Beethoven hits the final stretch

Beethoven hits the final stretch


norman lebrecht

October 01, 2020

Welcome to the 123rd work in the Slipped Disc/Idagio Beethoven Edition

String Quartet No. 15 in A minor op. 132


We have reached the last three posts in this six-month survey, sponsored by, of the complete works of Beethoven as reflected through their recorded history. The survey has accompanied us through a time of plague and death. There was a complete cessation of live musical activity around the world. For the first time in memory, we became dependent on recordings as the lone source of musical satisfaction. This unforseen development changed atittudes to the value of recording and to the relation of recording to live performance, though I suspect many years will pass before we appreciate the full implications of that perceptual shift. We are no longer the same as we were before the coronavirus breached our walls. In some ways, isolation may have rendered us more sensitive to music and, especially, to the tragic situation of Beethoven who could hear no music at all in his final years.

The 15th string quartet, his penultimate complete work, was actually composed before the 14th quartet, opus 131, and shares that work’s preoccupation with mortality and its indifference to difficulty. It is, first and foremost, an introspective work. As such, it presents the four players in the group with tough questions as to how they communicate with each other, before they begin to think about how to convey the work to an audience. To give one example, the third movement  climaxes with all four players bowing half notes together sforzando, with sudden emphasis. How’s that supposed to be done, and how do they proceed to the next note?

The Emerson Quartet, nowadays the senior US string quartet, have a technique they call ‘park and go’ – almost stopping the bow after the sfz, and then speeding up the bowing motion towards the next change. Does that sounds hard? It is. The Emersons, as you’d expect, achieve exemplary clarity with this effect and an awe inspiring performance of tise work as a whole.

The central movement (of five) is titled Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an der Gottheit, in der Lydischen Tonart, ‘a holy song of thanks to God from a convalescent, (composed) in the Lydian mode’. The Lydian mode is a seven-tone scale used in 16th century church music, most vividly by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1994), whose ingenuity supposedly rescued music from the enforced return of  Gregorian monody. Is Beethoven hinting here that he is saving the string quartet from regression to Haydn-like simplicities and Mozart frippery? More likely, he is reverting to the devotional music associated in his mind with Palestrina and Johann Sebastian Bach. He opens the quartet with a homage-to-Bach fugue.

His convalescence was from a life-threatening intestinal illness. Despatched by doctors to an out-of-season spa and denied his favourite comforts of alcohol and liver dumplings, he was in a foul mood, berating his nephew, his friends and all who tried to ease his distress. His recovery was slow, punctuated by bursts of anger and energy. He titled the second part of the middle movement Neue Kraft fühlend, feeling new strength. His thanksgiving is neither gentle nor submissive. It is Beethoven in the raw, striving to the end to alter the future of music.

A quotation of this movement can be heard in Béla Bartók’s third (and last) piano concerto; echoes of it permeate Arnold Schoenberg’s 1946 string trio, written after a near-death cardiac experience. Thomas Mann, in his novel of a tormented composer Doctor Faustus employs Beethoven, and this work in particular, as models of the humanly unattainable. Beethoven, having sent the work to a publisher, posted a short musical sketch to one of his physicians together with a rhyming couplet:
Doctor, shut the door against death,
Notes (of music) will help anyone in need.

In his estimation, music was all that stood between Beethoven and his departure from the world.

Among more than 50 recordings, the Emerson Quartet stands out for beauty and the apparent ease of their delivery. Almost at the opposite polarity stand the Moscow-based Borodin Quartet, a group that lived through Stalin’s purges and were still playing when the Soviet Union fell apart, albeit with several changes of personnel. By the time of this 1989 recording, only the cellist Valentin Berlinsky survived from the original lineup, but his growly bass bowing gives their performance a dimension of struggle against great odds. Somehow, as in a Shostakovich quartet, there is more to this than the music you are hearing.

If you listen first to the LaSalle Quartet (1977), you may not turn to any other, so humane and insightful is their reading. Struck by the deep dignity of the thanksgiving movement, it comes as a shock to find that they play it in just quarter of an hour, four minutes faster than others and without ever stinting its internal contraditions. The Quartetto Italiano (1967) take just under twenty minutes over the thanksgiving – almost half the timespan of the entire work – but with such a lilting, singing, integrated manner that it feels entirely natural.

Stand by, then, for a minor jolt when I tell you that in the latest recording, by the Quatuor Ebène (2020), the middle movement eats up fully 21 minutes of their lives and ours and I am uncertain whether this is indulgence or inspiration. The athleticism of this group means there is no loss of tension or intonation and the very slowness brings out baroque dimensions of the Palestrina style that Beethoven many have had in mind. My inner jury is still out on the tempo, but the concluding allegro movement is marvellously supple and affectionate, a kiss on the composer’s troubled brow and a blessing to us all.



  • Greg Bottini says:

    Your first paragraph is well taken, Norman, and very well written. Thank you!
    I’ve always recognized the tremendous importance of recordings, not just in the narrow way that they provide ME with enjoyment and/or solace, but in the broader fact that recordings have influenced the very art of music in HUGE ways, and continue to do so. And this is true for EVERY form of music, not just western classical music.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Kudos also to NL’s second paragraph, where I learned something about Beethoven’s markings and the performance problems they present. I need to go back and listen to the recordings I have handy (Vegh and Takacs Quartets) to pay attention to how they handled those rapid-fire sforzandi.

  • Ken says:

    “For the first time in memory, we became dependent on recordings as the lone source of musical satisfaction.” Seriously, can’t we just read the music? (Or play it at home?) Learn to read music like a book, is it really that hard?

    • Doc Martin says:

      To perform op 132 well would not be very easy for amateurs. Reading music is certainly not at all like reading a book for most folk. It is a esoteric code which has to be learnt and what is not notated has to be guessed at by experience.

      They could have a go at it I suppose, I would prefer to leave it in the hands of professionals. There are lots of recordings to suit everyone.

      • Edoardo Saccenti says:

        and the fact that one can read music does not imply by any mean that one can hear the score in his/her mind 🙂

        • Doc Martin says:

          Indeed Sir, I could not imagine the actual sound in my brain myself, from just looking at the notes, unfortunately I am only a humble retired GP, not a genius like Beethoven!

        • David K. Nelson says:

          Moreover even if you can “read” music to the point of hearing the score in your mind, and that gift is not given to all who can “read” music for performance purposes, that does not mean you are “hearing” an inspired or even particularly interesting interpretation of it.

    • Doc Martin says:

      Wrong. During the war we listened to gramophone records and the wireless, a few lucky enough heard Myra Hess at the National Gallery!

      • Edgar Self says:

        Myra Hess her colleague, and one-time suitor Benno Moiseiwitsch, Denis Matthews in uniform, and probably Solomon among many others, were among the regular performers at those National Gallery war-time concerts, while the paintings were safely squirreled away in a Welsh coal mine.

        Dame Myra Hess memorial concerts are still held and broadcast live each Wednesday noon, in the Tiffany-domed Preston Bradley Hall of Chicago public library’s former1893 circulation space, a large tiled room adorned with quotations from world literature in original languages.

    • Genius Repairman says:

      As a non musician I could learn to read musical scores but if the scores are new to me how would I know how to best interperate it? Is my tempo choice too fast or too slow? I will stick with using my ears and not my eyes for now.

    • Novagerio says:

      I have to partially agree with Ken. Art is an indispensable living force, especially during times of solitude and forced reclusion. Recordings are photographs. A life spent watching only photos is not a living life.

  • Doc Martin says:

    My preferences for op 132 would be Busch, Vegh (1974), Talich and Alban Berg (live) and this piano version.

  • Thomas Dawkins says:

    Quartetto Italiano has been my favorite since college when a chamber music professor recommended it to me. Emerson is very good. I haven’t heard the Ebène yet but another that came out this year that’s excellent is the Austin-based Miró Quartet. In the Heiliger Dankgesang, I prefer the slow sections to have a little more “stillness” to them (less vibrato) but they make a very good argument for their more “alive” sound and are flawlessly together.

  • Doc Martin says:

    Those of you from a medical background might find these papers by Mai and Oiseth on reviewing Beethoven’s autopsy by Prof Johann Wagner of interest.

    There appears to be some convincing evidence he had osteitis deformans of PDB – Paget’s disease of the bone.
    PDB is a chronic disorder, possibly caused by a measles-type virus in genetically-susceptible individuals, that can result in enlarged and misshapen bones.

    I understand that Beethoven was exhumed twice, in 1863 and 1888, during which someone made off with his temporal bones which were never seen again after Prof Wagner died. There is no evidence of TB or Syphilis.

    A book by Francois Mai, Diagnosing Genius is worth reading. A Christmas gift for someone

    • Lancelot Spratt says:

      Yes Paget’s is very likely. Beethoven must have the record for being the composer who has undergone the most PM examinations.

      Recent analysis of his hair revealed traces of lead which was often added (Lead acetate) to fix bad wine which had gone off, there was no trace of Arsenic or mercury, which Schubert had received.

      Here is a gut strung op 132 tuned at A = 432
      Played on period instruments by Quatuor Mosaïques

      (Erich Hobarth, Andrea Bischof, Anita Mitterer, Christophe Coin).

      I understand Erich Hobarth studied with Sandor Vegh.

      • Doc Martin says:

        Prof Johann Siebert performed several tapping procedures on Beethoven during this time to drain accumulated ascites fluid using a glass tube into a wooden pail (bucket), some of it apparently soaked the bedding, mattress etc. Conditions he lived in under must have been quite appalling. This explains the high emotion expressed in the Adagio.

      • Peter San Diego says:

        The book “Beethoven’s Hair” makes for interesting reading. Yes, he had high levels of lead, which might have contributed (or caused outright) his deafness; and there seem to be plenty of candidates for his terminal condition. I thought pleurisy was among them — or would the accumulation of fluid around the lung have been a side effect of Paget’s, or some other disease? (I’m a physicist, not a physician, so I rely on the expertise of others in this matter!)

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Quartetto di Cremona, for me at this time “the string quartet” for the XXI Century:

  • M McAlpine says:

    Takacs Quartet for me get too the heart of this music. But of curse there is more than one way of doing it!

  • Doc Martin says:

    There is an account of the first performance of op 132 in Sir George Smart’s Journal.

    Friday, September 9th.—We then went to Mecchetti’s music shop, they, too, are publishers, and bought three pieces for Birchall…. Mr. Holz, an amateur in some public office and a good violin player, came in and said Beethoven had come from Baden this morning and would be at his nephew’s—Karl Beethoven, a young man aged twenty—No. 72 Alleegasse…. At twelve I took Ries to the hotel Wildemann, the lodgings of Mr. Schlesinger, the music seller of Paris, as I understood from Mr. Holz that Beethoven would be there, and there I found him. He received me in the most flattering manner. There was a numerous assembly of professors to hear Beethoven’s second new manuscript quartette, bought by Mr. Schlesinger. This quartette is three-quarters of an hour long. They played it twice. The four performers were Schuppanzigh, Holz, Weiss, and Lincke. It is most chromatic and there is a slow movement entitled “Praise for the recovery of an invalid.” Beethoven intended to allude to himself I suppose for he was very ill during the early part of this year. He directed the performers, and took off his coat, the room being warm and crowded. A staccato passage not being expressed to the satisfaction of his eye, for alas, he could not hear, he seized Holz’s violin and played the passage a quarter of a tone too flat. I looked over the score during the performance. All paid him the greatest attention. About fourteen were present, those I knew were Boehm (violin), Marx (’cello), Carl Czerny, also Beethoven’s nephew, who is like Count St. Antonio, so is Boehm, the violin player. The partner of Steiner, the music seller, was also there. I fixed to go to Baden on Sunday and left at twenty-five minutes past two.

    Saturday, September 10th. I called for the music at Artaria’s for Birchall, for which I paid, and on our return found a visiting-card from Earl Stanhope and also from Schlesinger of Paris with a message that Beethoven would be at his hotel to-morrow at twelve, therefore of course I gave up going to Baden to visit Beethoven, which he had arranged for me to do…. In the morning Mr. Kirchoffer called to say he should invite me to his house. It was he who, through Ries, had the arrangement of procuring the Choral Symphony for our Philharmonic Society.
    Sunday, September 11th…. From hence I went alone to Schlesinger’s, at the “Wildemann,” where was a larger party than the previous one. Among them was L’Abbé Stadler, a fine old man and a good composer of the old school, to whom I was introduced. There was also present a pupil of Moscheles, a Mademoiselle Eskeles and a Mademoiselle Cimia [Cibbini?], whom I understood to be a professional player. When I entered Messrs. C. Czerny, Schuppanzigh and Lincke had just begun the Trio, Op. 70, of Beethoven, after which the same performers played Beethoven’s Trio, Op. 79—both printed by Steiner. Then followed Beethoven’s quartette, the same that I had heard on September the 9th and it was played by the same performers. Beethoven was seated near the pianoforte beating time during the performance of these pieces. This ended, most of the company departed, but Schlesinger invited me to stop and dine with the following company of ten: Beethoven, his nephew, Holz, Weiss, C. Czerny, who sat at the bottom of the table, Lincke, Jean Sedlatzek—a flute player who is coming to England next year, and has letters to the Duke of Devonshire, Count St. Antonio, etc.—he has been to Italy—Schlesinger, Schuppanzigh, who sat at the top, and myself. Beethoven calls Schuppanzigh Sir John Falstaff, not a bad name considering the figure of this excellent violin player.

    We had a most pleasant dinner, healths were given in the English style. Beethoven was delightfully gay but hurt that, in the letter Moscheles gave me, his name should be mixed up with the other professors. However he soon got over it. He was much pleased and rather surprised at seeing in the oratorio bill I gave him that the “Mount of Olives” and his “Battle Symphony” were both performed the same evening.

    He believes—I do not—that the high notes Handel wrote for trumpets were played formerly by one particular man. I gave him the oratorio book and bill. He invited me by his nephew to Baden next Friday. After dinner he was coaxed to play extempore, observing in French to me, “Upon what subject shall I play?” Meanwhile he was touching the instrument thus to which I answered, “Upon that.” On which theme he played for about twenty minutes in a most extraordinary manner, sometimes very fortissimo, but full of genius. When he arose at the conclusion of his playing he appeared greatly agitated. No one could be more agreeable than he was—plenty of jokes. We all wrote to him by turns, but he can hear a little if you halloo quite close to his left ear. He was very severe in his observations about the Prince Regent never having noticed his present of the score of his “Battle Symphony.” His nephew regretted that his uncle had no one to explain to him the profitable engagement offered by the Philharmonic Society last year.

    • Lancelot Spratt says:

      Weber on his visit to London stayed and died in Sir George Smart’s house in 91 Great Portland Street. I seem to recall the post mortem report from Drs Jencken, Forbes, Kind and Robinson surgeon.

      On examining the body of C. M. von Weber, we found an ulcer on the left side of the larynx, the lungs almost universally diseased, filled with tubercles, of which were in a state of suppuration with two vomicae one of them about the size of a common egg, the other smaller which was a quite sufficient cause of his death. Afterwards, Dr Forbes wrote a letter dated 5 June 1826, to Sir George Smart ending with a remark on the state of his lungs, ” This appearance is frequently seen in the lungs of a broken-winded cart horse”.

      • McBreen says:

        A broken winded cart horse. Sure I’ve seen many of those at the Sligo fair!

      • Doc Martin says:

        I seem to recall poor Weber accidently swallowed some etching fluid containing nitric acid, which was on his piano, instead of wine, when he stayed in Breslau in 1806 working on his opera Rübezahl and was never quite the same afterwards, he took two months to “recover”, he lost his singing voice and presumably this would have made his TB and pulmonary condition even worse.

    • Lancelot Spratt says:

      Sir George Smart’s account of op 132 timing is interesting, 45 minutes gives an approximate baseline, Alban Berg come in shorter at 41 mins, Talich at 43 mins, Busch is dead on 45 mins and Vegh II 46 mins. Busch adagio is 19 mins, the longest ever.

      • Doc Martin says:

        The Adagio of op 132 reminds me of W B Yeats Under Ben Bulben

        Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
        In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid,
        An ancestor was rector there
        Long years ago; a church stands near,
        By the road an ancient Cross.
        No marble, no conventional phrase,
        On limestone quarried near the spot
        By his command these words are cut:
        Cast a cold eye
        On life, on death.
        Horseman, pass by!

      • Doc Martin says:

        Vegh I (1952 mono) timing is about the same as the Alban Berg, 41 mins, I prefer Vegh II, 46 mins.

      • Doc Martin says:

        Yes, if I had to choose just one it would be Vegh II. They seem to have the edge over Alban Berg, which sounds to me a bit too clinical. Talich is also very good.

    • True North says:

      This is a wonderfully vivid description. Can you imagine playing a quartet of Beethoven’s with the composer seated nearby “beating time”?

  • Ed says:

    Belcea Quartet is my choice.

  • Peggy says:

    “Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1994),” I hadn’t realized he lived so long!

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Garlic and wine make miracles.

    • Genius Repairman says:

      Yep. I remember meeting him in the 80’s inside the Sydney Opera House. He complained about music going down hill since the time of Monteverdi, though he didn’t mind Schubert and Schnittke too much. Didn’t know he had died…

  • Edgar Self says:

    Many thanks to Doc Martin and Lancelot Sprat for their posts about Op. 132, Sir George Smart and his journal, C. M. von Weber, and hs and Beethoven’s PMs.

    The rtios played by Czerny and friends were probably Op. 70/2 “Geist” and Op. 97 “Archduk e”. “Op. 79” a slip of the pen for the latter op. 97. Schubert quotes brief tags from them in his Op. 100 trio in E-flat.

    • Doc Martin says:

      You are very welcome Sir. I once presented a paper to the Royal Society on Beethoven’s last illness and his autopsy!

      The doctor and the artist have much in common. The doctor tends to the weaknesses of the flesh and the infirmities of the mind and artists too are healers. Their art is nourishment for the human soul, without it we wither and die.

      Op 132 should be called the “Confession” quartet. In the Adagio Beethoven paints a deeply inward looking and moving picture of the human soul in torment.

      In the final analysis, it can be described as a majestic hymn of triumph over adversity. Fight and desperation, victory and resignation are united in a unique apotheosis which for the last time in the history of the string quartet reconciles God and the world, art and life.

    • Doc Martin says:

      I have found out a bit about the concert venue for op 132, Gasthaus “zum Wilden Mann”, which no longer exists. Forgive my poor translation, I am only a humble retired GP, my Irish is better than my German!

      Gasthaus Zum wilden Mann (1., Kärntner Straße 17; conscription number 942).

      The house can be documented from 1434, the house sign is from the 17th century. There was an inn with the same name in the house. In 1681 the innkeeper Stephan Johann Gundl appears as the owner. He brought the inn, in which the Grazer country coachmen and the Villach carters stopped at that time, to an important reputation. Around the middle of the 18th century there were generally five menus in Vienna, with 24, 17, twelve, nine and seven cruisers? (I assume courses). The most expensive was only available in the five most distinguished restaurants, including the Wilden Mann. A specialty of the house was the pulmonary strudel. (Lung strudel, (akin to Haggis but without the wee neeps and Piper!)

      The house came to Adam Albert Edler von Henikstein in 1801, the lord of the later Barons von Henikstein, who had already acquired the neighbouring house Stadt 943 (Kärntner Straße 19; see Steffl department store). At that time, the parking lot of the Baden Stellwagen was in front of the building. After numerous interior and exterior redesigns, the inn continued to be considered one of the most elegant in Vienna.

      Sir George Thomas Smart, a co-founder of the London Philharmonic Society, met Ludwig van Beethoven there in 1825. He was a frequent guest because the stagecoach to Baden that he often used left here. In the 1930s (until 1842), the Trieste scholar and writer Dr. Rosetti Edler from Scander. In the last years of its existence (under the owners Franz Schmidt and Leopoldine Bayer) the inn became a hotel.

      In 1873 the Wiener Bauverein acquired the house and sold it in 1877 to Ernst Wahliss, who in 1878 had Gustav Korompay build the department store of the Wahliss porcelain company in his place.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      It is good to be reminded that the deaf reclusive curmudgeon of legend could, in fact, be convivial; it must not have been easy to dine in a party of 10 and be the center of attention.

    • Doc Martin says:

      Ah yes, I mixed up my opus numbers oh dear! I have the Edwin Fischer, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Enrico Mainardi recording of the piano trios from Salzburg.
      I do hope whoever stole his temporal bones one day returns them to the rightful owner. They are urgently needed for analysis.

  • kaa12840 says:

    Very interesting comments today on Beethoven’s illness. Paget’s Disease of Bone is often associated with hearing loss in young adulthood.
    In another comments, I am a little disappointed that no one has mentioned the Danish String Quartet’s account of op 132. I was at their concert at Alice Tully Hall and they were astonishing!

  • Edgar Self says:

    Another vote for the Busch brothers, Vienna Konzerthaus Quartet on Westminster LPs, the Budapesters, and later formation of the Borodins, with Kopelman and Berlinsky. who are also particularly good on Razumovsky No. 1 in C, Op. 59, No. 1.

    The gallant principal theme of Op. 132’s finale was thriftily saved by Beethoven from previous consideration of using it in the finale of the ninth symphony.

    Ten points for Yeats’s “Under Ben Bulben”, one of his last poems, and printed last in collections. He wrote an earlier “Ben Bulben”, but this is far more quoted, and hard to beat.

    In the second part of his poem “In Memory of W. B. Yeats”, W.H. Auden catches Yeats’s own voice like an oracle speaking from a cave.

  • Doc Martin says:

    From an obscure historical architectural archive in Vienna, I have managed with some difficulty to ferret out some fascinating information about what eventually happened to the site where Gasthaus “Zum Wilden Mann” stood at Kärntner strasse 17.

    The Stadt 942 house, built in 1783 and also known as the Heniksteinhaus from 1828, was once located here. It belonged to the Imperial and Royal Director of the Galician Saltworks, Joseph Henikstein. As a patron of music, he was one of Mozart’s friends, he often held concerts here. The house later became the Hotel Zum wilden Mann for some time up to 1877, after which it was sold for redevelopment.

    Hotel Zum Wilden Mann, was a secret meeting place (House of ill repute) for suitors and their ladies. Among the 20 girls who frequented this place was Anna Balogh, a Hungarian, who owned room 21. She was found dead by the maid one day, with a half-empty glass next to her. The assumption was that it was suicide, but the assumption was not confirmed.

    The police doctor quickly found that there were strangle marks on the girl’s neck, and abrasions were visible on various parts of the body. In the course of research, it was soon discovered that the grave nymph was known for its quick change of mood. She repeatedly started disputes with her suitors about their wages, and these were often noisy. The previous evening in the hotel too, screams had been heard from the room, but everyone had suspected that it was again about one of the usual discussions.

    The roommate, the “blonde Kathi” (Katharina Steiner) testified that she had seen a man sitting on the sofa with the door half open at around three o’clock, but she could not provide any further information. It soon turned out that there must have been an argument between the two ladies, Katharina was arrested as a murderer and shortly afterwards sentenced to death by hanging by the court.

    An appeal found that she escaped the death penalty and was instead given six years of heavy prison. The whole time Kathi protested that she was innocent. After she was released, she eventually died in a poor house.

    After the site was sold, Gustav Korompay built the house in 1878 on behalf of the Wahliss department store. The building, also known as the Porcelain House, has a richly decorated facade. The blue and white porcelain tiles that frame the windows come from Carl Knoll from Karlsbad, the figures in the gables of the 2nd floor are the work of Franz Koch.

    The architect Karl Schwanzer designed the jewelry store “Carius & Binder” in the house in 1948, and in 1951 the business premises “Rositta”, which was originally furnished in 1936 by Josef Becvar and Viktor Ruczka. The business line in its current design is the work of Coop Himmelblau, they redesigned the “Wahliss-Passage” in 1985.

    • Magnus Pyke says:

      So the venue for Beethoven’s op 132, eventually ended up as a “Knocking Shop”, I am not surprised!

  • Doc Martin says:

    Here is the Talich Quartet, op 132, the earlier version on Calliope has been remastered on the La Dolce Vita label and sounds much better.

  • MezzoLover says:

    I fully concur with NL’s assessment of the superb (1976) LaSalle recording of op. 132. Their Heiliger Dankgesang clocks in at 14’57, a full nine seconds shorter than the Alban Berg account which, as Lancelot Spratt points out, is one of the most fleeting amongst the reference sets for this endlessly fascinating music. The LaSalle, more than any other group, achieve an unerring sense of unity over the entire quartet. It is interesting to note their Allegro ma non tanto, which can be seen as a contrapuntal study based on a two-bar formal model derived from three notes of the quartet’s constructive element, takes 21 seconds LONGER than the Alban Berg but feels just about perfect.

  • Edgar Self says:

    The commonalityyou draw between f physicians and artists, Doc Martin, would find a sympathetic mind in Thomas Mann, In his short-story “Tristan”, novellas “Tonio Kroeger” and “Death in Venice”, and especially his two great novels “Doktor Faustus” and “The Magic Mountain:which influenced the treatment of tuberculosis in the twentieth century, ,goes o a step farther in relating art and illness. I’m no doctor, and do not go so far, but psychosomatics and analyts might find points of interest.

    Certainlythese quartets of Beethoven, especially 14 and 15, are rarified examples and rich fields for studty.
    The 1927 centennial book “Beethoven: His Spiritual Development” by “the ‘Irish mathematician” J.W.N. Sullivan touches on these matters eloquently and persuasively, whatever his bona fides, greatly admired by Ernest Newman, Clifton Fadiman, and your humble servant inter alia.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Weber died in 1826 while in London to premiere “Oberon”
    , given in English, the language of Jonas Kauffmann’s recording of 15 years ago. Kauffmann is as good, if unexpecyed, in English as he is in French or German, but as Heldentenor then still short of the outstanding level of little-known or remembered Karl Liebl, who is even better than Helge Rosvaenge.

    In a display case in Pianoforte Chicago are two tickets to the premiere, signed by Weber with “Adrmit”.

  • david moran says:

    I am in the middle of reading all of your takes, so the question is ignorant, but can it be that you do not know the Yale Quartet late set?

  • Edgar Self says:

    Doc Martin mentions the Edwin Fischer trios live Salzburg records of the Ghos tand Archduke trios, which I dfmitre and vollect with everything I can find by Edwin Fischer. His 134th birthday is October 6 (Basel) His pupil, thelate Paul Baduro-Skoda, preserved those trio performances andrecorded ome himself. TThere’s a funnyoneof them rehearsing Schubert’s E-flat trio,with Schneiderhan and Fischer trying to convince Mainardi to play the appoggiature their way in his gorgeous Andante solo, based on a Swedish folksong Schubert heard in a Viennesesalon. .

    Fine as they are, the Elly Ney Trio’s Ghost, and Rubinstein-Heifetz-Feuermann’s Archduke have my pride of place, along with Busch-Serkin’sGhost and the Chung family Archduke. De gustibus, of course.

    Fascinating architectural history. Keep them coming!