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Beethoven and that Danged Metronome

Beethoven and That Danged Metronome – The metronome is a device that musicians use to break up the musical minute, based on the portion of a second used per beat. Beethoven was notorious for marking his music with metronome timings, and this week we learn the significant role those little numbers played.  The tempo and interpretation affect the emotional impact of a composition, thus changing its entire character.  We'll also take a brief detour and examine how other composers, like Bach, Handel, and Shostakovich worked with tempi in their music.

Program 1

Discover how changing a tempo can effect the entire character of piece, with Bach, Handel, and Beethoven.

Bach: Aria fr. Goldberg Variations (two excerpts)
Gould, p.
CBS 37779, Sony 87703
1:53, 1:33

Handel: Overture fr. Messiah (excerpt)
Royal Phil/Beecham
RCA LDS-6409

Handel: Overture fr. Messiah
Amsterdam Baroque/Koopman
Erato 2292-45433

Beethoven: Symphony No. 1, III
Vienna Phil/Furtwangler
EMI 47409

Beethoven: Symphony No. 2, I
Berlin Phil/Karajan
DG 429036

Beethoven: Symphony No. 2, I (excerpt), II, III, IV
London Classical Players/Norrington
EMI 47698
1:09, 9:59, 10:45

Program 2

In this segment we investigate how something as little as metronome marking can effect something as large as a  Beethoven Symphony, with an emphasis on his early work. 

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3, I (excerpt)
Berlin Phil/Furtwangler
Tahra 1008

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3, I
Vienna Phil/Bernstein
DG 413778

Beethoven: Symphony No. 4, I & IV (excerpts)
Bavarian Radio Symphony/Kleiber
Melo 40047
9:13, :19, :18

Beethoven: Symphony No. 4, IV (excerpt)
Vienna Phil/Furtwangler
EMI 47409

Beethoven: Symphony No. 4, IV (excerpt + complete)
La Scala/Giulini
Sony 58921
:17, 7:44

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, I (excerpt)
Vienna Phil/Furtwangler
EMI 69803

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, I (excerpt)
Vienna Phil/Bernstein
DG 419435

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, I (excerpt)
Concertgebouw/E. Kleiber

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, I
Vienna Phil/C. Kleiber
DG 415861

Program 3

We tackle metronome markings in Beethoven's piano concertos and symphonies.

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4, I (excerpt)
CSO/Stock; Schnabel, p.
RCA 09026-61393

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4, I (excerpt + complete)
Cleveland Orch/Szell; Fleisher, p.
CBS 42445
:17, 17:59

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4, I (excerpt)
Cleveland Orch; Ashkenazy, p.
Lon 421718

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6, I (excerpt)
NBC Symphony Orch/Toscanini
RCA 74321 55836

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6, I (excerpt)
Columbia Symphony/Walter
CBS 36720

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6, I

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 rehearsal (excerpt)
Columbia Symphony/Walter
Sony 64465

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, I
Columbia Symphony/Walter
Sony 64463

Program 4

Bill gives the listener front row seats to the tug of war between composer and conductor when deciding on tempo. Shostakovich, Bernstein, and Beethoven feature. 

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5, finale
New York Phil/Bernstein
CBS 37218

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 finale (excerpt + complete)
Leningrad Phil/Mravinsky
Doremi 7811
:38, 11:00

Beethoven: Symphony No. 8
London Classical Players/Norrington
EMI 47698
25:13, 3:01

Program 5

In our final segment we zoom in on a single piece, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and listen to excerpts at every tempo imaginable. 

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (excerpts)
RCA 09026-61795
1:12, :25, :57

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (excerpts)
Vienna Phil/Furtwangler
DG 435325
1:12, 2:20, 24:47

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (excerpts)
London Classical Players/Norrington
Virgin Veritas 56137820
:50, :28, 1:10, 1:03

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (excerpts)
Vienna Phil/Rattle
EMI 7234 5 57450
1:08, 11:50


The Exploring Music streaming website is supported by Mr. & Mrs. William Gardner Brown and the Richard P. and Susan Kiphart Family.  
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