All things Beethoven
Brott Music Festival’s two-day mini-festival dedicated to the great composer
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 to hpo.org/youngmusiciansbootcamp/.
Bénédicte Lauzière, concertmaster of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, performs at the Brott Music Festival Aug. 1.