All things Beethoven

Brott Mu­sic Fes­ti­val’s two-day mini-fes­ti­val ded­i­cated to the great com­poser

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - LEONARD TURNEVICIUS Leonard Turnevicius writes about clas­si­cal mu­sic for The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor. leonard­turnevi­

Beethoven. Where do we be­gin? Ba­sic bi­o­graph­i­cal background?

Born: Bonn, 1770. Bap­tized: Dec. 17, 1770. Died: Vi­enna, March 27, 1827, age 56.

Good enough for a grave­stone, but that dry data tells us noth­ing about Lud­wig van Beethoven the man, mu­si­cian and com­poser. So, let’s dig a bit deeper. Pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther: Lud­wig, court mu­sic di­rec­tor in Bonn. Fa­ther: Jo­hann, court tenor. Mother: Maria, home­maker.

Hmm. Mu­si­cians in the fam­ily tree, par­tic­u­larly his grand­fa­ther, af­ter whom he was named, and of whom he was quite proud.

So, did the ap­ple fall far from the tree?

Hardly, thought Lud­wig’s first mu­sic teacher, his fa­ther. Jo­hann rec­og­nized Lud­wig’s mu­si­cal gifts early on and de­cided to cap­i­tal­ize on them, just like Leopold Mozart had done with his son, Wolf­gang. So, off went fa­ther and son to Cologne where on March 26, 1778, Lud­wig, a seven year old wun­derkind, made his de­but at the pi­ano.

Four years later, Beethoven had his first pub­li­ca­tion un­der his belt. His “Nine Vari­a­tions on a March by Dressler for pi­ano” were writ­ten at age 10 un­der the tute­lage of his most im­por­tant teacher in Bonn, Chris­tian Neefe.

It was Neefe who de­clared that his young stu­dent would be­come a “sec­ond Mozart.”

Ah yes, Mozart. Young Beethoven’s hero, though the cor­ner­stone of his mu­si­cal up­bring­ing were all 48 pre­ludes and fugues of J.S. Bach’s “Well-Tem­pered Clavier” which he could play by heart. Beethoven may have met his child­hood hero while in Vi­enna in 1787 though no con­tem­po­rary con­fir­ma­tion of such a meet­ing ex­ists.

In 1792, Beethoven trav­elled to Vi­enna once again, this time to study with Franz Joseph Haydn. That trip turned out to be a per­ma­nent move. One of his numer­ous res­i­dences in the city — many are now mu­se­ums — was an apart­ment in the Pasqualati­haus, the land­lord of which kept the rooms un­derneath Beethoven’s empty. For sound rea­sons, no doubt.

One of the first works Beethoven com­posed in the Pasqualati­haus was the “Vi­o­lin Con­certo.” Though it was a flop at its pre­mière due to the soloist’s in­suf­fi­cient prepa­ra­tion time, it was re­vived to great suc­cess af­ter Beethoven’s death, and re­mains a cor­ner­stone in the vi­o­lin reper­toire.

The “Vi­o­lin Con­certo” will be the cor­ner­stone of the open­ing con­cert of the Brott Mu­sic Fes­ti­val’s two-day mini-fes­ti­val ded­i­cated to Beethoven that kicks off on Tues­day, Aug. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Burling­ton Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre, 440 Lo­cust St., Burling­ton. The soloist in this por­trait con­cert will be Béné­dicte Lauz­ière, con­cert­mas­ter of the Kitch­ener-Water­loo Sym­phony since Jan­uary 2015.

Cou­pled with the “Vi­o­lin Con­certo” is Beethoven’s “Sym­phony No. 7,” com­pleted in April 1812 when the com­poser’s pub­lic suc­cess was near­ing its zenith.

The first page of Beethoven’s sketch­book for this work bears the signs of the on­com­ing trauma of his deaf­ness, the com­poser writ­ing that the cot­ton he’d placed in his ears had stopped the hiss­ing sounds when he played the pi­ano.

The bill also in­cludes a Cana­dian clas­sic from 1956, Oskar Mo­rawetz’s “Over­ture to a Fairy Tale.”

The BMF’s sec­ond Beethoven por­trait con­cert is on Wed­nes­day, Aug. 2 at 7:30 p.m., with Va­lerie Tryon at the BPAC’s Shigeru Kawai for the colos­sal “Pi­ano Con­certo No. 5,” the nick­name “Em­peror” added later by an English pub­lisher as a mar­ket­ing ploy. Paired with the “Fifth Pi­ano Con­certo” is, da-ta-da-dum, Beethoven’s five-star “Fifth Sym­phony.” Alexan­der Brott’s 1971 elab­o­ra­tions on Beethoven, “Seven Min­uets and Six Canons,” rounds out the bill.

Want to know more about Beethoven, the man and his mu­sic? Pre-con­cert chats by West­ern U pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus, Jef­frey Stokes, be­gin at 6:30 p.m.

Tick­ets: $32, se­nior $27, Brott35 $25, stu­dent $15. Call 905-525-7664.

Reg­is­tra­tion for The Hamil­ton Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra’s Young Mu­si­cians’ Boot Camp, Aug. 22 to 24 at Mo­hawk Col­lege, 135 Fen­nell Ave. W., with HPO mu­sic di­rec­tor Gemma New and HPO string, brass and wood­wind coaches, closes on July 31.

For info, go to­mu­si­cians­boot­camp/.


Béné­dicte Lauz­ière, con­cert­mas­ter of the Kitch­ener-Water­loo Sym­phony, per­forms at the Brott Mu­sic Fes­ti­val Aug. 1.

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