250 years of Beethoven, in six chapters and seven composers
What might link Mozart and Vaughan Williams? Schubert and George Crumb? Signposting every 50 years from Beethoven’s birth with a significant composition of each era, this is an opportunity to grasp the sheer magnitude of Beethoven’s enduring influence and the development of music over the past 250 years.
Mozart met the young Beethoven in 1787 when he was sent to study in Vienna by wealthy benefactors in Bonn. However, by that time, Beethoven was already so immersed in Mozart’s music, he even worried that he may have unintentionally imitated him. For Schubert, who composed his Quartettsatz in C minor 50 years after Beethoven’s birth, the challenge was how to emerge from the vast shadow cast by Beethoven, in particular his imposing legacy on the string quartet.
If the lightness of the Pizzicato Polka, co-composed by the brothers Johann Strauss junior and Josef Strauss, works as a cheeky contrast, Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending, performed by Richard Tognetti, is a continuation of forms once championed by Beethoven: the pastoral form and romance for violin and orchestra.
Where Schubert worked within Beethoven’s string quartet model, George Crumb sought to break it apart 150 years later in Black Angels, written in 1970 as a response to the Vietnam War. Black Angels created a new musical chapter, as will Anna Clyne’s new commission for strings, which will also show the ongoing connections to Beethoven in the early 21st century.
But there may be no better evidence of Beethoven’s enduring influence than the final number, his Cavatina & Grosse Fuge, the last major work he composed shortly before his death. Its presence serves to emphasise how contemporary Beethoven remains, resounding with perpetual modernity.
Richard Tognetti – Director & Violin
Australian Chamber Orchestra
1770: Mozart Mitridate: Overture 6′
1820: Schubert Quartettsatz (arr. strings) 10′
1870: Johann Strauss II Pizzicato Polka 3′
1920: Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending 15′
1970: George Crumb Black Angels (arr. Tognetti) 19′
2020: Anna Clyne New commission for strings – World Premiere* 15′
Beethoven Cavatina & Grosse Fuge (arr. Tognetti) 24′
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