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Beethoven's Choral Fantasy #2809193 01/31/19 09:03 PM
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I'm curious about other members' opinion of this piece. I have always loved it but it seems like many do not think it's a very great or important piece. The piano part has more scales and arpeggios than even the typical Beethoven piece. David Dubal, in his The Art of the Piano. says it "receives more performances than it deserves, I feel Beethoven is perhaps poking fun at himself as he piles one cliche upon another" but I don't agree.

Here are a few performances you can listen to if you wish.
Ozawa and Argerich
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjXBKR4iDS8
Andsnes
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJeYMuIi8LI

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Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2809206 01/31/19 10:17 PM
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Just love it .A wonderful piece !

Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2809212 01/31/19 10:40 PM
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I don't like it enough to ever listen to another performance of it. I heartily agree with Dubal's opinion.

Regards,


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Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: BruceD] #2809219 01/31/19 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
I don't like it enough to ever listen to another performance of it. I heartily agree with Dubal's opinion....

.....and I can't hear it enough.

Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2809231 01/31/19 11:50 PM
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A symphony ,a rhapsodic fantasia ,a concerto and as usual with Beethoven the pianist is the HERO ! What could be better? Anyway that's my experience with the work .
This is Beethoven from the revolution.

Last edited by Lady Bird; 01/31/19 11:51 PM. Reason: Extra word
Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: Lady Bird] #2809248 02/01/19 01:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
A symphony ,a rhapsodic fantasia ,a concerto and as usual with Beethoven the pianist is the HERO ! What could be better? Anyway that's my experience with the work .
This is Beethoven from the revolution.

BEAUTIFULLY SAID.

The piece has got to be in the top few percent of all pieces I know for "great moments."
Well maybe "top few percent" is a bit over-the-top....
Let's say top 15%. grin
(Easily.)

Here are a few -- and I do mean GREAT moments, in my little opinion....
(timings from the video, below)

1:10 (the opening): The entire opening cadenza, sometimes said to be the closest thing we have to a written version of a Beethoven improvisation.
Also, trying to put ourselves in the shoes of hearing the piece at its original performance, without their knowing anything about what's in store (which I sometimes enjoy trying to do), this opening strikes me similarly to how the cadenza in the 1st movement of Bach's 5th Brandenburg Concerto does: an awesome and pleasing SHOCK at what is happening on the keyboard. For me the Brandenburg is the all-time champ on this -- it was, I think, the first time ever that a keyboard part had such a prominent and extended display in an orchestral piece. I think such a cadenza was theretofore unknown, didn't exist. The audience must have been like, "What the heck is he/she doing...!!" This piece might be in a multi-way tie for second. You've got the orchestra and the chorus and the soloists up there, and the pianist. The pianist plays those opening chords, and you figure it's just a little intro before the orchestra and everybody else starts coming in. But no -- the piano goes on, and on, and on -- more and more wonderfully, creatively, and unexpectedly. If there were nothing else remarkable about the piece, to me this aspect of the opening would put this piece in the top rank. I think Dubal's knowledge and his appreciation of history is likewise in the top rank, but he blows this one.

5:53 The entrance of the main theme -- the sublime main theme.
Remember, the 9th Symphony didn't exist yet. Try, if you can, try to hear it without knowing the 9th Symphony.
The more I think of what Dubal said, the more I can't help thinking that he just wasn't thinking.
BTW this part would have been better if Argerich didn't feel compelled to change the tempo a few notes in (and then back again). grin

6:27: The entry of the solo flute for the 1st variation.
The variations are a wonderful sort of Sinfonia-Concertante-Within-A-Fantasy.

8:14: The tutti orchestra coming in on that theme.

9:31: The sudden shift of key and mood, to the furious C minor.

11:28: Oasis.

16:59: Entry of the solo vocalists. For me, that tops it off.
BTW, maybe I ought to say, I feel a special dearness for the piece because I was lucky to be my college's choral accompanist at the time when they were preparing it for their Beethoven bicentennial concert (that's 1970, folks). ha
I wasn't the pianist at the performance -- they got Rudolf Firkusny....actually it's a longer story; it was going to be a faculty member, who happened to be my teacher, but when they were able to get Firkusny they told the faculty guy to forget about it, which didn't make him too happy, nor hardly anyone who was there.....
it was an indescribable experience to play the piece, again and again, at first just with the chorus at their rehearsals, then with the chorus and orchestra, and then finally with soloists present. The moment when the soloists first come in -- at 16:59 on here -- was just.....well, again, I don't know what else to say except that I can't imagine where Dubal was coming from.

Moving on:

19:20 (and the repetitions): the octave-plus-inner 32rd quasi-glissando.

19:36 (and the repetition): the modulation (actually more like just a shift) from minor to major.

And I've only scratched the surface, folks. smile

BTW, I see Dubal around, sometimes.
If I do again, I'm going to give him he1l about this. ha



Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2809251 02/01/19 01:41 AM
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I thought the other Pianist to very inspired as well .
I wonder what the piano was that he was playing ?

Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2809302 02/01/19 05:57 AM
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I love it! I've always wanted to play it.

Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: Lady Bird] #2809324 02/01/19 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
A symphony ,a rhapsodic fantasia ,a concerto and as usual with Beethoven the pianist is the HERO ! What could be better? Anyway that's my experience with the work .
This is Beethoven from the revolution.


Well said!



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Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2809354 02/01/19 08:38 AM
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Mark, that was detailed - and I agree with pretty much everything you say there!

I'm amongst those who love it. Even if there was an element of irony or poking fun at himself at it, it's still beautiful.


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Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2809388 02/01/19 10:17 AM
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When I first heard this piece, I fell in love and bought the music even though it was way beyond me at the time. What I love most about it is that it's the 9th symphony in piano concerto form. C'mon, what's not to love!!


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Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2809435 02/01/19 11:49 AM
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I love it. My favorite recording is from Brendel, with the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Argerich recording was good, but the Andsnes didn't move me as much; it seemed a little thin with respect to the choir and it was somehow distracting to see him playing and then conducting when he wasn't playing (I know, don't watch. Listen.).


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Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2809600 02/01/19 05:56 PM
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I agree 100% with Lady B.

Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: Mark_C] #2809732 02/02/19 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by Lady Bird
A symphony ,a rhapsodic fantasia ,a concerto and as usual with Beethoven the pianist is the HERO ! What could be better? Anyway that's my experience with the work .
This is Beethoven from the revolution.

BEAUTIFULLY SAID.

The piece has got to be in the top few percent of all pieces I know for "great moments."
Well maybe "top few percent" is a bit over-the-top....
Let's say top 15%. grin
(Easily.)

Here are a few -- and I do mean GREAT moments, in my little opinion....
(timings from the video, below)

1:10 (the opening): The entire opening cadenza, sometimes said to be the closest thing we have to a written version of a Beethoven improvisation.

5:53 The entrance of the main theme -- the sublime main theme.

6:27: The entry of the solo flute for the 1st variation.
The variations are a wonderful sort of Sinfonia-Concertante-Within-A-Fantasy.

8:14: The tutti orchestra coming in on that theme.

9:31: The sudden shift of key and mood, to the furious C minor.

11:28: Oasis.

16:59: Entry of the solo vocalists. For me, that tops it off.
BTW, maybe I ought to say, I feel a special dearness for the piece because I was lucky to be my college's choral accompanist at the time when they were preparing it for their Beethoven bicentennial concert (that's 1970, folks). ha
I wasn't the pianist at the performance -- they got Rudolf Firkusny....actually it's a longer story; it was going to be a faculty member, who happened to be my teacher, but when they were able to get Firkusny they told the faculty guy to forget about it, which didn't make him too happy, nor hardly anyone who was there.....
it was an indescribable experience to play the piece, again and again, at first just with the chorus at their rehearsals, then with the chorus and orchestra, and then finally with soloists present. The moment when the soloists first come in -- at 16:59 on here -- was just.....well, again, I don't know what else to say except that I can't imagine where Dubal was coming from.

Moving on:

19:20 (and the repetitions): the octave-plus-inner 32rd quasi-glissando.

19:36 (and the repetition): the modulation (actually more like just a shift) from minor to major.

I like the Choral Fantasy a lot.
But with "Oasis" I suppose you are not talking about the British pop group. I don't think the A major part sounds like "Wonderwall".

About the intro: I read somewhere that Beethoven wanted it to be improvised; but the version used most commonly today is an improvisation by Beethoven that somebody wrote down. I could be wrong of course.

As for recordings: I know a recording made by a school orchestra where a reed plays a loud wrong note in the quiet A major part. Sometimes these bloopers stay in the memory.

Last edited by patH; 02/02/19 05:57 AM.

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Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2810059 02/02/19 10:10 PM
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He has many pieces that are arguably "greater," but I still enjoy the piece. One of my old Brevard friends is performing it at IU in a couple weeks, and I can't wait! The variations a little after the opening cadenza are one of my favorite set of variations Beethoven wrote, even though they're rather simple.

Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2810070 02/02/19 11:12 PM
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This performance, shown on PBS, was the first time I ever heard the "Choral Fantasy" or paid any attenion to Evgeny Kissin. I was impressed on both counts. It's from around 1990, shortly after German reunification, so it's also a historic performance (in the Berlin Philharmonic's old hall in the former East Berlin). Abbado era.



It's a marvelous performance, after a slightly ponderously-played, opening cadenza. laugh

(There's a sharper black-and-white version on YouTube, also; but, it sounds better in fuzzy color, for some reason. 🤣)

I think there is a prejudice against it for using so many forces and a choir (old bias against "amateurish" choirs).


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Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: WhoDwaldi] #2810073 02/02/19 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by WhoDwaldi
It's from around 1990, shortly after German reunification, so it's also a historic performance (in the Berlin Philharmonic's old hall in the former East Berlin). Abbado era.



I'm mistaken, there. The Konzerthaus was not the Berlin Philharmonic's old home. But, it's a famous old hall that had to be rebuilt by the East German government after the war.


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Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: pianoloverus] #2810102 02/03/19 01:30 AM
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If only the sound quality was better .,But just listening to that wonderful huge choir and of course Kissin with that orchestra makes
it truly worthwhile. Thank you .

Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: Lady Bird] #2810207 02/03/19 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
If only the sound quality was better .,But just listening to that wonderful huge choir and of course Kissin with that orchestra makes
it truly worthwhile. Thank you .


Yes, it was well worth the listen!



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Re: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy [Re: johnstaf] #2810529 02/04/19 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
I love it! I've always wanted to play it.

I'm another big fan of the piece but it has mildly unfortunate associations for me because the one time I performed it things did not go smoothly. This was the first time I'd played in a major concert at Cambridge University and the piece was the the big final showpiece on the program, so I was nervous as heck (not allowed to say h*ll on this forum ha ). Then, just as we were about the start, the conductor realized he didn't have his score so he went off in search of it. I swear, after four or five minutes just sitting there in front of a big orchestra, an even bigger chorus, and a packed house, with nothing to do but get more and more nervous, I was actually hoping he'd never find it and we'd end up calling the whole thing off. By the time he did get back with the lost score, the audience had become restless, with lots of muttering and semi-audible complaining. It took another couple of minutes to quiet them down. Then, as you know, I had to launch into the big cadenza, with some really nasty octave/double-note passagework, starting cold with a moderately hostile audience that was already set up to expect something amateurish. Somehow I got through it and from the point where the orchestra magically enters I had a blast. Then, when the whole thing reached its apotheosis with everyone going full tilt, the audience had become completely enraptured and my frantically nervous cadenza was all but forgotten.

So I hope if you ever do get to play it johnstaf, it's under better circumstances! grin

BTW, Mark_C, I can't believe you didn't include the sweet little string quartet variation among your favorite highlights!

Last edited by SiFi; 02/04/19 11:10 AM. Reason: Correct typo

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