On her blog, Green Girl in Wisconsin asks what February accomplishment we are proud of. Go there and do some bragging!
One of my accomplishments was to finish reading the biography of Beethoven that I started in January.
Here are three things that I didn’t know about Beethoven. I can sense your eager anticipation to read my list.
1. Beethoven was famous for improvisation. The proof for this is found in the mall scene in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, where Beethoven improvises on a theme by Mozart. Ludwig used to have improvisation contests with the other leading pianists of his day. Ironically, today nobody would dare improvise when playing Beethoven’s compositions.
2. Among other instruments, Beethoven played the viola.
3. As a composer, he was a procrastinator, often finishing the written score on the day before or the day of the performance. In one instance he decided to add a phalanx of trombones to the score of his composition (I forget which one) the day before it was to be performed, causing a mad scramble to find any and all trombonists in town.
There is also this, about Beethoven versus horn players:
Ries [Beethoven’s friend/student] was at Beethoven’s side as the orchestra rehearsed [the Eroica Symphony] for the first time. Ries states candidly that the rehearsal was ‘horrible’. In bar 394, over extreme pianissimo first and second violins, the lone horn enters with the opening motif, before the full orchestra crashes in fortissimo for the recapitulation.
Ries, assuming the horn player had mistimed his entry, said, “Can’t the damned horn player count? That sounded dreadful!” Beethoven looked witheringly at Ries and muttered that the horn player had played exactly what he had written. Ries looked embarrassed and kept quiet. He wrote later that he had come pretty close to receiving a box on the ear, and that Beethoven didn’t forgive him for a long time. That horn entry has exercised musicologists and put the fear of God into horn-players ever since.
- Beethoven: The Man Revealed, by John Suchet.
My son the horn player swears that Beethoven didn’t write great horn parts, proof that the man just didn’t like horn players.
The book explains that Beethoven probably met Mozart and Haydn, but it did not answer the one question about Beethoven that everyone is asking:
Did Beethoven ever meet The Doctor (as in Doctor Who)?
My extensive google research reveals that the answer is yes, but I haven’t seen it with my own eyes, so I don’t believe it.
What’s your favorite Beethoven piece, dear reader?