June 07, 2005

Gratuitous Musickal Posting - I Like To Listen.

Our old pal Chan the Bookish Gardener notes the Beeb's Beethoven Experience now in progress. Chan, ever mindful of not overdoing it, is picking some choice bits for her listening pleasure. I'd have liked to have heard Brendel's discussion of the last piano sonatas myself. Not so sure about Klemperer's performance of Symphony No. 7, tho - one of my first records was an old hand-me-down from Dad of a performance by Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra, so I grew up prefering my 7th shhhhmokin'.

Speaking of which, just because I feel like it, below the fold is my personal ranking of the nine Beethoven symphonies, from least favorite to most favorite. (I don't dislike any of them.) There is probably no musical merit to this whatsoever. It's simply a matter of taste. Are you ready? Then here we go:

9. Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60 - It strikes me that the B-man never gets this one completely under control. It's got some fine ideas, but to me they don't really mesh into a coherent body.

8. Symphony No. 9 in d Minor, Op. 125 (the "Choral") - I know it's blasphemy, but I've never liked the last movement. I just think it's overblown. Eh. On the other hand, I love the second movement in particular.

7. Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (the "Pastoral") - Perhaps I'm getting cranky as I get older, but I find the programmatic stuff - the cuckoo, the dancing rustics, the storm, the rainbow - more and more tedious all the time. "Oh, cut it out," I want to say.

6. Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (the "Eroica") - I know this is Beethoven's big breakout orchestral piece, so perhaps I'm committing more blasphemy, but this piece just never clicked with me. For one thing, I don't much care for three quarter time opening movements (which is probably why Mozart's 39th is not one of my favorites, either). Also, I always felt the B-man took too long getting the finale going.

5. Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21 - I still enjoy this piece, although the longer I listen to it, the "younger" it seems to me. I have a pretty decent transposition of the second movement for piano that is very satisfying to play.

4. Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93 - Beethoven being humorous is, well, a strange thing. Nonetheless, I love this piece, in large part because I think it is very well put together in terms of structure.

3. Symphony No. 5 in c Minor, Op. 67 - Despite the fact that it is the horsiest of all the musical warhorses, I think this symphony deserves every acclamation it has ever received. I am told that the opening bars are a nightmare for conductors.

2. & 1. (tie) - I simply cannot make up my mind which I like more:

Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 - I think this piece represents Beethoven's complete, mature mastery of the form. The reason I prefer it over the 5th is because of its tone - bright and energetic instead of moody and then triumphal. But that's just me.

Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36 - To me, this is Beethoven's most Mozartian symphony, and I don't mean that just because he appears to have consciously borrowed some of the elements of Mozart's own late D Major symphony, (No. 38, the "Prague"). Rather, I mean that this is the closest Beethoven ever got to, well, having fun with making symphonic music. And by having fun, I don't mean being silly or flippant. Instead, I mean actually enjoying what he was doing, naturally and without bombast or chip-on-shoulder. The piece is energetic without being forced. The third movement scherzo actually is funny. And I frequently find myself whistling the second movement while gardening.

So there you have it.

UPDATE: D'OH! I completely forgot to link it earlier, but JohnL is running an inaugural Carnival of Music over at TexasBestGrok. Go check it out.

Posted by Robert at June 7, 2005 03:32 PM

I like the odd ones. 7,5,3,9,1 in order of preference. Seven is practically a jig it is so upbeat. Of the evens, I like 2 the best.

Posted by: The Colossus at June 7, 2005 03:50 PM

I will reserve comment on ol' Ludwig Van until a later time. (Quick contrarian preview: I rank the 9th and 3rd higher than the 5th).

Please note that you and Chan are involuntary participants in the First Carnival of Music (posted at my place last night).

Check it out.

Posted by: JohnL at June 7, 2005 04:59 PM

John - thanks for reminding me! I'd seen it earlier and meant to work it in, but forgot. Deficiency fixed.

As for Ludwig Van, as I say, this is all a matter of personal taste, so feel free to rank 'em any way you like - I'll have no bones with it.

Posted by: Robert the LB at June 7, 2005 05:09 PM

Interesting! I find #3 is my least favorite. However, do me a favor and and spend a little more time with #4. Many years ago, I had little use for #4 but over the years I have come to appreciate it much more, especially considering what came just before and just after.

Posted by: O.F. at June 8, 2005 11:19 AM

The Seventh is the one for me, and yes, it must *jam*. (The Klemperer was merely OK, by the way, but I hadn't heard it before, so it was worth a listen.) Newsflash: the "presenter" (i.e. DJ) has just announced that the Beeb is planning a JS Bach Experience, the week before Christmas.

Posted by: Chan S. at June 8, 2005 02:02 PM
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