Obscure Music Reviewed!

Apparently there was once a composer named Beethoven. Apparently he wrote some pretty good music! Apparently no one knows this. Let’s check in with Jeanne Claire Van Ryzin of the Austin American Statesman!

Beethoven’s Ninth a joy to hear

Shouts of "bravo" and a rousing standing ovation topped off Austin Symphony Orchestra's presentation of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 Friday night at the Long Center, the first of two sold-out concerts the orchestra performed over the weekend.

What an amazingly progressive choice of programming. Avant-garde, even.

True, orchestra music director Peter Bay and the orchestra might have made their official Long Center debut in April, but Friday's concert had the festive feel of a true premiere.

I hate those fake premieres. I mean premières. Wait, what?

Bay started the evening with a pleasant playing of Beethoven's Eighth Symphony — a short, melodic happy symphony.

I think you missed a comma, there. (Or maybe a hyphen? Melodic-happy?) But, whatever. Because most symphonies aren’t melodic at all!

The drama was delivered after intermission when Bay and company attacked the Ninth.

I’m sure everyone there was fidgeting through the 8th, all like, “Goddammit! When is the drama going to be delivered?!”

Much is required of an orchestra and chorus to shape Beethoven's intense last symphony. And it started with verve and emotion, with Bay clearly


extracting rich color from the orchestra

Clearly extracting...color?

— a considerable effort given the stormy first movement and the brisk, forceful and energetic second movement.

Um. What piece is this again? Oh, Beethoven’s 9th? Oh, okay. I think I’ve heard that once or twice.

Bay and the musicians are still clearly


experimenting with the subtle of acoustics

The “subtle of acoustics”? Really?

of the Long Center's Dell Hall. Beethoven's sweeping Ninth Symphony proved a test.

What test did it prove?

There's still some tweaking needed, evidenced in the third movement where the direction of the orchestra sounded unresolved in its focus.

The direction...was unresolved...in its focus? What? What does that even mean?

But the orchestra pulled it together for the final movement, when a 175-member choir, under the direction of Kenny Sheppard, assembled to sing what's become commonly known as the "Ode to Joy" chorus.

Oh, that Beethoven’s 9th! The one with the “Ode to Joy”? Now it all makes sense. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

You're sarcasm- "Because most symphonies aren’t melodic at all!"- is not aptly used in this instance. Yes, symphonies pre 1825 are generally melodic and pleasing. While Beethoven's music may be pleasing, much of it is certainly not "melodic". Motivic, yes; melodic, no.

Also "unresolved in its focus" concerning frequency means: "out of tune". Concerning rhythm: "sloppy". Concerning amplitude: "dull".

Hope that's helpful for the D-crew.

Empiricus said...

Somewhere in Austin someone is patting themselves on the back for coming up with such a brilliant title: Beethoven's Ninth is a joy to hear.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Sator Arepo said...

Hello Ubiquitous Anonymous,

1) M'y sarcas'm is bet'ter critique'd whe'n properl'y punctua///ted.

That said, your [not sic] distinction between melodic and motivic is noted; however, you'd argue that the 8th is (Beethoven-wise) not melodic?

2) It was the "direction of the orchestra" that was "unresolved in its focus", which is a strange thing to type anywhere, IMHO. Not the sound, amplitude, rhythm, or frequency. The "direction".

That is all,

AnthonyS said...

Beethoven 8 is totally melodic. It's also a completely under appreciated symphony, one of my favorites. Try listening to it and NOT getting the second theme of the first movement stuck in your head.

In fact, this whole "Beethoven-didn't-write-melodies" thing is weird to me. It's one those tropes that I think just passed down without really investigating it. Schoenberg notes a similar thing in Style and Idea w/r/t the whole "Schumann-couldn't-orchestrate" thing.

Perhaps Anon. and I have a slightly different definition of melody; still, I contend that the 8th symphony is incredibly melodic.

Erik Loomis said...

Somehow a comment I left on this post yesterday was lost. The point was that this Austin review reminded me of the local boosterism you see in community newspapers where everything happening in the city is the greatest thing in the world, as if to convince yourself that the city you live in is in fact worth living in.

Murderface said...

Was English not this reviewer's first language? Did this review actually get printed, or was it only subjected to the third-rate proofreading that newspapers give web-only pieces?

"The subtle of acoustics" totally tickles me. It sounds like it came off a chopstick wrapper.

/timely Olympic zing.

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