Beethoven - Made in the Rhineland, part four | Music | DW | 05.07.2019
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Beethoven - Made in the Rhineland, part four

What made Beethoven Beethoven? We'll conclude our exploration of that composer's early years in the Rhineland. 

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Made in the Rheinland, part four

The son of a singer. The grandson of an orchestra director. Vice organist. Pianist befriended by nobility. Violist in the theater orchestra. Could there be any better conditions for a promising music career? Ludwig van Beethoven was indeed "made in the Rhineland."

The musical environment he enjoyed as a youth had a lot to do with music lover Maximilian Franz, the prince-elector and archbishop of Cologne, who resided in Bonn. As Beethoven's teacher Christian Gottlob Neefe wrote: "Like many of his equals, the prince elector is a friend of the stage and of music. He has the newest and best opera scores. In the afternoons, after finishing the affairs of state, he amuses himself with them, singing the arias himself, accompanied by his musicians." Those musicians included the young Beethoven.  

Maximilian Franz of Hapsburg-Lorraine (gemeinfrei)

Maximilian Franz of Hapsburg-Lorraine (1756-1801)

One of the performers this hour has been a major figure in historically-oriented performance practice for some time. It's a discipline that, as Christine Schornsheim explained to DW, is is now possibly being taken for granted: "Historical performance practice is about reading between the lines," she said. "And for that, it's better to have the original score. Young people studying early music nowadays don't do it enough. It's easier just to click through the internet. That sense of exploration is gone, which is sad. Now I'm sounding like an old lady saying: 'Everything used to be better.' That's nonsense of course. But I'd advise anyone not to take the easy road."

Sketch of Bonn around the year 1790 (picture-alliance/akg-images)

Bonn around the year 1790

Would it be possible to ever rise above the moniker, "Beethoven's teacher?" Christine Schornsheim, describing her first encounter with a piano piece by Beethoven's teacher Christian Gottlob Neefe, suggests it is:

"When you look at the notes for the first time, it's always interesting to see the effect they have: Does the music engage me? Does it make me curious, or do I feel like I have to look for something nice? That's how it was this time. I didn't think that the main theme was all that wonderful. But it's very interesting to see what Neefe does with it. He uses a lot of wit and humor. You can really hear that Beethoven took lessons from Neefe. All kinds of pranks: playing with hands crossed at the keyboard, or tucking the theme away in the lower notes. Neefe was actually a wonderful teacher, and it's clear where Beethoven learned these things."

Apart from a piano piece by Neefe, this hour of music also includes a piano quartet from Beethoven's younger years in Bonn. 

Ludwig van Beethoven (attrib.)
Sonata in B-flat Major, 2nd and 3rd movements 

performed by:
Christoph Huntgeburth, flute
Christine Schornsheim, fortepiano
on KammerTon op. 1/96

Antonio Salieri
Overture to the comic opera La scuola de' Gelosi (The School of the Jealous)

Christian Gottlob Neefe
Piano variations on an aria from Das rote Käppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) by Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf

Ludwig van Beethoven 
Piano quartet in C Major, WoO 36, No. 3

performed by:
Verena Fischer, flute
Elisabeth Weber, violin
Petar Mancev, violin  
Priscila Rodriguez-Cabaleiro, viola
Linda Mantcheva, cello 
Christine Schornsheim, fortepiano
Recorded by Radio Deutschlandfunk (DLF) in the Little Beethoven Hall, Bonn on September 4, 2018

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