Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Mozart vs. Beethoven cage fight

Who says classical music is boring?

I mean, a bassoon looks like a cross between a bazooka and a mortar, for cryin' out loud!

I had the privilege to watch the London Conchord Ensemble in concert last night at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Wow, what a great show! Special thanks to the random lady who gave me a ticket to get in!

The program consisted of Mozart's Quintet in E-flat major, K. 452 for piano and winds,
Poulenc's Sonata for flute and piano, Bridge's Divertimenti for flute, oboe, clarinet, and basson, and finally, Beethoven's Quintet in E-flat major, op. 16, for piano and winds.

Notice that it started with a Mozart quintet, and ended with a Beethoven quintet. Reading the program, and I'm paraphrasing, I've got this:

Tonight on Classical Cage Fights! "The Wolf" wrote a quintet for woodwinds. Kings said these instruments were too loud, so The Wolf said he'd ease the bringing more! He dropped a PIANO in the mix! Arrrrrr!

Facing The Wolf, Stone Deaf Ludwig said he had it with always living in the shadow. He was going to write a piece using exactly the same format, exactly the same instruments, and even the same KEY. He'd shoot the Wolf from the sky like Sarah Palin hunting from a helicopter! And he's got a special message for all the haters - boo louder, 'cause he STILL can't hear you.

Don't miss it - on Classical Cage Fights!

The actual text said: "While at this point Beethoven's style still conformed to the Classical traditions established by Mozart, Haydin, and their contemporaries, evidence suggest that he was nevertheless striving to define his own musical abilities and expressive language by creating works in a wide range of compositional genres. The unusual instrumentation of the Quintet is identical to that used by Mozart in his own Quintet for winds, composed twelve years before, indicating that Beethoven wished to emulate (or surpass) Mozart's own essay in the genre.

Same difference, basically.

And Beethoven CRUSHED him! Wow! Mozart was all uptight and like "oh, I hope I don't step in a puddle with my fancy ballerina shoes." And Beethoven was like "BOOM! I'm the thunder, fool, and I'm gonna rain all over this parade!"

The musicians were most gracious and skilled. I have to wonder what they thought of us crazy Americans, though. Across the street, the lights in the Capitol burned late into the night as the very real possibility of a government shutdown loomed. To add insult to injury, as the oboe player was explaining a piece, instead of everyone just listening a little closer, some lady in the back has to yell "TALK LOUDER!"

At least she didn't request Freebird.

- Josh

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