Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Reviewing Beethoven's "disco" music

One of the first classical records that I ever owned was a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony #7 in A Major, Op 92, I believe by Dorati and the Detroit Symphony (in the days the city was healthy), on the Mercury label, taking up a whole LP. 
I also have a modern DG CD with Leonard Bernstein, with the Vienna Philharmonic.
The work has been subtitled “the Dance”, and the lively dotted rhythms are particularly conspicuous when compared to other symphonies up to that point. 
The lively Finale has always struck me as potential disco music.  The liner notes on the Mercuryc recording said that at the end, the music is swept up "in its own vortex", as if entering a singularity inside a black hole. Wikipedia says it has one of Beethoven's few uses of "FFF".  The G-natural in the high trumpet always seems to be reaching higher, near the very end. What would happen if a DJ piped it out on the dance floor of the Town DC?  Would the dirty dancing continue?  The second movement, the Allegretto with the monotonic ostinato, is the most famous, and gets quoted by Hollywood a lot. 

I do remember playing this music one time when editing the optimistic last page of my DADT-1 book, back in 1997 in "that" Annandale VA apartment.

The closing pages of Stravinsky's "Firebird" really do get played in discos sometimes. 

The scherzo is interesting in repeating the trio (making it a rondo).  Even the choppy, octave-skipping rhythms in 6/8 of the first movement (with the sudden stops), becomes the stuff of rem sleep.
A Major doesn’t seem to be as popular a key (even though Picardy with A minor) as D Major, B-flat, or C. 
One could compare the work to the A Major piano Sonata, Op. 101, with a gentle beginning, a similar scherzo (to the symphony), a referential slow movement and lively virtuoso finale with a fugal development, anticipating the Hammerklavier.  Think also about the Kreutzer Violin Sonata, where the main body of the first movement is really in A Minor.  Also, remember that the Piano Sonata #30 (E Major) figures into a critical scene in the 1999 gay film “Trick”.

Beethoven in a sense was a 19th century technological innovator, in personal expression.   How did he get all of this music written down manually! 
I just replayed Reid Ewing’s song “In the Moonlght (Do Me)” from Modern Family (2010), and yes, the outline of the starting melody seems related to the famous opening movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”.  Try playing ITMDM on a church organ by ear – however irreverent the words, the music actually works.  Someone like Gabriel Kahane could adapt this to sing while playing on the piano, it would actually work that way. 

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