hints, allegations and things left unsaid...
flickr | feed | latest | last 10 

Musings of a reclusive western classical connoisseur - II
The number of Beethoven's works might not be as enormous as that of Mozart's but getting your hands on all of them can still be a daunting task, more so in India where the number of western classical aficionados can probably be counted on your fingers. The relatively smaller scale of his works can be attributed to the fact that Beethoven spent a lot of time on each work (which I think is quite natural because most of his compositions are far more complex than that of Mozart's). It is said that he often used to roam around the country side with a sketch book and used to jot down all his ideas which he later strung into complete compositions. Then there was a period when he was coming to terms with his deafness and so composed little. This period of "silence" is most profound towards later years of his life when he moved from a state of partial deafness to that of a complete ("stone") deafness. Many scholars view this period as a period of gestation and churning for Beethoven, which allowed him to come out anew with a fresh style. All these factors add up to the fact that Beethoven composed only 137 numbered works (mostly numbered chronologically, each major work is termed an "opus"). A lot of these opuses are a collection of more than one (though related in style) work, for instance, opus 18 is a set of 6 string quartets. There are other works which were discovered after Beethoven's death and are given a WOO ("Wereke Ohne Opus", German for "Work Without Opus") number - for example the most maligned works of all times is, WOO 59, better known as Fur Elise (Bagatelle for Piano in A Minor). Which mobile phone, car reverse gear chime, door bell does not have the most unflattering monophonic rendition of it? (hence the use of word "maligned"). Without taking into account WOOs, (but counting all the works under the 137 opuses distinctly), I am chasing a list of 193 compositions.

I've always criticized Planet M for the state of disarray their western classical section is (at least here in Bangalore, and as far as I can remember, chaos ruled in Delhi as well). Though I now must also give them credit for at least having one (a dedicated western classical section i.e.). Most other shops, most notably two of them which were my primary source of western classical (Habitat at Church Street, and Music World at Brigade Road) have completely abandoned (or are in the process of abandoning) the genre. It is natural then, that each opus discovered is a source of immense pleasure, a pleasure that a child experiences on getting a new toy. Each CD added to my Beethoven collection is an eternal conquest of sorts. His symphonic works are easiest to find, then come his piano concertos and sonatas but its his chamber works that are most elusive. So when my eyes caught this CD of Op. 20 (Septet in E Flat Major) and Op. 11 (Piano Trio No. 4 in B Flat Major) I was delighted (price usually isn't the consideration but at Rs. 325 or so, it was a good deal as well!). I was at Planet M to pick up Rahman's latest soundtrack Tehzeeb, and I pay a visit to their western classical shelves as a matter of habit. The fortune Gods it seems were smiling on me on this occasion :-). (7 out of 10 times I come out empty handed, my disappointment usually accompanied by disgust at the total randomness of the way CDs are arranged and at quazi classical albums with titles like "Bedroom Bliss with Beethoven", which increasingly crowd the shelves, making trying to find a genuine western classical work even harder).

Op. 20 is extremely cheerful which I attribute to the wind ensemble playing together with the stings. The 3rd movement ("Thema di menuetto") is particularly cheerful and has this quality of looping in your mind. In fact, the 3rd movement feels more like a Josef Lenner Waltz (perhaps because of consummate use of wind ensemble) than a movement from Beethoven's septet work.

Op. 11 is a piano trio and starts where Op 1 no. 3 left. This work again is fluid and chirpy. The booklet which comes with the CD informs me that the trio is intended for a Clarinet, Piano and Cello and that a Clarinet may be substituted with a Violin. I was initially apprehensive about the use of Clarinet (I prefer strings to wind instruments, and the two of the piano trios that I've heard, use Violin) but the Clarinet now has grown over me and in fact brings a dreamy texture to the entire work. The piece has another special significance in that it was the last chamber work that Beethoven wrote for a wind instrument in combination with a piano and that it has three movements unlike, its predecessor piano trios, which had four. I would still like to hear the Violin version - which takes the total no. of works I now pursue to 194!

One of the greatest advantages of growing up in a country as culturally diverse and open as India is that you are exposed to varied and somewhat conflicting musical forms. Something that takes away the awkwardness in switching from Beethoven to A. R. Rahman within a matter of few minutes. So it would only be fair, that I spend some time mentioning Tehzeeb's music too. The album has seven tracks (track 8 is a repeat of track 2). Three of them are Ghazals, which means you would expect them to follow a particular (cliched) style of singing.. But then we are dealing with Mr. Rahman here and this is exactly where is talent comes in. I would usually wince at the mere mention of Ghazals, not on this count. There is a certain degree of freshness to the orchestral arrangement and the way which the Ghazals have been treated without deviating too much from the traditional style of rendition. The soul of a Ghazal is the accompanying poetic beauty and by that measure I find Track 5 "Mujhpe Toofan Uthaye" most soulful. It's a ghazal by renowned urdu poet Momin Khan Momin and here is the first couplet from it:

"Mujhpe Toofan Uthaye Logon Ne,
Muft Baithe Bithaye Logon Ne"

which roughly interprets to:

People raised storms at me,
Without any rhyme or reason

It has rained all evening in Bangalore, the atmosphere now is a lot lighter and a gentle breeze with a hint of chill crisscrosses my living room, bring in some music and you've invented heaven!
posted: 19.10.03

Post a Comment

Archives Blogroll

All material posted on this blog is copyrighted and may not be used in any form without the explicit permission of the author.