Saturday, February 25, 2006

War of the Romantics, Part 1: Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

This is the first post in a new feature, War of the Romantics. The Masterfade crew will attempt to illustrate the rift in classical music in the 19th century between the Conservatives and the Radicals, the Brahmsians and the Wagnerians, the Leipzig school and the Weimar school, and we'll post some really good music along the way.

There is nowhere better to start than Beethoven, the cause of the war. Beginning as a high-quality Mozart imitator, Beethoven soon came into his own as a composer, and by the 1820s was making some of the most incredible music ever. His piano sonatas, string quartets, and symphonies set a new standard that composers strove to approach for decades.

Whether Beethoven himself was Classical or Romantic is debatable, but it is clear that he aimed to take music down a new road. After his death, people had different ideas about exactly what road he was taking, and thus began the war.

In my opinion, Beethoven ceased to be a Classical-era composer with the composition of his 13th string quartet with the Grosse Fuge. Anything as complex, difficult, and emotional as the Great Fugue cannot possibly be considered Classical. The Grosse Fuge, the massive double fugue of the final movement of the quartet, was so radical that Beethoven had to replace it with a movement that was easier to digest for the crowds of the time. After being exposed to the dissonances of 20th century music, I still find the Fugue harder to listen to and pick apart, even after several listens.

Juilliard String Quartet- Beethoven string quartets 13 and 16

More listenable but still very ahead of their time, Beethoven's late piano sonatas are things of perfection. The form of the piano sonata was all but abandoned for years after Beethoven's death; his were too intimidatingly flawless.

Beethoven Late Piano Sonatas

Stay tuned for part two, and see who carried on Beethoven's legacy.

Feedback? Requests? Feel free to comment.


At February 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really love this blog.

As a relative beginner to classical - but keen to learn - these prologues are fascinating

Long may it be around!!

Classical beginner

At February 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same here.

Coming from contemporary dance / electronic music, I´m incredibly thankful for what you Masterfaders have started.

Sending big smootches your way!

At February 27, 2006, Blogger Malcolm said...

You know who Beethoven reminds me of? Neil Diamond.....who is featured at the new blog Papaya. Keep up the good work guys.
<3 Captain Ahab

At February 28, 2006, Blogger Mr. Pants said...

excellent work, keep it up

At May 26, 2006, Blogger GeneralAlcazar said...

Like others, I really love this website!


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