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Beethoven's "Archduke" Trio in B-flat Major

April 3, 2020

On this week's lecture, resident lecturer Bruce Adolphe discusses Beethoven's "Archduke" Trio in B-flat Major. Featuring a performance by Michael Brown, piano; Arnaud Sussmann, violin; Nicholas Canellakis, cello.

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Welcome to the Inside Chamber Music Podcast presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I'm Bruce Adolphe, Resident Lecturer at CMS, where I started the lecture series in 1992. In 2011, we began livestreaming the lectures on our website. The audio for this podcast comes from the ever growing archive of videos made available live and on demand ChamberMusicSociety.org.

We look at the music from a compositional perspective and find parallels in novels, plays and poetry. Plus, we explore historical context and with live musicians in the studio during the lectures, we experiment with performance issues. Today's lecture features Beethoven's Archduke Trio in B-flat, major Opus 97, originally recorded October 22, 2014.

Good evening. Good evening. Beethoven, I'm going to get right into it. Beethoven wanted to have Von and I mean that seriously. He wanted to have Von, but not F-U-N. V-O-N. And he didn't have Von. He had Van. Now, what I'm talking about, perhaps you have read something about this, is that he had a kind of nobility pretense in the phrase of Maynard Solomon.

But it's really quite true. It's not a debatable topic. Beethoven used his Van, which is Flemish, and had nothing to do with nobility. He used it for quite some time to pretend that he was a member of the aristocracy, and it helped him a lot because it got him into certain circles and people accepted that and he even occasionally purposely spelled it wrong.

V-O-N, Von. And you may see that around. It's very rare now, but there are, not pieces of music anymore, unless they're published by really bad publishers that say Von. But you might find it in a book where Beethoven is not the main subject or it's not even a music book. And they refer to Beethoven as Von Beethoven.

But it's Van Beethoven. This is important because his relationship to the aristocracy had a lot to do with where he, his living, but also his attitude and his feelings. And there was one person, and you can guess who it is because we're doing the Archduke Trio, and his name was Trio. No, his name was Archduke. There was one person who he had a, Beethoven had quite a different relationship to in the aristocracy.

Who was this archduke? Can anyone say his entire name? I even have to look at it. Rudolph Johann Joseph Rainier Habsburg-Lothringen. Well, that's with his title, too. Archduke and Prince Imperial of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia. And then, of course, Archbishop of, he was also a cardinal and a member of the house of the Hapsburg Lorrain.

He studied composition and piano, but primarily it's composition that interests us, with Beethoven for 20 years. From age 16 onward. And he died very young, the Archduke. And the relationship was very complex because the Archduke was 17 years younger than Beethoven, and he looked up to him and he revered the arts. Not everybody surrounding the Archduke cared so much about music as he did.

In fact, nobody else was, in the aristocracy, was trying to maybe even be a professional musician, which he was. And he wrote a lot of music. And before we go any further, let's hear some music by the Archduke. Now, it's recorded. You can find it on your phone. It used to be that if I were to do something like this, it would be because of a lot of research and certain permission to go to a particular library and then more permission to copy it.

And now I just look on my phone. However, the Archduke wrote about 24 finished pieces and then quite a few unfinished pieces. There's one person named Susan Kagan who has devoted a lot of her life and research to the Archduke Rudolf and also some other people around Beethoven like Ferdinand Ries. In other words, that group of people who were either amateurs or, the Archduke is in a separate category, or lesser composers like Ferdinand Ries, people who knew Beethoven and whose music we never play anymore.

Now, I won't say anything else about the Archduke musically until we hear a little bit of it, and then we'll get back to Beethoven. But what's interesting is the violinist in this recording is Josef Suk, because Susan Kagan managed to convince a lot of wonderful musicians, and she's the pianist, to record basically everything that could be found of the Archduke.

So it's quite a lesson. Here's part of a violin and piano sonata by the Archduke Rudolf. (music)

Okay, I let it go on longer than you might have expected because it starts off, it's very impressive. And then it isn't anymore. So it starts to just be the same all the time. And I don't want to make too much of this because he was a very, very accomplished amateur composer. And his style is indebted 100% to Beethoven.

So there are aspects of the music that sound almost like Beethoven, and there is a very strong feeling. But you notice that it's just one long thread. It just never stops. It doesn't have the drama, the interruptions that we've been talking about in classical music. By classical, I really just mean Mozart so far. And also in Beethoven, as you'll see, the drama that comes from conflict, interruption, disruption, detours.

It just moves forward. Now, enough about that. But what's amazing is that their relationship somehow went to the point where Beethoven considered the Archduke a friend and dedicated 14 major works to him, including not just this trio, which is only nicknamed the Archduke. It wasn't called that by Beethoven, but also the fourth and fifth piano concertos, two of his greatest works.

The Missa Solemnis was written a little bit late for the ceremony of the Archduke becoming an Archbishop. Luckily, that was the last arch thing he became because Beethoven didn't have any more time. But, also, the Hammerklavier Sonata dedicated to the Archduke. Opus 96, right before this. Opus 97, the violin sonata in G. One of the best and most beautiful of his violin works also dedicated to the Archduke.

Les Adieux, the Piano Sonata is about the Archduke having to leave Vienna because of the French officers and then come back. So there's the depart, the departure, which is why it's called Les Adieux. And then Beethoven didn't finish the piece until the Archduke came back. And then he wrote the second part, which was a welcoming back. I mean, this is a really serious relationship.

Even the Grosse Fuge is dedicated to the Archduke. I mean, this is an extraordinary bit of music. Their relationship, though, also included some strange things, which luckily I remember because I hate looking through notes. For example, there's a letter from Beethoven to the Archduke where he says that he finds it humorous that the Archduke wants to explore Beethoven's ability to compose music for horses because the Archduke wanted to show off what horses could do.

And he asked Beethoven to write some music to accompany this horse display. And Beethoven, in the letter, agrees to do it. But apparently either he didn't do it or somebody destroyed it because probably he didn't do it. Now, getting to the beginning of this piece itself, I guess I want to read one more thing to you, a couple of quotes before we dove into the music.

Beethoven had strange and strange relationships to most other people in the nobility. The Archduke organized people to pay for Beethoven to compose, so he didn't have to do anything else. And you also know, probably, that Beethoven was in court over the custody of his nephew, Carl, this terrible thing which you can read about also on your phone.

And basically, that's where, in the court, it was discovered that he was pretending to be nobility because this court was only for the nobility. And at one point, they needed proof that the Van was the same as Von because his, to make a long story short, the wife of his brother, deceased brother, claimed that it wasn't true, that it wasn't nobility, and she was right.

And so at that point, he supposedly said, and everyone believes this, "My nobility is here and here," which is a really, great for movies. He may have said it because it's typical of Beethoven. It was reported by Anton Schindler, who may have been correct about everything he said, we just don't know for sure, because he's definitely incorrect about some of it.

Another thing that happened, though, was when Beethoven, he dedicated, the Ninth Symphony was written for King Frederick Wilhelm, the third of Prussia. And instead of money, the king sent him a ring. Now you have to think about how you would feel about this. I was thinking of it the other way. Let's say I gave one of my wife's earrings to somebody or even two of them for doing something that they expected to be paid for because they thought so much of us.

I don't know. It's hard to figure out how it feels. He wasn't happy. So he he decided to sell the ring and the person who, his friend Holz, said to him, "Don't sell it. It's from a king." And this is the great quote also of Beethoven. This is definitely true. "I, too, am a king." And then the most famous quote about nobility and royalty, "Prince, what you are you are by accident of birth.

What I am, I am by my own efforts. There have been and will be thousands of princes, and there can be only one Beethoven." All right. Now, speaking of that, it's a great sentiment. Now, in this piece we're about to hear, this is not the heroic Beethoven. This is not the struggling Beethoven. This has a lot to do with nobility.

This has a lot to do with expansive aristocratic feeling. But it also has built into it subversive, difficult dissonances and strange little problems that make it more beautiful and more wonderful, and they also make it more Beethoven. Some of these are things where harmonies are a line or struggling to break free from the rigidity of something he sets up himself.

Sometimes there are very strange chords that just go by very quickly, or sometimes they sit there just for a moment and it makes all the difference in the world. And we're going to look at that. But it makes me think of one more story, and then we're going to get into the music. Are you still in tune? (inaudible)

This is a story that has been told from many different sources and letters. It's a very famous story that Beethoven and Goethe were together, which they were more than once, and they were in (inaudible) and they were walking together and coming down the road in the opposite direction was the Empress and various members of the aristocracy very high up people.

So of course, Goethe starts to get out of the way and take off his hat and bow, and Beethoven tries to grab Goethe, hold onto him, and he holds down his hat and he walks right through them. Apparently they were amused by this. They all knew him, and they're used to his behavior and they think he's very special and they let Beethoven go through.

And then Beethoven comes over to Goethe and says, "How could you do this? Don't you understand? You are as great or greater than they are. You can't just let them do this to you. You can't behave like this. You should behave like me." Now, there are many versions of this story told by various different people, but the story seems to have happened.

In one version, the Archduke is there and takes Beethoven's hat off, which he lets him do, which is great. Okay, so now to the music. Everything I've just told you can be heard in this music if you're very susceptible to everything I say. Okay, let's start at the beginning. One of the things about the beginning you will notice that's quite amazing is how quiet it is.

So this is the Edition. The Special Edition. (inaudible) Yeah, great. (music) Okay. Now, if that sounded right to you, that's fine. A lot of that was changed by me. Why? Well, you've been coming to these lectures. First of all, it makes it much more fun for me. But secondly, beyond that, what I did here was normalize some of the dissonances so that when I put them back, you will hear how strange this is.

Let's hear the real thing. But it's going to be hard, unless you're really familiar with it, to catch what the changes are. So I will go back and discuss them with you. But basically what I did for the second half of the phrase there was put the correct chords and the correct voicing and the more normal chord progressions that Beethoven in every one of these instances, avoided in some strange ways.

So let's hear the real thing now. (music) Okay, now, I made some gestures at two of the strangest things, but there were many, many, many things along the way. So I'm going to go to the piano and point them out. I think that's just the easiest way to do this. You can take your device. Okay. Now, for example, this is a very small thing, but right here (music) Beethoven's chords are (music) This note is not harmonized in the normal way. It would normally be... (music)

Alright, see how simple that is? He just skips one chord. That small, but it's not insignificant. And then... (music) Now what you heard the first time in my version was this. (music) So again, this resolution, I used the right chord and those are all the right chords. That's not what he wrote. He does not release the dissonant chord. (music)

See that? I mean, you hear that? And then I put a resolution and then a chord that would be typical for this note. But what he wrote is absolutely bizarre. (music) Okay? Now, this really is kind of an unprecedented strangeness. It's an E-flat minor chord leaning on a pedal, F. You need to know the technical details, but I'm describing it for, I try to do it so that if you do get all the technical stuff, great.

And if you don't just let people get that, but you should always look like you do. Okay. I mean, people do that in physics lectures. They do it everywhere. Okay. There are only three people who understand relativity. That's what I heard. Okay. Anyway, so we have the wrong key, E-flat minor. But what makes it even more bizarre, because we would accept that is this note won't go away.

This F. If you turn two pages, it's even more amazing. And then listen to this dissonance. (music) This is very intense stuff. This is as dissonant as music at that time could possibly be. And then, see, I went from here to here because that's normal. But what he does is (music) and he leaves it that way. Now, if you have some harmonic training, you like the expression? It's the lowered fifth of that dominant.

That is not something composers were using at all. You hear a lot of it in 19th century French music, but here it's quite bizarre. And to leave it there means that he's letting it sink in and giving it a function. To me, this relates to the same kind of person who won't take his hat off, you know, who puts his elbow in the way, who won't get out of the way of royalty because the chord progressions, one, four and five, the pillars of harmony are being mocked, to a certain extent, but with brilliance.

And there is a freedom that he has. And the freedom that he attains comes from allowing the rules, the rigidity, the traditions, the conventions to be there in full flower so that he can also subvert them. So he has to create the situation that's powerful. He has to create the harmonic tension that we expect so that he can still be Beethoven by doing things that we can't possibly expect.

I'm going to ask Michael to play- you predicted it by my eyebrow raising? Yes, to play one of the most extreme examples in Beethoven or anywhere of the three primary chords being given their due, the three chords, one, four and five. Meaning, you know, if you're, this is in B-flat, major, this B so it's B-flat, four is E-flat, five is F if you play the guitar for three weeks, you know, one, four and five.

00;22;14;18 - 00;22;35;12
Speaker 1
And there are, as I always say, but it's true, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of folk songs, thousands of folk songs from all over the world, but mostly the English tradition and the Celtic tradition and American folk songs that only use those three chords. Gazillions of them, because they are the pillars of harmony, and some of them is four chords.

And the extra chord would be like number six. So here is the opening of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, written not for the Emperor, but for the Archduke Rudolf. The opening is one elaborated on the piano, four elaborated on the piano, and five elaborated on the piano. Let's hear it. (music)

Okay, great, great. Yeah.

I have to say, Michael, as an incoming CMS two person, you really should not spend any time playing concertos. It's chamber music. That was quite a concerto sound, actually. It was great. Okay, so getting back to that weird moment. Excuse me. So what Beethoven did here is instead of going just like what you just heard, instead of... (music) it's... (music) and in quite a few places in this piece, in the first movement and in many of his pieces from here on in the dissonances are that strange.

And they're inexplicable. The kind of thing the Archduke, if he had, he would never think of it, because what his biggest limitation was imagination. He learned how to write from Beethoven, but he didn't learn how to have a brilliant imagination from Beethoven. He might have been able to do that. I mean, I think that's possible, but it didn't happen.

But had the Archduke written this, ( music) I'm sure Beethoven would have, A, stolen it and then told him not to do something like that. Okay, moving right along. The next thing that happens, we get a cadence. Let's actually play from... Let's play from 20, the real 20, and keep going through the let's go all the way to the second theme in the G major theme in the piano.

There's a huge transition here. (music) Now, everything's normal. (music) Okay, that theme that you just heard reminds me, at least, of the opening of the fourth piano concerto, which was also written for the Archduke. Could you play a little bit of that? (music) Nice. Now play this one. (music) It's like a condensed, lighter version of the same thing. Not so serious.

Now, before we got there, though, quite a few amazing things happened. So I'm going to mention a few of them. Pardon me, Michael. This business of... (music) This is all of a sudden a gift to Brahms. It sounds like Brahms all of a sudden, but Brahms wasn't born. Basically, what happens here is that Beethoven does two things that can be, as I say, a gift to another composer in the future.

One thing is the piano writing is deep in the left hand with very thick harmonies. Even for Beethoven, a little bit unusual, the way it's spaced. Although he does do more of that later. And the rhythm is all off. It's dizzy. The bar line has disappeared. If you take away the bar line and space these chords like this, you have a texture that will become useful for Brahms.

Then you also have a harmony which, again, we accept this moment where this is the chord. (music) You didn't notice that because it's going by very nicely. (music) And then... Can I ask you guys to play and stop on that beat? You know which beat I'm talking about? Yes, yes. Start right at the key change and then we get to that chord.

Just stay there for a moment because you accept things as they move by. But nobody but Beethoven would have done this. So I just want to draw attention to how dissonant he allows his music to be because it's, I'm sure at that time, even though this was passing by beautifully, it was much more disturbing than it is now.

So I would like you to be disturbed. So, let's start there. (music) Okay. Alright. Yes. It's not just a dissonance in the normal sense. It's not complicated, but it's the spacing of it. It's the rest. In other words, let me- sorry, Michael. Basically, if you just take a chord like this, (music) that's five, seven, going to one. And if you have one in the bass, that's not at all unusual.

But that's not what he has. Because in the bass, where is it in your page here? Okay. In the bass, instead of having the D in the chord like this, he puts the D in the violin with the leading tone and he puts the fifth of the chord in the bottom. And this in the middle and the leading tone here.

It's like Stravinsky. Because it's a repositioning of the dissonance in space exactly the way Stravinsky would do it. Stravinsky would take octaves and place them in space in resonance positions farther apart from each other, for example, to give a new kind of resonance. But that's exactly what that is. It's an old fashioned harmony. It's a dominant seventh.

And the chord is about to resolve, two, is there, is a pedal tone. But the voices are all in the wrong places. And so what you hear is bizarre. Let me just hear that same chord, just the piano and then the violin, and then we'll stick in the cello. (music) Maybe just play the bass part. It's pure Stravinsky neoclassicism.

Okay, thank you. Stravinsky's neoclassical period was based, premised on a few things, but the two basic things were displacement of rhythmic accent and displacement of octaves and harmonic juxtapositions. It's like it's almost the same thing as cubism, where you take a painting and you move things apart. This is practically cubist. In fact, let's go back to earlier on in the piece, the accents and the placement of some of the chords are also like this.

They're not as dramatic, but there they are. Let's start at bar 14 and I'm going to ask Nick, can you play out that thing that you mentioned earlier, that he has a chord that comes in, his note comes in too soon, and then the accents are in funny places. It's it's very subtle, but it's exactly again, this cubist Stravinsky-ist thing hinted at by Beethoven. (music)

Okay, now, wait. That's hard to catch. But the E-flat, it should be, in a normal sense... (music) The bass, the cello should just do that. But it does this. It gets there one beat early. It's not a jarring dissonance, but it's in the wrong place. This happens all over. And then the accents. The sforzandos are, the sudden accents in the music everywhere, are not helping you listen to the harmony.

They're not helping you find the tune. They're just in the wrong places because there is already here a hint of a tremendously modern concept, which, of course, Beethoven never heard the word cubism. And he's not doing it enough for this piece to become a cubist neoclassic work. But he's hinting at it in a way that no one had ever done before.

Okay. Moving right along. Let's get to that second theme. Oh, well, there's so many other things. No, that's enough. Okay. Let's go to the second theme and play all the way to... and go to the second ending, I think is what we need to do. So I want you to hear a little bit more of the piece, and I'll just give you a warning of a couple of things. In order to balance the strangeness of these harmonies and these displaced accents and these early notes and things like that, you get a lot of music that is extremely calm with just one and five chords.

Practically folk music. Could we just hear the cello tune at 60 for a moment? (Music) Okay, so what happens here, this this could be the beginning of a folk song. But what's interesting about it is that Beethoven will write a very, very simple phrase and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it. And you're waiting for something to change.

And what's changing here is texture dynamics, added ideas until it just becomes a giant crescendo. Who is this a gift to? Rossini. You know, it's like somebody had said, and it's true, and it might have been me, but I don't remember, that in Stravinsky you could find the entire minimalist movement if you just take a couple of measures here and there in Stravinsky and use it over and over.

It's true. Like there are a couple of measures of symphony of Psalms of Stravinsky that sound exactly like Philip Glass. But there are only four measures and of a huge piece. But that's enough. Now, in a different way, you could say that Brahms, Schubert, and Rossini found everything they needed in a couple of pieces of Beethoven. And this is one of them where, and maybe... you know, Stravinsky always said that he disliked Beethoven.

I'm beginning to wonder if it's a cover up because there's so much in here that he used that it's possible. I'm going to look into this. There's no way to, but, no, there probably is. But anyway, so let's start. You're going to hear very simple chords, but the textures will increase. The textures will become richer, the dynamics, it'll get louder.

And it becomes like a Rossini crescendo. If you haven't heard the expression, Rossini crescendo, he was criticized for it by critics. Of course. Who else? But musicians loved this and audiences still do, which is where a small idea gets louder and louder and louder and bigger. And the whole orchestra then just booms. He does do it in every single overture, which is fine, since he uses the same overture for different operas sometimes.

Okay, so let's start there and get to the most extraordinary beginning of the development from, yeah, from there. (music) Yeah. This is all just one chord here and five. Minor. Okay, now, wait. Wait. Right there something very strange is happening in the piano. We just hear the piano alone at the second ending? (music) Okay, this is also an unprecedented little thing.

And it's also something Stravinsky liked, which is to set up a rhythmic pattern within another pattern that is separate from the pulse. We do feel the pulse. We have triplets. Can you just play the triplets? But then those same notes... (singing) The B-flat, A-flat, D, start to become 16. So the accents are now at all the wrong places. (music)

Yeah. And then he changes it right at the end because he had to, because there was a bar line and even Beethoven was paying attention to them. But could you play the triplets into the sixteenths and accent the beat just a little bit more than you normally would? (music) See what I mean? Yeah, it's very jazzy. It's almost Gershwin-esque.

So everybody was influenced by this stuff. Then, while the sixteenths are happening... (singing) In come the strings in triplets. (singing) Now here there's kind of a dreamy and then building quality in the piano and a stately, majestic quality in the strings. But this rhythm of four against three, he did just a little bit before this Opus 97 in Opus 95, in which, that's the string quartet, the very short F minor string quartet, Serioso, in which when he does four against three there, it sounds like he's having some kind of fit.

It's incredibly terrifying. It's all about the conflict of four against three. And the drama of it is very intense. Here, he does the same thing and it's kind of elegant and beautiful. Schumann picked up on this. Schumann uses it in his piano quintet in the slow movement, where he has a very dreamy section of fours against threes.

And that comes probably from here. To think that people, you know, is it true everyone was looking at Beethoven for what to do? Oh, yes. People looked at Bach and they looked at Beethoven. And a little bit Brahms. But.. Okay, so let's... You know what? Before we go on, this reminds me of Beethoven's Improvizational skills, the thing that Michael just did there. Because Beethoven was known for being a phenomenal keyboard improviser, which is not a surprise.

The problem was that he was always being asked to improvise by the nobility at parties and dinners. So it felt to him like he was a servant. You know, "Oh, Ludvig would, you know, play the piano?" This is what happens. There are a lot of stories about this. Many. Many letters about it. The most famous being Prince Lichnowsky asking Beethoven to play for a bunch of French soldiers during the occupation.

Because, you know, I think I may have told this story last year, but that's okay. That Lichnowsky took care of Beethoven quite a bit, as did the Archduke and all these people had special relationships. None as special as the Archduke's. So Beethoven was staying at the home, the country home of Prince Lichnowsky. And in the aristocracy, even though there was war and occupation, if you're in the aristocracy, you might have dinner with some French officers.

If you're Austrian. Why not? We're the aristocracy. It doesn't matter if they're all killing each other. So he has some French officers over for dinner and Beethoven was very disturbed by that. And then he said, "Would you play for them?" And Beethoven famously... of course, wasn't famous when he did it, stormed out.

He took his Appassionata Sonata, which he was still working on, and walked out into the snow, and it was snowing, and he didn't want to come back he was so mad. And he walked very far all the way to the next village. And then eventually he made his way back to Vienna. And when he got home, the story is that he took the bust of Lichnowsky that was in his room, which was also in Lichnowsky's house, and smashed it to bits.

There are also stories of him being asked to improvise and he would say, "No, no, no." And then they would all go into the next room to have dinner and he would start to improvise because they were having dinner. And then he realized he was missing dinner and they were sneaking back in to listen to him improvise. So he got up when he realized they were all listening to him and went into dinner and knocked over a piece of porcelain that smashed to bits, which they all laughed because he's so amusing.

Here's a letter about how to get Beethoven to improvise. This is authentic. I'm going to read the whole thing translated into English for you. "Beethoven never played in Schneider's presence. The young musician complained of this to a certain Herr von Bonora, a member of Beethoven circle, who told him that Beethoven never played when coaxed. One had to get him to the piano by trickery.

'You will have noticed,' said Bonora, 'that Beethoven has the habit of pacing up and down the room during a conversation. His piano always stands open. If you pace up and down with him, speak to him about anything at all except music. And say as you pass the piano, pretend to hit a note by accident and say, 'Well, Herr van Beethoven, this key has a slow action.'

Beethoven will go to the piano, test the key several times, then add the fifth, and then perhaps a third. Later, he will add the bass. Then bring him a chair. (music) He will sit down to continue testing the dead key in all manner of chords. In this way he will begin to improvise without even noticing it.' And you are afforded a rare pleasure.

This ruse never fails. I've used it myself with great success." Okay, back to the piece for a moment. Okay. So, what happens now is we get to threes against the fourth. So, let's start at the the second ending. You will hear the threes becoming fours and then the strings coming in in three against the four. And then there are some other strange things, but we'll just start with that. (music)

Okay, great. The threes and fours were the main thing happening there. But there's also a moment, right when it's just about to be at its loudest point that we get one of these strange ideas of Beethoven's, which is to put two chords together again in a Stravinsky-esque way, really. Except it wasn't Stravinsky-esque because Stravinsky wasn't born for many years, until later.

But you know what I'm talking about? Yeah. Okay. Just play the right hand for a moment. That's a diminished seventh chord, which resolves. Right. The left hand, though, is playing an E-flat minor chord. Let's hear that. (music) Yeah. So the difference, let me just explain one thing. If the diminished seventh chord here (music) has, two of those notes are in an E-flat minor chord, but this note isn't. (music) However, it is possible to hear that as this being the note you're going to resolve to just like before when he did this. (music) Which it could have been like this. (music)

It's the same thing. This could also have been exactly like that, like this. (music) And we wouldn't notice it. But he puts it in this position and then corrects it. In other words, he takes, again, something that could have been conventional by the voicing in the piano, makes it extremely unconventional and then writes it at the last second, in this case. Again, it's a matter of resonance, placement in the instrument, an awareness of how close, how easy it is for something to be off.

Now, that's an important life statement. It's like, how much does it take to ruin your day, really? One cut of your, you know, when you're slicing a tomato, how long does it take to slice your thumb off? Now, I say it that way for drama. It could be a lot worse than that. In fact, I remember five, it was a long time ago.

Fred Sherry, our cellist who, at one time, was our Artistic Director, had a very bad day in the kitchen once in which he cut his finger, and because of that, he threw his hand backwards in shock and hit glass. And he had a lot of problems. He got over all of it, but I mean, it was a really bad two things.

And he was supposed to play that night. You know, that's what these things say when you have a chord that is major and then suddenly becomes minor. Let's skip to an example of that for a moment. Well, we had it at the very beginning. But the best spot, I'm going to move forward to the end. Guys.

Yeah, yeah. 207, 208. In that area. Is that good for you? Yeah. Why don't we do it, start at 204 and it's just, briefly it goes to minor. This happens a lot in this piece, but we had to find one example and it's just why is it going to minor? I'll get back to that in a minute. So let's just hear some of that. (music)

Okay, that's it. That's just for one second. That's a scary second. That E-flat minor chord is the same E-flat minor chord that was this one. (music) In other words, it's E flat minor. We're in B flat. The three big chords. (music) Now, if I just play it like this, it doesn't sound like anything because it's context and voicing that makes it so extraordinary.

In fact, one of the things that makes Beethoven's music so powerful is, in the simplest possible way, he disturbs the texture. In the simplest way, he changes the whole relationship of one chord to another. Without having to do anywhere near as many alterations or chromaticisms or as most composers before or after. The dissonances are incredibly calculated and amazing.

They're sometimes note for note, just a passing dissonance or a structural dissonance like a major key change. But you don't hear lots of chromatic dissonance like you will in later composers or, in some cases, earlier composers. All right. So getting back to where we were, let's move forward a little bit because we are going to hear the whole first movement to 115. And that's bar 115 if you have a score.

Which several of you do. Basically, here, this is a very Beethoven-ian technique and it's the easiest one to imitate if you are like Archduke Rudolph and you want to imitate a technique here, here you go. You take part of the theme and just a small amount of the theme and just keep using only that. Only that.

But what's great is the little bit of the theme goes through many harmonic changes and does some extraordinary things, but it's just you're listening to the same three note shape, but what you're really listening to is the harmony. So when you think you're listening to the theme being passed around, it's kind of an illusion. It's trivial. What's important is the harmony.

Let's hear that. (music) Now, we we only heard (singing). We're waiting for the rest of the theme and finally, it comes right now. So let's let's keep going. Finally, the cello thinks, "Wait a minute, there's more to this tune than those three notes." Right? Let's do it right at the D major there. (music) That's it. Okay. And now another moment that is the opposite of what Archduke Rudolf would do is instead of moving to the ending, which is he could easily do, all of a sudden we have something brand new, a brand new texture and a feeling of a new idea.

It has a feeling of a vision. And it's very strange music. The texture and everything about it is unpredictable. We could take it out of the piece, and of course you would miss it if you knew it. But it's just almost an aberration and a beautiful one. Let's continue. (music) Okay. Well, you'll hear that later. And then it builds and builds again into a Rossini-like...

Except Rossini hadn't done any of them yet, a foreshadowing of this kind of Italianate crescendo. But then there's another incredibly bizarre moment that doesn't sound that bizarre because we're so used to it. But I'm going to try to bring you back in time and listen to it the way people would have heard it then, which is the, right before the return, the recapitulation.

There's very quiet high music and very magical and mysterious, and the harmony is off. Let's hear that. You know, we're starting from 181. (music) Oh, wait, wait. start... (inaudible) Yeah you could do it right there. The trill is that part. Yeah. (music)

Okay. Now, it's a beautiful moment, but excuse me. What we normally would hear there is this trill. (music) Right? Does that sound normal? It should. (music) But we're hearing, first of all, a trill in the right hand with this flat note and then not a trill here. These are sixteenths. You have to do that. It's insane. And then you have (music) and (music) and what you're getting is this harmony and this harmony with this note.

And then at the last moment... Now, I'm going to analyze that for you so take out your pencils. If it were just this, that would be a diminished, the seven leading to the tonic. That's not too unusual. If we had the missing note, which is there in a trill in a in a pattern, that's more normal too. But the problem is the way it's aligned, we don't get that together.

We get this with this and this with that. So it's as if he took this chord, the dominant chord made it diminished, but then lowered this note, which is what he did and resolves it here. Okay. It's very close to what it should be, but it's off. And not only is it off, it's very quiet, it's very high.

And there are trills and sixteenths that are different, it's like slow and fast trills. So it's extremely dizzy. Can you demonstrate? This is kind of amazing. There's the trill and then the other hand. Can you hear that it's slower? Maybe, is it possible to accent of beats? That would be really... (music) Yeah, it's really a pain in the neck.

And then you guys do your thing. Yeah. Do that whole business there, right up there. Just those two bars of Trilling.


Okay. It's a very strange moment. If it doesn't feel strange to just go home and listen to it thousands of times. Now, you know, eventually we do get right where we just landed now a recapitulation. And in the recapitulation, nothing is exactly as it was before, which you wouldn't expect with Beethoven, especially in a later work like this.

This is not the late period, but it's right before the late period, the end of the middle period, turning into the late works. And so it'll be obvious what's different. The cello and the violin expand their phrases. That huge transition from the first section doesn't come back because you don't need it anymore. So don't worry about that. That's standard.

And then everything is transposed back to B flat. And then there's a marvelous coda. But before we hear the whole thing, I would like to just give you a glimpse of the last movement of this piece in order to make another point about Beethoven's composer. With the Mozart, I've been talking quite a lot about how Mozart disrupts himself, interrupts himself, diverts and detours.

Beethoven in this piece is doing something else most of the time, which is dislocating an octave, re-voicing a chord, changing a dissonance so that it sounds much stranger because of how he puts it in the instruments than it normally would, things like that. But he also, in the course of this, does, in his own way, in an expanded and personal way, the disruptive thing.

So in order to hear that, I'm going to ask them to play, like I did with the Mozart, something from the last movement, but with something removed. So here is that section with something removed. (music) Okay, great. Okay. Now, if you know the piece, you know something was removed. Let's put it back. (music) Now we're back. That was all what I cut.

Okay, that was a big cut. What I cut is, it really probably occurred to him later because the music right before the the cut and the music after is exactly the same and it goes somewhere else. Not only that, he's moving towards the tonic of the key. That huge presto in A major. What is that doing there? Aside from the shock and the pleasure of it, it's there because he was about to go to the leading tone.

You're getting good at getting up very quickly. This leading tone becomes a whole key and that's the key of this presto. So he was thinking, "I'm going to take that A that's a leading tone, put the whole thing in A major and have this wonderful vision, and then I'll go back where I was." It's great. It's almost as if you can zero in on something with a microscope and there's a whole world there, and then you get back to where you were.

Okay. So I think we have now- we do have time to hear the entire first movement. You ready? Yeah, I think this is going to be a really good performance and it's your, no concertos, but chamber music. Don't throw that thing in the middle there. What?

I think we have time, yeah. They're going to do the opening repeats, which we usually cut. And the reason is that you are in the wrong key. You're in G major and then it goes back to B flat in a brilliant way. And then the second time you get the Disney we look at. So it's worth hearing because it's not just the repeat, it's got two different endings. So it's worth it's worth it. (music)

We hope you enjoyed the podcast. Visit ChamberMusicSociety.org to watch videos of these lectures as well as masterclasses and concert performances. And while you're there, check out the calendar of upcoming Chamber Music Society events in New York and around the world. See you next time.