[Marxism] Beethoven and 19th Century Music

Graham M. gkmilner at v-app.com.au
Mon Oct 15 14:20:35 MDT 2007

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Graham M. 
To: Victoria Castiglione 
Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 1:24 AM
Subject: Beethoven and 19th Century Music

Dear Victoria,
   I won't go on and on about 19th century music but, when I think about it, my own preference is for this era.   I noticed some years ago a programme guide for Perth's RTR FM radio, I think, listed the 1800s as the 'Romantic Century'.   When was Beethoven's 'Eroica' symphony written?   I believe it was in the very early years of the 19th century, about the same time Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor (was that 1803?).   I've just checked a music dictionary (my music books are in some order), and the symphony dates from 1803-4.   I would say that this work marks as great a revolution in music as anything else, in terms of a single work.   And of course Beethoven's symphonies in particular had a huge influence on European music thoughout the 19th century.   And Beethoven himself said, close to death, that he was 'primarily a symphonist'.   The earlier two symphonies by Beethoven, while fine, are polite and conventional (in the 18th century style) by contrast with the 'Eroica'.   

   I first heard the 'Eroica' at the age of fifteen or sixteen, in 1968, not long after arriving in Australia.   I bought an LP version of it on RCA Victrola, conducted by Pierre Monteux, although I don't recall the name of the orchestra.   Listening to the opening movement was a revelation to me.   Initially I didn't understand it, and preferred the scherzo, with its hunting associations and rollicking horn sequences.   But after a few hearings, I was astounded by the first movement, and this part of the symphony remains my favourite piece of symphonic writing even today.   I read Marion Scott's analysis of the 'Eroica', in her 'Master Musicians' biography of the composer, which I borrowed from the school library, and was intrigued by her attempts to fathom the meaning of the four movements.   There continues to be controversy surrounding the meaning of the 'Eroica', as you would know.

   Beethoven had an enormous influence on 19th century music, and all to the good, in my opinion.   Later composers in the Romantic vein, such as Wagner, readily acknowledged the influence.   In fact I understand that Wagner found great inspiration for his operatic compositions from a close study of the choral finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

   Perhaps Beethoven's 'Eroica', in its influence on the 19th century, might be placed alongside Stravinsky's 'The Rite of Spring' for that work's enormous influence on 20th century music, or possibly alongside Schoenberg's early atonal works (although I personally prefer the earlier more conventional works by Schoenberg such as 'Transfigured Night' and "Gurrelieder').   Or possibly even ragtime, jazz, and blues - for these forms inaugurated immensely influential movements in popular music in the 20th century!

   I'll send this off now and bid you good night.

                                      Love and best wishes,



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