Friday, August 8, 2014

Podcast Encore: Beethoven 2 X 4

Our Summer 2014 Friday Blog and Podcasts reach into past musings. Today's post is a repeat of a Friday Blog and Podcast from February 17, 2012.

The podcast (No. 43 in our ongoing series) can be found in our archives at

Some of the post's content and illustrations were changed to fit this month's thematic arc.

 pcast043 Playlist

This post and montage started off innocently enough – put together a “pair” of Beethoven Symphonies for my Februaryt 2012 series the Terrible Twos and our Beethoven Project. I chose the symphonies no. 2 and 4 for the obvious numerological reasons (2 and 2^2), but then all these factoids about the number 2 in this montage all came bubbling to the surface:
  • We are featuring two of our four “cycles” – the Bernstein/Wiener Philharmoniker and the Dohnanyi/Cleveland;
  • We have two overtures (Creatures of Prometheus and Coriolan)
  • We have two “distinct” parts to this montage – an all-Bernstein first half, and an homage to a Beethoven academy concert for the second half
Let's talk a bit about the academy concert of 13 April 1807, which we brought up in passing when discussing the 22 december 1808 academy. Beethoven's works featured include Coriolan, the Third Piano Concerto and the Fourth Symphony.

A few weeks earlier, these same three works were given their premiere at a private concert given at the estate of  Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz. Lobkowitz was one of Haydn's and Beethoven's patrons, and the dedicatee of some of these composers' greatest works, including Haydn's "Lobkowitz" quartets (Opus 77), and Beethoven's 3rd, 5th, and 6th symphonies and his Opus 18 string quartets.

As the Third concerto was part of a separate montage, I am including here a YouTube performance by Emil Gilels and the Philharmonia under the directiuon of Paavo Berglund.

The Symphonies

The symphonies have a common thread: Count Franz von Oppersdorff, a relative of Beethoven's patron, Prince Lichnowsky. The Count met Beethoven when he traveled to Lichnowsky's summer home where Beethoven was staying. Von Oppersdorff listened to Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 in D Major, and liked it so much that he offered a great amount of money for Beethoven to compose a new symphony for him, which became his fourth.

The original post has embedded YouTube clips featuring Leonard Bernstein introducing both symphonies.

Though the Prometheus overture heard here is performed along “traditional lines”, I cannot say the same of the Coriolan, performed here “a la française” by Charles Munch and his “very French” Boston Symphony of the 1950’s. The pace – all things considered – is backbreaking, when compared to the “German style” we are more accustomed to. Tell me what you think of it…

I think you will love this music too!