Update browser for a secure Made experience

It looks like you may be using a web browser version that we don't support. Make sure you're using the most recent version of your browser, or try using of these supported browsers, to get the full Made experience: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge.

Podcast

Beethoven’s Trio in E-flat major for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 1, No. 1

June 1, 2023

Join Bruce Adolphe, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Resident Lecturer, for investigations and insights into chamber music masterworks.

Beloved by regulars and a revelation to first-timers for their depth, accessibility, and brilliance, we dig into the ICM lecture recording archive to share our favorite lectures with you.

Download Transcript

TraNScript


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 podcast of Inside Chamber Music features Beethoven's Piano Trio in E-flat Major Opus One Number One played by Wu Hahn, Piano, Chad Hoopes, Violin and David Finckel, Cello.


Originally recorded February 23rd, 2022. Hello. Beethoven Opus One Number One. So this is not late Beethoven. This is early. His first published work. Not his first work, of course, first published work, but there were already signs of genius. And we're going to take a look at what those are. He was very influenced by Mozart, of course, and Mozart died in 1791.


Beethoven wrote this in 1795. So he was kind of free of the competition of Mozart, which he would have felt being Beethoven. He was not free of the feeling of competitiveness with his teacher, Haydn, and it's very indebted to Haydn. But I'm not going to worry about Haydn and Mozart. Let's just take a look at this piece and we're going to take a look at a little bit of the first movement and a lot of the fourth movement.


That's one of the things Beethoven did to piano trios already in his first piano trio. He made them four movements like symphonies instead of three. But for a modern audience, so what? That's not that interesting. It was premiered in the home of Prince Lichnowsky and Beethoven, there's a great comment about how the Prince and the Princess Lichnowsky were overbearing to Beethoven.


They helped him a lot. They gave him money. They let him play concerts and premieres in their home, but they treated him like a grandson. That's how he put it. And he said that the Princess wanted to put a glass shade over him so that no one could touch him or breathe on him. That's how he felt.


So I remember that from my childhood and my Aunt Nancy, but I'm not going to get into that. Now, we tend to think that the first thing that we hear in a piece of music, especially classical music, the first thing that we hear is very important. Just the way a duckling thinks that the first thing it sees is its mother.


And, you know, probably from experiments with imprinting, that's not always true. Especially if you have Konrad Lorenz or some scientist putting in a dog there. And the duckling goes, "Oh, mommy." And it's wrong. The question is, right from the beginning of this piece, how important or original or brilliant is the opening? Let's just hear the very, very first couple of notes of this thing. (music)


Okay. Now, this is already trivial, but before I get into that, I have to say I like to read lots of program notes before I give a talk, which I should stop doing because they just make me upset. But I read some program notes from a very important organization in California, I won't mention it, where it's said that that D flat that comes in- you want to just play duh duh duh? That D flat duh duh duh.


It was a brilliant stroke on the part of Beethoven, bringing in a note that doesn't belong in the key so early. But people did that all the time before Beethoven. I'll give you some examples of that in just a moment. But before I get to that, it's important to realize that in general, a lot of things that happened first in music and in theater and in plays and, I mean, in books and movies, they're not always that important.


They have to draw you in. It's not always that things start with the idea that's going to make the whole thing happen. So, for example, here's the first line of Pinter's play, The Homecoming. What have you done with the scissors? I mean, it is great, but the play is not about scissors, obviously. Not at all. But it's about the kind of person who is so angry when they ask that.


Okay, the first line of Tennessee Williams' Glass Menagerie, and this reminds me of the fourth movement of the Beethoven, which you'll hear soon. Yes, I have tricks in my pocket. I have things up my sleeve. Very Beethoven. That's kind of the young Beethoven saying I have tricks in my pocket, meaning I can take a simple idea that's kind of meaningless, trivial, almost cliche.


And wait until you see what I can do with this. That's what it is about. But first, I want to show you how trivial the idea is. Pardonne moi. Okay. You have... (music) From Mozart's G Minor Symphony, the... and this. This is called the rocket. I think I've mentioned this before and you can look it up on your phone, but don't.


That's a rocket. Beethoven heard a lot of rockets. They were called the Mannheim rocket. It just takes off. It's a cliche already by the time Beethoven used it here. This one... (music) that's Mozart again. It's a slower rocket. And then Beethoven, his second, his Opus Two starts just like this goes in minor. But he couldn't think of anything else.


Then the other thing is he does this, right? (music) So it's about to change key. It just got started. We're in E-flat and there's a D natural in E-flat, but instead he goes... But moving to the flat side, as we say, and that's what it means, moving down, happens so often in classical music. Mozart did it all the time. Here's a really famous example. (music)


It happened right away. And he gets rid of it right away. Beethoven used it again in the Eroica brilliantly. When he does... (music) But there it's a C-sharp. He changed a lot by the time he wrote the... Here's Bach. Another example. (music) There it is already. We didn't even have one D natural. That's D natural, but... (music) and of course later Robert Schumann does it even faster than everybody else.


He goes... There it is. This happens immediately, and then he does it again. It keeps changing key all the time. I have to do one more example way after Beethoven. (music) Here's the D natural. A great inspiration to put it with the tonic, making it a major seven. Flat. Okay. Makes me misty just playing it for you. So, the question is if the D flat is no big deal and the rocket is no big deal, we know that what has to happen is that Beethoven has to do some great things with all of this.


You know, somebody asked Harold Pinter, I think I know who it was. It was Mel Gussow a long time ago, in 1980 something, interviewed Harold Pinter about writing the opening of a play. How do you get started? Just like somebody might say, "Ludwig, how did you start the opening of your trio?" And Pinter said, "I had this image of two people sitting in a pub." And the question came, "Do you know who they were?"


He said, "No." And he said, "I found out." And then, "How did you get the first line?" And, basically, he said, "I've listened to them." But then another, one last Pinter thing because I love this. The play Betrayal, the first word is this, "Well..." Silence. Well. I think, pardon me, that's exactly like this. What is that? It gets your attention.


Well. And then the next line back, this is Gerry and Emma. Gerry says, "Well..." Emma says, "How are you?" Gerry says, "All right." Emma says, "You look well." Isn't this fascinating? But then the next line is, "Well, I'm not all that well, really." And now you're interested. The timing is a lot like this. Well, how are you feeling?


I'm okay. Are you really? Not really. And then it keeps going. It has the exact same feeling of that. But more importantly, it's Alfred Hitchcock who gave us the whole idea of what is going on in a piece like this. Of course, he wasn't talking about classical music at all or music, the MacGuffin. Now, the MacGuffin is a nothing that is extremely important to the characters in the movie or in the script.


Just like any idea in classical music, so many ideas in classical music, especially in Haydn and Mozart, but also in Beethoven. But he does change this. So many of the first things you hear are actually fairly insignificant sounding. Or they might be like a simple alarm. A hello. But it's what happens. The MacGuffin is that thing we don't understand and we don't know why it's important.


Hitchcock says it's like the papers that the spies are looking for, where you never even know what's in them. But you don't care. You care that everyone else cares. It's like the documents. Did you see the documents? No. We don't know what those documents are. He defined a MacGuffin with a famous story. Probably you could say it with me, but don't.


The story, there are two guys in Scotland on a train and one says, "What is that package up on the rack up there?" And the other one says, "It's a MacGuffin." And he says, "What's the MacGuffin?" He says, "It's an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands." And the other guy says, "But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands."


And he says, "Well then that's no MacGuffin." That's it. So how often do you stay up at night over something that's driving you crazy and it turns out it's nothing? Raise your- no, right. It happens a lot. Or it seems incredible in the middle of the night and in the morning it's nothing. Or you get a great idea in the middle of the night and you realize it's not a great idea.


This happens all the time and that's what a lot of pieces of music are like where you have- and this is very much so in this kind of early Beethoven where you have trivial ideas that he just takes very far. And I'll tell you in the first movement, what he does that's so brilliant has to do with the D flat. This little D flat (music) just gets resolved immediately at first.


But if you keep your ear open for the D flat and I'll show you what happens, he follows it and does everything you can do with that note until we actually end up in the key of D flat, which does not belong here. And so he is already, I mean, Haydn did things like this, but Beethoven already was doing it differently than than Haydn, which is to take the smallest suggestion of something and blow it up until it's gigantic.


And so let's take a look at some of these D flat moments. Okay. First, let's just hear from the beginning up until bar 25 and what you're going to hear, if, Wu Hahn, when you have d flat like in your left hand and bar 15 things like that, if you could just think about the D flats coming out a little bit more.


Okay. (music) Okay. Now, so far, they've just come and gone. They're not going to get your attention. This is ordinary what's going on so far. Beethoven has already got the pacing of a master because you're just being entertained for a long time. Let's look now at bar 105, or it could be 104 it turns out. We're going to listen for a while and I will make wild gestures.


I'm sorry for the podcasters right now, but you could probably tell. Get a score if you're doing a podcast. Okay, so it's moving along and you'll see from my gestures and maybe I'll say something quietly, don't stop, that the D flats are happening and we're going to actually arrive in the key of D flat, which you have to believe me, is kind of strange.


Go ahead. (music) We're in A flat. The D flats are appearing. We're on our way. This is B-flat minor, which has a D flat in it.


We're getting there. Here.


Okay, now we are now at a key, it sounds perfectly fine and normal, but the key is D flat. It is a flowering of the suggestion at the beginning. I was going to say and I maybe I should, it's like a virus. I hate to say that, but it is a little bit. There's just one D flat spotted at the beginning of the piece and they say, "That's nothing. Don't worry."


Then the D flat appears a couple of times and they say, "Don't worry, it's not going to become-" And then we're in B flat major.

Okay. Now, I think we can actually move on to the fourth movement. Let's do that because the fourth movement is what you're going to hear at the end. And first of all, I have to- I'll do a little bit at the keyboard for a moment here. Okay. First, we have two iPad's next to each other. What's going to happen?


We'll get an iPad Mini probably at some point. Okay. Okay. It starts like this. (music) That's how it starts. Does that sound familiar? The opening was of the other movement, but this is compressed. So already he's Beethoven here in the fourth movement. He's already thought, "I can make this compressed and more energized by just removing everything but the outside."


He doesn't have the very bottom because that would be this. But this interval of a third, basically, is more suggestive than a fifth, which doesn't sound like anything. And you then expect it maybe to go up, but it goes... So he's being cute. It's going down and many things happen here with that up and down. But the main thing that happens is he establishes a fun, rollicking journey in E Flat where nice tunes, simple tunes, entertaining little tunes.


But then these tunes become... they get threatened by Chromaticism. Chromaticism being the addition of sharps and flats that are not in the key. And those threats come in the form of the most tense chord of the time, which is a diminished seventh chord. Now, I have talked about diminished seventh chords, I have to say, for the last 30 years. I've talked about other things too, but diminished seventh chords, I'm just going to mention a few things about it.


Because it's very important in this piece. It is a symmetrical chord And if you were at the Rite of Spring Lecture, you know that the diminished seventh chord is extremely important in The Rite of Spring, because if you put two of them together, you get the octatonic scale because it's all symmetrical. In Beethoven's music, and at that time a diminished seventh chord is tense also because of its symmetry.


Meaning, you can't tell when you keep turning it around, it's all symmetrical, the same interval, so you can't tell what is the root of the third or the fifth or the seventh? It's impossible to tell. And because you can't tell, it can go to four different keys easily and eight, really. If you drop any one note, you're in a new key. (music)


So it has the ability just to go to four keys, minor keys and four major keys. So when it's just sitting there like this, which happens... (music) That's one diminished chord. Here's the next and another. That's all three. There are only are three. Here comes hard math. You ready? Three, symmetrical, four note chords. That's 12 notes. That's it. We only have 12 notes. Probably you know that.


That's the 12 tone music. Can you imagine if we had 13 tones and we had 13 note music? Well, actually, we could do that. But anyway, so that becomes extremely tense. And what happens in this movement is both in dramatic and threatening ways and in light comic ways, the fun gets interrupted by visions that are scary and you could think of it as an interruption, or you could think of it as you're driving, which Beethoven never did, but you're driving and everything's fine.


It's beautiful. And then you suddenly realize that you've forgotten where you're going. And you're in a neighborhood, or you're in a place that you don't know where you are. And luckily now you can pull out your phone and say, "How do I get out of here?" But let's say you drove into the woods and you're in a country road and you have no idea and you lose your wi fi.


That's a diminished seventh chord. So you need to recalculate somehow whether you can do it with your physical map or with your phone. So Beethoven frequently goes off the road and has to recalculate, which means get back to the key and the tunes that he left. So let's hear some of this now. Let's start at the beginning of this movement, fourth movement.


Let's just hear some of it. I'll stop you and then we'll get to the tricky parts. (music) Okay, yeah. We're not quite out of the woods yet, but you can see and hear that everything was almost trivial. The tunes... ya da da da. They're all trivial, but the triviality of it makes the interruptions powerful. So he already, as a 25 year old... kind of late if he were Mozart.


But anyway... Or Schubert. Really late. Or Bellini. Bellini died at 35. Of course, we don't have any chamber music by Bellini. So by keeping things light and fairly trivial and the tunes that anybody could write in probably has, you know, they're just so simple. Then when you go off the road, you get into complexity. Now let's go right where that happens, because he repeats the entire diminished thing twice, adding more filler, more chromatic notes to it, making it even more intense.


And it also makes it symmetrical. So let's start at bar 70... Wherever that is. 76? Okay. (music) Now we find our way back to the key. But again... Yeah, now you hear. Sorry, but do you hear how happy he is? And this would be trivial if it weren't interrupted by those diminished chords in the silence. And and of course it's at the piano.


Why is all the good stuff in the piano in terms of the drama? They all had great stuff to play, but the piano has all the interesting drama because Beethoven was playing the piano part and because he was making a name for himself as a pianist first. By the way, being a pianist in those days was a lot more like being a jazz pianist because you didn't normally just play a piece. You improvised.


So if Beethoven gave a concert, a concert would probably consist of him improvising on a theme somebody yelled out or that everyone knows. Then a movement of a piece he wrote, maybe a movement of a sonata he wrote. And then another improvisation. That's what concerts were like. We should do that sometime. Yeah. All right, I'll do the improv.


I'm happy to do it. Okay. Here's a comment from one of Beethoven's conversation books where he's talking about piano forte players, but he's actually, you'll see, talking about Improvization. He doesn't use the word. And of course, he's complaining about people in that day are no longer good at anything. I love that. Anyway, "It has always been known that the greatest piano forte players were also the greatest composers.


But how did they play? Not like the pianists of today who prance up and down on the keyboard with passages which they have practiced. Bang, bang, bang. What does it mean? Nothing. When a true piano forte virtuoso played, it was always something homogenous, an entity. If written down, it would appear as a well thought out work.


That's piano playing. The other thing is nothing." Interesting, isn't it? But of course he was saying that because he was the best at it. And so if anyone else was not doing what he was doing, they were nothing. But you know, he would have been a great probably movie star, too, I think, if he had the chance. One more thing I want to mention about improv.


Then we get back to this piece. Probably the two comedians who brought improv comedy to America, they were Americans. I mean, they brought it out into the open were Nichols and May. Mike Nichols and Elaine May, they kind of started the whole thing on a grand scale and there's a great story about how they met because when they first talked to each other, they did an improv.


That was the first conversation. So she was sitting on a bench. I mean, they knew about each other, but they hadn't talked. She's sitting on a bench and Mike Nichols goes and sits down next to her and says, "I beg your pardon, do you have a light?" And she decides to speak in an accent and says, "Yes, certainly."


And he says, "I have a lighter, but I lost it on 57th Street." And she says, "Oh, then you are Agent X9?" So they already had this whole thing going, you know, which based on nothing and this is, again, this is a McGuffin style improv. It's based on do you have a light? That's how it starts.


So I just want to emphasize that a lot of classical music, especially Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven and Schubert sometimes, Schubert gets into big, full blown melodies, however, but a lot of things start with a gesture and we make a mistake when we think that the gesture is the whole idea. That's the brilliant part. That's not.


It's the gestures just like in Pinter and in Nichols and May, the gesture is to draw you in so that you keep listening and then, wow, look what you can do with that. So let's keep going. We've heard some of those diminished things where we get off the road. Okay, now let's take it from bar 110 and we're going to keep going in past into the development section. Now, in this case, the development goes into the key of G minor, which is perfectly normal and it starts like the same music.


But remember when something is major and then it becomes minor, it takes on a different quality. So that's the first thing. Let's start there and keep going. Going to start it at yeah, 110. (music) Okay. See now at that moment, what is this? We're suddenly in a mystery and all of it, just as we were happy before and major now we're in minor and it sounds more dramatic, but it's still just rollicking along.


It's a coach ride like before where it was sunny, you know, it's a coach ride and it gets dark and scary, but it's still fairly commonplace at this point. And it's lots of scales to show off on. Scales going fast, that's very exciting. But then comes the real interest when suddenly it gets quiet and strange and it actually plays the same four measures over and over.


They keep exchanging their parts, but the piano, could you play 173 just the piano? (music) Again it happens. Again it happens. Now it moves on and now it repeats its own intersection again. Again. Now it moves on. Okay, we're on a half cadence. It's not over. There's a fermata meaning we hold it as long as you want.


There's a silence. And all of that, if you were just studying terminology, that would be called a retransmission, which is kind of a strange phrase, meaning that you went into the development and now you're transitioning back to the opening, to the recapitulation. But what is great is that this is the best part. This retransition is strange, and because it's so repetitive within itself, it feels like it's spiraling down, it stops, there's a fermata. It's pianissimo, it's very quiet, and then it starts again.


So again, the most beautiful part, the most interesting part is not the entertaining part. It's the part that has mystery. Now it gets even more amazing because you get to the so-called recapitulation. What that means is all the music you've heard comes back, usually a little condensed and now always in the tonic key. So it's kind of predictable.


But even in early Beethoven, it is not going to be predictable. And he does the most extraordinary part of the music he saves for the recapitulation where you don't expect it. It's very Hitchcock-like. Like Psycho. Let's talk about Psycho. It is a little bit like Psycho in the fact, not in the structure in terms of the coda, but in one way.


Which is, Psycho begins, if you don't know it, it's a very famous movie. It begins with a woman stealing money. And it seems like it's about that. That's the MacGuffin. If you know Hitchcock, which at that point you wouldn't have really known very much, when it came out that is, you know this can't really just be about this. But she steals this money and she goes on the road and then she gets killed. She's murdered.


Her character seemed like the main character. You thought it was about her. You thought it was about her being a thief. And there's a guy trailing her too, a detective. And it turns out not to be about any of that. She's just one victim passing through, passing by, staying at the wrong hotel. The fact that she stole the money, does that have anything to do with it?


Only in that someone's looking for her. So in early Beethoven, even in a piece like this, things get very dramatic. We're following it along and we think, okay, we've hit the recap, everything's coming back. We can follow the order. It's going to be over. And just when you think it's over, it's the most astounding part. So let's go to that.


A good place to begin would be 294. Now, before you play it, what you're going to hear is the little... (singing) And then you hear the diminished strangeness again that gets expanded and changed just a tiny bit and then the tune starts to come back. But this is where everything goes awry.


It goes off in a in a way you don't expect. So let's start at 294. (music) Wait. Okay. Now, don't play anymore. Now we don't know where we are. It started to... and we knew what was happening. Something new happened. It started to get strange. And now we don't know where we are. Now, let me just go to the piano for a second.


Thank you. We just heard... (music) We don't know what key we're in. We don't know what's going to happen. And there are silences all over the place. Yeah, right. So we had... (music) And there's silence. And then... (msuic) Now, Beethoven could have done a lot of things here. And he wants you, especially if you're, the more you know about music, the more you're wondering what he's going to do.


But this is very Hitchcockian because he could have done- let's do a few things that he didn't do. No, because he could have gone- that easily brings us to a minor. Could have done that. Okay. This isn't a minor third. Right. So that means it fits into diminished seventh chord, which means we can go a lot of places.


Let's see. He could have done... (music) Okay. C minor. A minor. E-flat minor. We don't know where he's going to go. All of them seem kind of scary, don't they? But that's because I'm playing minor keys with big fortissimos. So he sets up the feeling that anything can happen. The silence. A minor third all by itself is very tense because it could do so many things.


So let's hear what he actually does. I'm going to back up a little bit just so we get that again. Let's go to 311, 12, 13, 14, 315, maybe? 315. Hold on just one moment. We'll edit that out. (music)


Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Oh, yeah. No, that is what happens. All these dramatic possibilities. All these things could have happened, and he just makes that part of a major chord. It actually is hilarious because it's the path of least resistance, but it's also a very surprising key.


And most 21st century audiences are not- we don't listen for key the way people did in his time. But we can still feel that after having A-flat major chords and then and a diminished chord that this is humorous. It's very unusual. It's far away from E-flat. Up a half step is actually very far away.


Because, let's put it this way, this is three flats in the key signature. This is four sharps. You have to go a long way to get there. You have to remove the B-flat, the E-flat and the A-flat, and then you have to add an F sharp and a C sharp and a G sharp and a D sharp. That's quite a few keys away. Not that he thought that way because he's only thinking about these two notes in common between one key and another.


And so he goes to E major. And then it's very entertaining on E, but talk about the driving metaphor. I mean, it could have been a walking thing, too. I mean, because Beethoven walked every day like Brahms, only Brahms walked later. But anyway, I don't mean later in the day, I mean later in the century. Because Brahms actually walked very early in the day.


But Beethoven liked to compose outdoors and he took long walks. So if he could easily take a walk for hours and find himself in a place he's not sure how to get back or he's too tired or I mean, this could have happened. So let's say Beethoven's walking, he ends up in E major or makes a wrong turn, which is what that sounds like, right?


A wrong turn into E major. Then he realizes he needs to get back and let's hear how he gets back. So if you can start, let's back up again to hear how humorous that is. Again, let's not go all the way back. How about... It's hard to break this up. How about 321? (music) Okay. That's one way to get back.


But you know, Beethoven, at that time especially, but in general, a really smart composer is not going to fake even those little notes in there. They have to have meaning. So we end up here (music) and then they go... and then we're back in the right key. But these notes, what are these notes? He could have and he probably thought of the chords that would have been simpler first. (music)


In other words, this a circle of fifths hidden in there, the most ordinary chord progression. This is a typical deceptive cadence. Sorry. Or... Okay? So he goes... There's a dominant seventh down to fifth, and then... So there is a perfectly ordinary chord progression hiding in there that you don't get to hear. He picks the third out of this chord, the seventh out of this chord, and then the resolution, which is waiting for the chord and then it comes.


So not only is it fun and surprising even on first hearing, but the more you look at it or listen to it, the more you hear inside it or you could, inside it that he didn't skimp on even picking these little notes. He could have made something weird and strange there, but he managed to do both. It's weird and strange and logical, which is great.


It's much better. Now, all he has to do is get to the end now, right? Because he did that weird, diminished chord thing and he did the strange passage into E-major. He made his way back by suppressing a circle of fifths with strange notes, and now he's back. So I guess he's just going to stay there. Right?


Let's go right from... (singing) Which is 358. (music) Oh, not again. Again. Okay, good. Well, wait a minute. There's that thing again. Okay, you can keep going. In other words, first the diminished thing comes back and then the other texture that was strange puts them right next to each other. Let's just keep going right where you stop.


Okay, keep playing. He must be done now. Wait. Wait. Can you play that very slowly? Bar 42. Just piano and violin very slowly. Slower, slower, slower. Like an adagio. Keep going. Okay, wait a minute. Wait a minute. In context, with speed, that sounds perfectly normal. It's going up the scale. But let me just draw your attention to this. (music)


So let's say you heard a piece... Can you just play this thing? But in a moment, let's say the piece starts like this. That's the chord. Go ahead. Okay. And then it moves on to... maybe down. What is going on here? I mean, this is a major seventh chord with a note missing and a very high g suspended above it.


Now, of course, it goes by very fast. So what you hear is this. But he put the violin in the highest register, especially at that time, and put the chord without without the third, making it more dissonant. If you just play that chord again. And then the next one with the A-flat. Yeah, there, there. There. Right there. If we just hear that. This is a vision of the future, it's very strange.


But you may think this is extreme, but it's not because Wagner looked at all the passages in Beethoven that were strange and dissonant and slowed them down and wrote them as Wagner. There's a lot of truth to this, just the way a lot of minimalists took one measure of Stravinsky and used it for 45 minutes. And this is not a comment on minimalism.


Okay, but here you have a moment passing by that you would not find in anybody else because Beethoven is already so free at 25 years old, so free that passages are structured. It's not that the chord progression is that weird, but that the way it's placed in the keyboard with that super high violin gives you this sense of strangeness.


And strangeness is an aspect of beauty, according to Walter Pater. And you can look him up on your phone, but it's basically a very important part of this piece that ordinariness, commonplace ideas are juxtaposed with strangeness, with difficult chord progressions, with hints at things that are to come. Almost in other composers and also in Beethoven himself. Then we do have to get to the end.


But he still is, even when he gets past this, he's not quite going to give us what we expect. So let's back up again to 434 and go to towards the end. (music) It's still weird though. Listen. And let's do one weird thing. Let's take that measure of silence and assume that he meant fermata on it. We don't know.


In other words, there's a measure of silence. It works fine in time, but out of time we don't know how they would have played it. Beethoven was an improviser as I was saying, and one of his favorite techniques in improvisation, which we know because he said it in letters and other people talked about it also in letters, that he liked to take a listening audience down a path and often lull them into a sense of security and quiet.


And then, bang. That was his favorite thing to do. He would like to also almost make them cry, and then he would stand up and say, "I've made you cry. You see what I can do." By the way, you probably know that even though he mostly played for this kind of concert for the aristocracy, for a long time, they thought he was also a member of the aristocracy because his name was Ludwig van Beethoven, which they thought was the same as Von


Which it wasn't. He pretended that it was, and he changed it a few times to Von But he had no fun. Okay. All right. So this this spot right here once again, but it's filled in... (music) Wait a minute. That reminds me of something that also luckily it reminded a bit earlier. So I have it here. Something else by Beethoven.


Yeah. And this... (music) That's an early sonata and that feeling of (singing) the leap up and the falling down happens several times. He he kept using similar ideas but never repeated himself. Every piece is a new exploration, and that's not typical because it was a conscious thing. Mozart evolved, Haydn evolved, but it just happened in a way. I mean, of course they knew it, but it was it was a kind of natural growing.


But Beethoven struggled to make each piece a new statement, and they're much bigger and longer and more complex which was a major part of how the whole history of music shifted around Beethoven, at least in Europe. Okay, so let's play that passage again. And if you wouldn't mind the silence, who's going to decide how long the silence is? Can't you two decide that together?


Okay, alright. But surprise us. Okay? Surprise us with how long it is.

Can't you figure that out? No, okay. No, no. Let's go back to 434. (music) Yeah, okay. I think it's worth considering. We have no idea what performance practice was for silences in those days. Did they actually keep time? I really doubt it. But I have nothing to go by because there's nothing written about that.


But I think that the flexibility was probably built upon audience reaction, just like what happened now. So if you're counting duh dee duh dee duh duh, one, two, three, four. I don't think that is the same as what probably happened because if you're improvising, let me just do another thing. Let's say you're taking... (music) I mean, who knows? It's the feeling that I also don't know what I'm going to do, which is terrifying. No, but it's fun.


You don't know what you're going to do and you're thinking and if you can, in the process of playing things, I think that at the time, probably they thought about the feeling, especially if Beethoven's at the keyboard. The feeling of improvising is always there, which is something that musicians strive for, which is the feeling of you're hearing it for the first time and


they're making it up. That's the feeling. That it's coming out of them, which actors have to do, because otherwise it's a disaster. Musicians don't have to do that. It still works. If you play what's there really well, that's great. But if you're an actor and you read the script really well, but it doesn't sound like it's you, it's no good.


So that sense of improvization of spontaneity in the moment is an enormous part of the humor and the comedy. And more and more, Beethoven realized that he wanted to control every aspect of that when he's not improvising. In a way, the history of Beethoven's music can be seen as him figuring out more and more ways to be dramatic, comic, tragic, everything pastoral, all those different things, and have it all in the score.


He must have been an unbelievable improviser, but because he wanted everything in the score, we have many more dynamics, more articulation markings, more surprising moments because those might have been improvised by others, but no. And that begins this whole history of Western composition, where you put as much of information as you possibly can into that score and control the whole thing.


You hear me? Got to control the whole- no. Okay. Alright. I think we're ready to hear this. I don't know what you're going to do about that silence. Now, I've got everybody all worried about that silence. But it is true. If you're a really good player, then silence is one of the hardest things to play. Anybody want to make a comment about that?


They remain silent. In court, silence is consent. Usually. But not always. Okay, so I am now going to go be in the audience and be shocked. The Fourth Movement of Opus One Number One. (music) I have one more thing. Thank you.


Something I have to reveal to you that, Beethoven's often very forward looking. And there's one sketch of, this piece which he abandoned where he does... (music) He should have stuck with that. Okay. Thank you very much. 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.