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March 3, 2012 9:43 PM   Subscribe

A Chronological Survey of the Opening Chords of Beethoven's 'Eroica".

Via. Originally via The Wrens facebook page, if you can believe that.

PS new Wrens' album on the way! Large woot!
posted by unSane (30 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
OK, so Chicago's recording engineers know what the hell's going on, and have since the '50s.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:57 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, Chicago Symphony 1989 FTW!

PS this is wicked cool.
posted by grog at 10:17 PM on March 3, 2012


Ass version.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:25 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


What scares me is the likelihood we'll soon hear The Skrillex Mix of this...
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 10:27 PM on March 3, 2012


What scares me is that I read that as Beethoven Erotica at first. *shudder*
posted by maryr at 10:39 PM on March 3, 2012


Originally via The Wrens facebook page, if you can believe that.

Or, if you can't believe that, The Huffington Post, almost a week earlier.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:40 PM on March 3, 2012


What scares me is the likelihood we'll soon hear The Skrillex Mix of this...

Close enough?
posted by empath at 10:42 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh god, the Ass version Burhanistan linked pretty much made my comment come true.
posted by maryr at 10:44 PM on March 3, 2012


This is a nice demonstration of the influence conductors have on the sounding music--not just the pacing, but notice the different weights, lengths, shapes, balances, etc. in each example. Very different sounds from the same notation.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:47 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


(also, I posted this on my site a few days before HuffPo...do I win anything?)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:50 PM on March 3, 2012


I feel like I found that to be way more interesting than I should have, but also that that's a good thing.
posted by kilo hertz at 10:58 PM on March 3, 2012


Eventually, it stops sounding like music. The string section just sounds like bows being drawn across strings, which it what it is, but you don't notice that when it's music.
posted by BiggerJ at 10:59 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


james levine for the win!
posted by facetious at 11:31 PM on March 3, 2012


Wow. I love this. So much subtle difference in attack and voicing and all sortsa things.

I also like how you notice who doesn't use A=440 Hz. I presume the Academy of St Martin in the Fields is doing its old school baroque pitch thing. When did 440 Hz become standard?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:29 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]



This is a nice demonstration of the influence conductors have on the sounding music--not just the pacing, but notice the different weights, lengths, shapes, balances, etc. in each example. Very different sounds from the same notation.


I felt like there were differences in pitch as well, but i'm wondering how much of that had to do with the source material/recording, and how much of that was the original instruments..
posted by dubold at 12:30 AM on March 4, 2012


I decided to answer my own question. My goodness, the Wikipedia article on concert pitch is extensive.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:32 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Think I found my new ringtone!

As an utter lay-person it was really interesting how different they all sounded, and the comments here are helping me understand why. Thanks for this!
posted by Iteki at 1:46 AM on March 4, 2012


Did anyone else notice a cyclical pattern to the pitch?
posted by odinsdream at 6:17 AM on March 4, 2012


Broadly, pitch has been rising over the past two centuries--many orchestras now tune to A=442. The period instrument recordings (like those conducted by Gardiner, Hogwood, or Harnoncourt) are a whole half-step lower than modern instruments.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:33 AM on March 4, 2012


Ths is great! I can't hear it, though, without thinking of the lyrics my high school orchestra conductor taught us:
The Eroica goes "Dun! Dun! Where's the third one? Where is the third loud chord?"

And, in case you're interested, The Pastoral is: "This country air from the sticks is Mister B's number six..."
posted by albrecht at 9:08 AM on March 4, 2012


Fascinating. You can tell a lot from two chords; these range from the ponderous/somnolent (Furtwängler) to the get-through-it-before-people-get-bored (too many of the recent ones). I continue to be astonished by Toscanini, who first revealed to me the greatness of the Beethoven symphonies forty years ago; the crispness of attack and the pause before the second chord, just enough to grab and hold your attention, are exemplary, and the conductors I like who came afterwards had clearly absorbed the lesson he taught.
posted by languagehat at 9:33 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if one could take two or three loops of dun duns and play them against each other for a Steve Reich version. I mean, of course one could, but would it be worth the effort?

I very much enjoyed the film Eroica, about the first performance of the symphony (first part here - the other parts are available).
posted by Grangousier at 9:49 AM on March 4, 2012


I can't hear it, though, without thinking of the lyrics my high school orchestra conductor taught us: The Eroica goes "Dun! Dun! Where's the third one? Where is the third loud chord?"

Among musicians who have been playing in orchestras for a while, the lyrics after the chords are "Oh, my word / It's Beethoven's Third / AGAIN".
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:05 AM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if anyone outside of early music groups uses A of less than 440hz? The only band I can think of who did this was Bruce Hampton and Aquarium Rescue Unit, because he thought it made them more connected to the pyramids or something.
posted by thelonius at 10:36 AM on March 4, 2012


to the get-through-it-before-people-get-bored (too many of the recent ones).

....actually, those are mostly conductors finally following Beethoven's tempo marking (especially since it has been ascertained that Maelzel's prototype metronomes were in fact quite accurate, so LvB very very likely meant those very brisk markings). His marking at the start of the first movement is dotted half = 60 bpm, which is much more brisk than it has historically been played. Most of the 'classic' recordings slog along around 44-48 bpm, ugh.

(For the detail-minded: this symphony was completed in 1804 and Maelzel invented--sort of--his metronome in 1816. Ludwig and Johann were friends and they collaborated and presented concerts around 1813 with Maelzel's musical automatons as features between works, etc., so LvB was well-positioned to receive an early prototype of the invention. Beethoven added the metronome markings in a published supplement to the score in 1817, and all metronome markings were included in the first published full score of 1821. Owing to an erroneous belief that his metronome must have been faulty because he simply could not have meant markings as fast as they often are, conductors until about 20 years ago or so mostly just ignored Beethoven's tempo markings and played his faster symphonic movements ponderously slowly. Thankfully this practice is nearly ended, and most conductors pay attention to what's on the page these days.)

(OK, full-on, mega-nerd supplement: here is a listing of Beethoven's tempo markings for some of his major works--compare them to your favorite recordings for fun and shock!)

(and I would be remiss if I didn't recommend my all-time favorite--YMMV--cycle of the symphonies, John Eliot Gardiner and the ORR, which is apparently now available for under $20, unbelievable. Buy this now if you love this music. If you don't like period instrument recordings, a really terrific new cycle conducted by Riccardo Chailly--with an orchestra that played these symphonies under the baton of Felix Mendelssohn--also is very faithful to Beethoven's metronome markings.)
posted by LooseFilter at 11:00 AM on March 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


> actually, those are mostly conductors finally following Beethoven's tempo marking

Huh. OK, I'll take your word for it, since you clearly know what you're talking about, but I'll continue to prefer Toscanini's tempos, because that's how my taste was formed. But thanks for the edumacation!
posted by languagehat at 11:52 AM on March 4, 2012


This is cool, but I'm more psyched about a new album from The Wrens.
posted by defenestration at 12:22 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was fascinating! Also caused me to throw my Leonard Bernstein/NY Philharmonic (from '73?) on the turntable for comparison.
posted by medeine at 12:23 PM on March 4, 2012


As I was listening, ll I could think was "needs Autotune!"
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:09 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This sent me looking for Eric Grunin's wonderful Eroica Project site, which alas has disappeared. Here's the last crawl at archive.org.

If you'd like to read about the symphony and many of the performances sampled in the original YouTube link, check this page by Peter Gutmann. A relevant excerpt:
An immediate challenge for conductors is presented with the first two notes. The score gives no indication that they should be played other than in tempo with the rest of the movement. Yet, they do serve a special function and, as documented by Grunin, the vast majority of conductors slow them down as much as 60%, so as to magnify their feeling of weight and authority. Ironically, the most extreme instances are from such literalists as Toscanini, Reiner and Ansermet. Most conductors decelerate the notes only slightly, and only a few accelerate the opening chords, as if to lend them added urgency, but rarely by more than 10%, so the impact is barely noticeable. Grunin notes that a disproportionate majority of the extremists are non-German.
FWIW, I love the Gardiner/ORR recording. The Zinman/Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich recording includes the recent "corrections" (or the removal of earlier "corrections," depending upon your viewpoint), but is played on modern instruments.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:15 PM on March 4, 2012


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