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Beethoven: Sparks of Joy!

Almost ninety years after the publication of Beethoven’s Opus 38 Clarinet Trio, Johannes Brahms composed his two sonatas for clarinet and piano. Brahms had already decided to retire from composing, but after hearing the clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld play Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, he was captivated by the beautiful tone of the instrument. He and Mühlfeld became close friends, and Brahms wrote several pieces for clarinet which were to be among his last compositions.
The following performance of Brahms’ first Clarinet Sonata is followed by his first piano quartet. {Notes by Margaret Scialdone.} https://youtu.be/w8_SwyOl40A?t=418


Farrakhan’s Agapic Birthday Gift: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto

May 12 (EIRNS)–In celebration of his 88th birthday, and of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, made a loving intervention into a crisis-torn world: he released the video recording of his performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, which he had done in 2002, but which, for various reasons, had not been able to be released earlier. The concert included a performance of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, followed by the concerto.

Due to the livestream, which was affected by internet receptivity, at least from this author’s vantage point, there were moments where it wasn’t clear if the orchestra was as together as it might have been at every moment. Also, in some of the very difficult passages of the concerto every note Farrakhan played wasn’t perfectly in tune, but as Ayke Agus, the violinist who agreed to work with the Minister on preparing the performance on a miraculously rapid schedule, and who was the concertmistress for the performance, said, the musical quality and the truthful, non- pretentious intent of the message transcended all technical shortcomings, which were probably not even noticed by most. Certain lyrical sections were absolutely gorgeous, with a beautiful singing quality, and the extremely high notes were beautifully placed, as a great singer would do.

The video was introduced by Farrakhan’s grandson, and then Cornel West, who spoke about the power of Beethoven’s music to unite people, but the most striking comment he made was, (paraphrase) “I have some very deep disagreements with the Minister, but I love him.”

From Farrakhan’s coach, Cornel West and the Minister, the story emerged of the Minister having attended a concert in 1942 or 1943 in Boston of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, followed by Jascha Heifetz performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto in a way which profoundly moved the young boy. He got Heifietz’s autograph on the program, which he has to this day. He clearly had enormous talent as a child, but the nation was not ready for a black Classical violinist, and he put his instrument away for 40 years.

When he picked it up again his teacher was Elaine Skorodin Fohrman, herself a student of Heifetz, who assisted him in preparing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, but who was not convinced that he could master the Beethoven in such a short time (or any time under 10 years.) While her reluctance persisted, she was nonetheless present in the orchestra, both as moral support, and despite her disagreement.

In Farrakhan’s post-performance comments in 2002, which were included in the video , he introduced two young black violinists who had been part of the orchestra. The first was a 19-year-old young woman, who had sent in a video of herself playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto which left Farrakhan in tears, saying “she can be everything I had ever hoped for someone,” and a young man, who had sent in a video of himself playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, again causing a torrent of tears. Of these, Farrakhan said, “he is all that I had hoped to be, and then some” — which both addressed racism as the crime it actually is and suggested how to reject the intended effect of that crime, by seizing, through the discipline and gift of Classical culture, a truly human identity despite racism’s evil intention. In this way, when this path is taken, civilization may not be deprived of the moral potential, expressed by the development of great talent into genius which would uplift and transform that entire society. Here is a link to the full concert.


Beethoven: Sparks of Joy!

Beethoven: Spark of Joy – HIs Mass in C, God’s Grace Comes to Those Who Act for Posterity

Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II, the long-time patron of Franz Josef Haydn, commissioned a new mass setting each year for his wife’s name-day. In 1807, the commission fell to Beethoven, who, in his own words, “treated the text in a manner in which it has rarely been treated”. The great masses of Bach and Mozart are structured somewhat like operas, whereas Beethoven’s mass is powerfully symphonic, with the soloists treated as a unified quartet, inextricably interwoven with the choir. Esterhazy was not pleased, but the next performance, at Prince Lichnowsky’s residence, received a more positive response. After its publication in 1813, one commentator wrote that the mass conveyed “a childlike optimism that in its very purity devoutly trusts in God’s grace, and appeals to him as a father who desires the best for his children and hears their prayers”.
On November 18, 2018, the Schiller Institute NYC Chorus performed Beethoven’s Mass in C at the beautiful St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City. [Notes by Margaret Scialdone.]


Beethoven: Sparks of Joy!

Beethoven: Sparks of Joy – Lessons from history: act for your nation.

Eleonore Prochaska was the daughter of a Prussian soldier, raised in a military orphanage after the death of her mother. She was one of many German women who fought in the Napoleonic Wars, though most were ejected from the army when it was found out that they were women. In 1813, Prochaska disguised herself and joined the the Lützow Free Corps under the name August Renz, serving first as a drummer, then in the infantry. She was severely wounded in battle and died three weeks later. In death, she was memorialized as a chaste heroine and “Potsdam’s Joan of Arc”. A momument to her memory, “Der Heldenjungfrau zum Gedächtnis”, or “In memory of the maiden-heroine” survives to this day in Potsdam’s Old Cemetery.
In 1814, Johann Friedrich Duncker accompanied the King of Prussia to the Congress of Vienna, and asked Beethoven to compose incidental music for his play, “Leonora Prohaska”. The play was never performed, as the subject had already been treated in Piwald’s “Das Madchen von Potsdam” which was performed that year.
Beethoven’s music has four parts:
1) Chorus, “Wir bauen und sterben’ (We build and die);
2) Romanze (Es blüht eine Blume im Garten mein) (A Flower blooms in my garden);
3) Melodrama;
4) Trauermarsch (Funeral March);
The fourth number is an arrangement for full orchestra of the funeral march from the Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major, Op. 26, transposed from A flat minor to B minor.
This rarely-heard work is performed here by the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Claudio Abbado. [Notes by Margaret Scialdone.]


Beethoven: Sparks of Joy!

Beethoven: Spark of Joy — Tribute to the incomparable Christa Ludwig on her passing

To honor the memory of the great mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig, who passed away April 26th, we hear today her legendary performance in the title role of Beethoven’s opera,  Fidelio. She sings the recitative, “Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?” followed by the aria, “Komm, Hoffnung!”

Monster! Where are you rushing?
What will you do in your wild rage?
Does the call of sympathy,
The voice of humanity,
Move nothing in your savage heart?
But just as like stormy seas
Anger and hatred surge in your soul,
There appears to me a rainbow,
That rests bright on the dark clouds,
That watches so quietly,
So peacefully below,
That mirrors old times,
And newly calmed my blood flows.

Come, Hope, let the last star
Not fade for the weary,
Illuminate my goal, be it ever so far,
Love will reach it.
I follow an inner drive,
I waver not,
I am strengthened by my duty
Of true wedded love.
Oh you, for whom I bore everything,
Could I only be at your side,
Where evil has you chained,
And bring you sweet comfort!
I follow an inner drive,
I waver not,
I am strengthened by my duty
Of true wedded love.

Ms. Ludwig was also a signer of the Schiller Institute’s 1988 call for the Verdi tuning to be restored bringing the pitch back to A = 432 cycles per second. [Message by Margaret Scialdone and Mary Jane Freeman.]


Schiller Institute NYC Chorus Dedicates Concert to the “Spirit of the Elbe”

April 25 (EIRNS) – The Schiller Institute NYC Chorus & with friends from Ibero-America and Europe broadcast an uplifting concert this afternoon, which was introduced as follows by Jen Pearl:

Good afternoon, and welcome to `Beethoven’s Credo: Believe in the Future, a World Without War.’ My name is Jen Pearl and I am the chair of the board for the Schiller NYC chorus.

On December 17th, 2019, Beethoven’s 249th birthday, our chorus, the SI NYC Chorus participated in an event at Carnegie of the Foundation for the Revival of Classical Culture, opening up what was supposed to be a year-long celebration of the Beethoven 250th year. We performed the choral movement of the Ninth Symphony there, with the preeminent Gerard Schwarz as conductor. We took as our objective to perform Beethoven’s great Missa Solemnis a year later.

Then we all know what happened. While many choruses and arts organizations were forced to pull back during the lockdown, the Schiller Institute NYC Chorus pushed ahead, despite the challenges, because we know how important it is to sing beautiful and profound music in times of crisis—music, which connects us at the higher level of humanity as a single immortal species. We managed to present virtual performances of the Kyrie and Gloria last December.

Today’s concert is truly special because it features another movement the Missa Solemnis.

And while we are excited and joyful about bringing you the Credo movement of the Missa Solemnis and other beautiful selections tonight, we are also performing this concert in the context of a world fraught with crises, including an increasing potential of world war and starvation in Yemen and Syria. The beauty of tonight’s program, which reflects the very best of mankind’s creativity, is also very much in direct contrast or dissonance with the very worst actions being done at the hand of human beings, right now as we speak, toward entire nations and populations of children.

Beethoven once said that, if people understood his music, there would be no war.

On this day, April 25th, 76 years ago there was an event that resonates powerfully still today with that sentiment, that mankind should not settle disputes with violence. This was the day during WW II that American and Soviet troops met from the east and the west at the Elbe River near Torgau Germany, south of Berlin, ensuring an early end of the war, and thus became known as `Spirit of the Elbe.’ We dedicate this concert to that spirit which is much needed today. So we will begin our concert today with this short video introduction.

Near the end of the concert, Jen Pearl made the following closing remarks:

Our final offering this evening is Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus. Mozart composed this motet in a perfect way to evoke from you the awe you would experience when seeing the body of Christ for the first time. Imagine what your reaction would be then as you listen, think of how Mozart evokes that in you!. Mozart’s opening words are `hail, hail true body. . .’ As with any great classical work, the singer and you, the audience, can relive the experience of that actual moment in history and therefore experience true immortality.

We are now in a moment of history, where we need to evoke that quality of empathy and immortality in ourselves in order to take all of mankind into our hearts and souls. As we referenced at the beginning, we invite you to join the chorus of voices that are calling for an end to these wars, sanctions, and starvation, particularly in Yemen and Syria. You can find Mrs. LaRouche’s urgent call in today’s program and I invite you to join us. Thank you, and now you will hear Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus.

Note the concert can be viewed at this link.


Beethoven: Sparks of Joy!

Beethoven: Sparks of Joy – Quartet No2 in G major, Op. 18, No2 

The second of Beethoven’s Opus 18 quartets has earned the nickname “Compliments Quartet” or “Quartet of Bows and Curtseys.” With Haydnesque overtones, it was first published in 1801. Good-natured and full of surprises, it’s performed here by the world-famous Amadeus Quartet.

Founded in 1947 by refugees from Hitler’s Anschluss, the Amadeus Quartet retained its original membership for the next 40 years until the death of violist Peter Schidlof. First violinist and primarius Norbert Brainin was also famously a close friend of Lyndon LaRouche, whom he considered as more knowledgeable about music than he was! An interview with Brainin is linked here. [Notes by Margaret Scialdone.]


Beethoven: Sparks of Joy!

Beethoven: Sparks of Joy – Piano trio, variations on “Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu” theme

“Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu” (I am Kakadu the tailor) was the name of a popular tune from Wenzel Muller’s opera “Die Schwestern von Prag (The Sisters from Prague). Beethoven composed these variations during his early years in Vienna, then sent them to the publisher after the opera was revived in 1814, with the note, “one of my earlier compositions, though it is not among the reprehensible ones”. 
Enjoy this delightful performance by the ATOS Trio. [Notes by Margaret Scialdone.]


Beethoven: Sparks of Joy!

Beethoven: Sparks of Joy — his beautiful song, An die ferne Geliebte to contemplate the future.

Alois Jeitteles was a young physician who was also making a name for himself as a poet when he wrote the six poems which Beethoven wove into the beautiful “An die ferne Geliebte” (To the distant Beloved). It is a true Liederkreis (song cycle), thoroughly composed so that the songs are inseparable from one another. 
This performance by John Sigerson and Margaret Greenspan was part of an international conference of the Schiller Institute that took place in April of 2020. [Notes by Margaret Scialdone.]


Beethoven: Sparks of Joy!

Beethoven: Sparks of Joy – Fifth piano concerto

Beethoven’s fifth and last piano concerto was published in 1810 in French-occupied Vienna, but not performed until the following year in Leipzig. The Vienna premier took place in 1812, with Beethoven’s pupil Carl Czerny as the soloist, Beethoven being by this time too deaf to play with an orchestra. 
Beethoven, an ardent republican, would certainly not have approved of the nickname “the Emperor” for his 5th piano concerto, calling it simply his “great concerto”. It’s a grand and expansive work, with rich dialog between soloist and orchestra. 
Here is a most enjoyable performance by Pierre-Laurent Aimard on piano, with David Afkham conducting the Frankfurt Radio Symphony orchestra. [Notes by Margaret Scialdone.]


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