagreb Philharmonic Chorus; Lechner, Gabriele; Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra; Zagreb Philharmonic Chorus; Lechner, Gabriele



Coming at the start of a new century and era, his first two symphonies were seen as radical. They introduced arrangements and groupings of instruments to create a full orchestral wall of sound. While groundbreaking in hindsight, it was also seen as “creating havoc,” with “bizarre” being an adjective frequently applied to this early period.

As Beethoven bloomed into his “middle period,” he saw growing public acclaim along with continuing criticism. “Symphony No. 3” initially confounded critics and audiences complained of the length. The first violin part alone was 17 closely spaced pages long, and the entire symphony approached an unheard-of hour in length. Some in the audience catcalled, “I’ll give you another kreuzer if you will just make it stop!” To this, Beethoven stubbornly declared, “I would rather write 10,000 notes than a single letter of the alphabet.”

The reception for Beethoven’s “late period” was little different. “Symphony No. 7” garnered a rapturous reception from the general public weary from war and responsive to the symphony’s grand scale. But many of the wealthy patrons were indifferent, accusing Beethoven of selling out to patriotic fervor on the heels of the civil war that drove Napoleon from power. “His need for public acclaim and money had overridden his customary restraint,” was the tart assessment among those unmoved by the grand epic sweep of the Symphony.

“Symphony No. 8” is possibly Beethoven’s wittiest. The metronome had just been invented, and Beethoven’s fascination with it informs how he used his wind instruments and the tick-tock rhythm in several parts of the symphony. For “Symphony No. 9,” his final symphony, Beethoven declared his allegiance to Age of Enlightenment, but his “Ode To Joy” – the final movement of the symphony that carried a message of solidarity – was considered hopelessly naïve by some, with one critic likening it to a “confused bustle of voices.”

Beethoven’s symphonies reflect his outsized personality, dramatic life and prodigious talents. In his lifetime, the mythology had already begun to be written: the volatile composer misunderstood by the public and critics, haunted by an increasing deafness, perpetually unrequited in love and possessing eccentricities that both intrigued and repelled the public. Ultimately, in all of his inconsistencies and brilliance, the humanity of Beethoven is what glimmers and inspires within his music.

These tracks, handpicked from each symphony, await your listening, as you further explore the legacy of Beethoven. -- Catherine M. Gollery

"III. Menuetto: Allegro molto e vivace" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"I. Adagio molto - Allegro con brio" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"II. Marcia funebre: Adagio assai" Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra

"IV. Allegro ma non troppo" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"I. Allegro con brio" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"IV. Allegro vivace" Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra

"II. Scene by the brook: Andante molto mosso" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"II. Allegretto" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

"I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso" Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra; Zagreb Philharmonic Chorus; Lechner, Gabriele; Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra; Zagreb Philharmonic Chorus; Lechner, Gabriele

19 comments:

Jeremy Myers said...

While listening to this I have scenes from Looney Tunes playing in my head.

Rob said...

Interesting that you are posting classic music now. Unfortunately this demonstrates the weakness of Google Music Beta, from my point of view, which is that there is no good way handling meta-data for classical music. These tracks you have posted appear in the music list with the movement name only (e.g. "I. Allegro con brio"), but not the name of the work itself - so we don't know which symphony the movement comes from. You've put the name of the composer into the album title in capitals, which is a very ugly way to do this.

Surely it wouldn't take much programming effort to come up with a more elegant way to display and search by meta-data for classical music? Do this and Google Music will be a killer app for classical music fans.

Adam D. Martinez said...

Yeah, I'd like to know which movement goes with which work. I can identify a couple of them but the"name"of the movement alone doesn't work when labeling and handling classical works. I love my Google Music, but any help and upgrade on this would be much appreciated.

George said...

My guess is since I see a chorus credt in the last movement offered it is the 9th Symphony. This is in support of Rob's post. These could be piano, quartet, pretty much anything.
Also, I would like the ability to listen to the offerings before selecting.
I get it, it is free and I very much appreciate that and the work so far. Just a few ideas to make it better.
Thanks

Don said...

Great music, thank you. Kudos to the musicians, conductor, producers, engineers, etc, and of course, Mr. Beethoven.

Jason said...

The tracks are in order (symphony 1-9), a movement from each symphony. While I appreciate the free tracks, it would be nice to get a whole work instead of a smattering of disparate movements. And I echo the sentiments of the other commenters that it would be wonderful if Google Music better supported classical music.

Veon said...

This is exactly what I wanted. Beethoven is the best!

Reconfigure said...

Agree regarding the track/file names. I'm actually more of a fan than the average person, but I have to say I don't know what piece the above tracks are a part of. So labeling them will allow newer listeners and fans to learn more quickly... of course there's always the internet to use to research these, but taking a look at the track name is much easier.

Kevin Henderson said...

Almost 300 years since his death huh? #mathfail

una xoto said...

Beethoven died close to two hundred years ago, not three hundred

Scott Lawson, QAD said...

Yes, the poor handling of classical music and other music (like "world" music) that has several tracks that make up a single work is frustrating. A symphony is not just the second movement it is all of the movements together and in the proper order. So for "songs" (ugh) that are made up of several parts (tracks), there should be a grouping feature so you can keep them together. This would allow the "shuffle" feature to make sense in this context. This is a problem in all of these digital music tools that I have used, Google Music included.

Anonymous said...

"II. Allegretto" is from Symphony No. 7.

MDkid said...

Yes what rob said lol. Seriously

Cynthia said...

The tracks are almost in order:
"III. Menuetto: Allegro molto e vivace" - Symphony no. 1
"I. Adagio molto - Allegro con brio" - Symphony no. 2
"II. Marcia funebre: Adagio assai" - Symphony no. 3
"IV. Allegro ma non troppo" - Symphony no. 4
"I. Allegro con brio" - Symphony no. 5
"IV. Allegro vivace" - Symphony no. 8
"II. Scene by the brook: Andante molto mosso" - Symphony no. 6
"II. Allegretto" - Symphony no. 7
"I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso" - Symphony no. 9

I must say that I didn't find a single digital music service yet that managed to handle classical music metadata in a fully satisfying and standardized way though...which is pretty frustrating for me as an avid classical music lover, although I guess it's because the data itself is such a tricky beast.

There often is not just a song title, but a multi-step categorization involving a larger work (e.g. a symphony or sonata) with multiple movements. Sometimes movements 'flow' into each other or contain many different transitions, which makes things even more tricky (the 4th movement of Beethoven's Symphony no. 9 is a good example: I saw quite a lot of different track subdivisions on CDs for it...).

There also is not just an 'artist', but we have a composer and often multiple performing artists. And how to handle metadata for the musicians that perform a symphony? Credit just the orchestra, or the orchestra and conductor? Or orchestra, conductor, and soloists and/or other special parts? We once again see this right in our face with the last movement of Symphony no. 9, which has not just the orchestra, but also a chorus, and four singing soloists who at least on program notes are usually credited (but so is the conductor).

Even worse, a lot of classical music stems from non-English-speaking regions, resulting in many different naming, translation and transcription conventions. Think of Tchaikovsky/Tschaikowsky. Think of Liszt's 'Années de Pélerinage, première année: Suisse - Vallée d'Obermann', or whichever way you want to use to indicate that piano piece (it tends to be translated English-speaking countries). Think of the Russian songs of Rachmaninoff/Rachmaninov, of which I also usually saw titles in translated form rather than the Russian original titles (though they were still sung in Russian).

And would you place the 'ensemble classification' of a piece in the title as well? We don't really have a lot of other tags that typically show up in our music players...but would you e.g. speak of a 'violin sonata', a 'sonata for violin and piano', or even a 'sonata for piano and violin'? (believe it or not, this last case exists: Brahms and Schumann e.g. commonly used it)

I know that many people are thinking about this issue and working hard on workarounds for it, in (both analog and digital) library, broadcasting and other information organization settings. But I really think that the big challenge is not that much in search or display of metadata, but in handling and matching the content of the metadata properly...

And honestly, on top of all issues above, as a user I have not really been helpful in providing this metadata information, since I never had the patience or thoughtfulness to organize the metadata of my own classical music collection in a proper way (or correct the often ugly input that I obtained from my media players through automated fingerprinting). Eagerly looking forward to any killer feature that can help me setting this straight...but I'd totally understand if that still will need time, investigation and lots of unifying efforts...

Pete Chilcott said...

It's great that Google is making classical music available. For me it would be a masterstroke if you COULD make the metadata a little more informative or even developed a new way of displaying that information other than "I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso" for example.

However, we all know that whatever is used will not satisfy everyone....... don't we ?

Nathan said...

I agree with rob.

Anonymous said...

thank

Svisso said...

I doubt whether we lovers of classical music are number enough to motivate designers of ANY player software to spend an additional thought to classification and tagging of classical oevres? If Google Music was the first on to do so, it would be just great.

Jeremy said...

Beethoven's been dead for less than 200 years, not almost 300 as the article states.

Post a Comment

Having trouble? Visit Music Help.