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Pianissimo C Major

In the first quarter of the 19th Century Antonio Diabelli, a Viennese pianist and music publisher, sent a simple waltz he’d written to a number of major composers and invited them to write variations. Ludwig von Beethoven initially dismissed the piece as a "cobbler's patch," but four years later constructed from it one of the most powerful and enigmatic pieces of music ever written. Beethoven dedicated his 33 variations for solo piano to Frau Antonie von Brentano, nee Edle von Birkenstock—his “Immortal Beloved.”

Variation XX is otherworldly. It consists of a subtle, intricate and sometimes inexplicable progression of chords in an andante tempo that is not only a recapitulation of the variations themselves, but also a summation of Beethoven’s troubled yet spiritually triumphant life. The final resolution comes in the 72nd chord, a pianissimo C major.

In her diary Antonie Brentano speaks of "elective affinities." She says there exists between some fortunate people an immediate spiritual and emotional connection. They understand each other in an instant. Their lives contain related points of contact even before they knew each other. People and events evoke in them the same thoughts. Reflections about themselves bring them to similar convictions and conclusions that do not have to be verbalized.

The music, of course, speaks for itself.

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Is that a Neupert spinet (with the C# needing some regulation)? Certainly the Beethoven would not sound good on a single strung harpsichord (with no dynamic possibilities).

Looks Better Than It Sounds

I encountered this Neupert in a huge villa here in Forio that I was contemplating renting from some wealthy folks who live in Naples and other locations around the world. I was told that were I to take up residence there I must absolutely NOT touch this precious antique, so I photographed it thinking I might find some use for the image later. Now, you may be absolutely right. It likely looks a lot better than it sounds.

Re: Looks Better Than It Sounds

Vintage Neuperts are notorious for trouble and maintenance problems, and low sound quality. They were/are made in factories in Germany, and the aesthetics are that of the organ and piano (although they have moved more into the "historical" instrument movement over the years). They thought to improve on the old masters with 20th century mass production techniques, economies of scale, and know-it-all KNOW-HOW! That vertical graining on the name board is typical of the german factory school of harpsichord making, and bears little relationship to the 18th century examples. Still, it would be fun to give it a whirl, (with a technician standing by, of course, and a sound enhancement system). HERE are their latest spinet offerings; any of these (the Silbermann) look like you friends' instrument? Thanks for the pic by the way, and all your pics and writing. Yours is an interesting and vivid journal.

Re: Looks Better Than It Sounds

Many thanks for your comments and interest. Here's an image with a wider view. Up close it seemed to me to be unusually small and fragile (do I mean cheap???), whether it was an antique or a reproduction. It most resembles the third Silbermann pic, although the feet here are curved and the music stand is quite different. Unfortunately I have only two views of the instrument, which seems odd because my tendency is to overshoot any given subject. Oh, well.

You gave me the opportunity to write an entry about Beethoven, thank you. If you'd like to read it, go here or in your friends entries. You'll find some audio-files played by me (the Diabelli's valzer, too).

Re: Beethoven-Diabelli

Thank you! I'll comment on your Diabelli and get to the others later. Now my frame of reference consists of two performances on CDs, one by Stefan Vladar and the other by Daniel Barenboim. Yours has much more stacatto in the left hand than theirs, which seems to me to suggest more an emphasis on militarism (dare I say a Germanic trait?) than the Vladar and Barenboim, which seem more fluid. Which leads us to a contemplation of what might have been the composer's intent! The sheet music indicates stacatto...so I am leaning toward your interpretation!

Re: Beethoven-Diabelli

When you say that the sheet music indicates "staccato", that's right. But this isn't the reason you listen to my staccato more "militarist" than the others. My interpretation is linked to a technical reasoning about the historical period. Beethoven lived in the Neo-classical Era and it is normal I must not play his compositions like a Romantic player. This means that I'm more technician than romantic and my "staccato" is a mere "staccato" without a special expression. I know that Beethoven embraces a long period and it isn't right to say he is only Neo-Classical, but we must call a spade a spade: He didn't live in the Romantic period, and I think that we must interpret his music such as music of a Neo-Classical author. We are often influenced by the Romantic Culture.

Re: Beethoven-Diabelli

Amazing that such an interesting conversation would spring from mere dots below notes on a musical score!

I can't disagree with your historical analysis, but I have to smile when you say that you are a technician. I have watched you conduct, I have heard you play. What I see and hear is a Romantic at heart, which is borne out in that image of you I've posted.

If I may say, I see here a mighty struggle between Dionysus and Apollo, and in this particular (perhaps isolated?) instance the latter overcame the former!

Re: Beethoven-Diabelli


Re: Beethoven-Diabelli

Maestro, I hope in my attempt to be clever I have not offended you. It was not my intent...

Re: Beethoven-Diabelli

Don't worry, my friend. There isn't neither in the deep of my mind to think you may offend me. I hold you in high esteem and I always wait for your entries and comments with pleasure. When I said "Touché" I meant to say that you wrote right: I'm a romantic. But when I'm in front of a score of Beethoven I try to lose my romantic feeling. *smile*

Re: Beethoven-Diabelli

Yes, I have read your entry and have listened to your music and I have commented in your journal. I have to say: What a miracle of technology! This sort of interplay and conversation was not possible just a decade ago. What would we now do without it?

Re: Beethoven-Diabelli

Nothing. Now I can't live without Internet and Livejournal :)

"Reflections about themselves bring them to similar convictions and conclusions that do not have to be verbalized,
The music, of course, speaks for itself."

I experiment it every day.


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