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Presentations

Beethoven and the Musical Workshop of Prince Lobkowicz

Kathryn L. Libin, Vassar College
During a crucial period in Beethoven's career, as he created works that challenged conventions and re-imagined traditional genres, he received significant aid from an aristocratic source. Franz Joseph Maximilian, 7th Prince Lobkowicz, possessed a large palace with a splendid concert room in central Vienna, an ensemble of excellent house musicians, and the willingness to put all his resources at Beethoven's disposal. He was able to offer Beethoven the freedom to experiment, with experienced musicians, adequate rehearsal time, and an audience of connoisseurs who did not fear the new; in this workshop the Eroica Symphony and other symphonies, concertos, and chamber works found early hearings. Many of the orchestral parts used by players in those performances, often with Beethoven's own corrections, as well as account records and other documentary evidence, are preserved in the Library & Archives of The Lobkowicz Collections. In this discussion we will consider what these valuable artifacts tell us, and what they reveal about the dedicated circle of musicians and listeners who helped Beethoven bring his music to life.

This session marks the first collaboration in a multi-year partnership with the House of Lobkowicz

 

Inside the Hearing Machine

A Documentary Film by Steven Maes (Belgium, 2017)
What if Beethoven’s inspiration and physical struggle are not at odds with one another, but in fact inextricably linked? In 1818, Beethoven received a Broadwood piano. He remained attached to it until the end of his life, through the years that coincided with progressive and profound hearing loss. In 1820, a solution came in the form of a gigantic Gehörmaschine, commissioned from the piano builder André Stein, who in turn enlisted the skills of a local tinsmith. Two centuries after Beethoven’s new English piano arrived in Vienna, pianist and artistic researcher Tom Beghin surrounded himself with a team of specialists to reconstruct this Hearing Machine: Beethoven’s private multi-sensory laboratory. In this 54-minute documentary film, the team explains how Beethoven “deafly composed” at his English piano—hearing, seeing, and mostly feeling the vibrations of his beloved instrument. After the screening there will be an opportunity for Q & A with Tom Beghin.

 

Beethoven’s French Piano: A Tale of Ambition and Frustration

Tom Beghin, Orpheus Institute (Ghent, Belgium)
Of the three extant “Beethoven pianos,” the 1803 Erard Frères piano en forme de clavecin in the Oberösterreichisches Museum in Linz has been the least known and studied. “It was an unsolicited gift, and Beethoven was never happy with it,” is the typical line of dismissal in the literature. But Beethoven had plans in 1803 to relocate to Paris; moreover, this claveciniste à Vienne in fact ordered a French piano. What were its influences? At the Orpheus Institute in Ghent, Belgium, Tom Beghin has led a team to study Beethoven & his Erard from a variety of perspectives: organological, socio-cultural, acoustical, and compositional-pianistic. These explorations have direct relevance to his Piano Sonatas Op. 53, 54, and 57. That Beethoven had the piano modified to match some of his habits and instincts (a process we have called “viennicization”) adds a complex layer to Beethoven’s French love affair.

 

Beethoven’s Music and the Emerging Viennese Popular Style

Erica Buurman, Director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University and editor of The Beethoven Journal
By the time Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was premiered in 1824, Johann Strauss Sr. was already performing in Vienna’s suburban dance halls. Although Beethoven’s music is not usually associated with the age of the Viennese waltz, the music of the ballroom held a long fascination for him, as evidenced by works including the Third Symphony, the “Diabelli” Variations, and the late string quartets.

 

Resonances: The Afterlife of Opus 131

Megan Ross, College of the Holy Cross
Opus 131 is the most influential "late" string quartet composed by Beethoven, and by extension, arguably the most influential string quartet of all time, based on its reception by other artists in a variety of fields. In comparison to other quartets, this one wielded the greatest influence not only in music, but also film, literature, works for the stage, and painting. In this presentation, Professor Ross examines why and how this quartet's influence grew from 1827 up to the present and how these artistic responses to the paradigmatic late quartet fit within a larger search for coherence in Beethoven's late style in general.

 

Decoding the Manuscripts: Expressive Markings in Beethoven

Nicholas Kitchen and the
Read the manuscripts of Beethoven's string quartets, symphonies, the Missa Solemnis, the "Diabelli" variations, the "Emperor" concerto, the violin concerto, the bagatelles, the violin or cello sonatas, most of the solo piano sonatas and piano trios—essentially all the major works Beethoven composed after 1802—and you will find different expressive markings than musicians see in commercially published scores. Nineteen dynamics instead of nine, four types of detached notes instead of one or two, and two types of expressive swells instead of one. These marks, by Beethoven’s hand, seem to suggest a more nuanced topography of expression. In this discussion, examine excerpts from the manuscripts of the String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, op. 132 (“Heiliger Dankgesang”) and the Grosse Fugue, op. 133 as the Borromeo String Quartet performs these works, while first violinist Nicholas Kitchen explores how these expressive marks guide the quartet in their "singing" of the score.

 

Tom Beghin, a leading fortepianist and artistic researcher, has been praised for his eloquence and originality. With classicist Sander Goldberg he coedited Haydn and the Performance of Rhetoric, winner of the 2009 American Musicological Society Ruth A. Solie Award. His monograph The Virtual Haydn: Paradox of a Twenty-First-Century Keyboardist (University of Chicago Press, 2015) followed his monumental recording of the complete solo Haydn (Naxos 2009/2011). The year 2017 saw the birth of Inside the Hearing Machine, an amalgam of publications on Beethoven’s late piano sonatas and the perspective of deafness. An alumnus of the historically informed performance doctoral program at Cornell University, Tom first taught at UCLA and since 2003 has been associate professor at McGill University. He currently is a senior researcher and principal investigator of a research cluster at the Orpheus Institute in Ghent, Belgium, titled Declassifying the Classics, which focuses on the intersections of historical technologies and performance.

 

Erica Buurman is Director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies and Assistant Professor of Music at San Jose State University. She completed her doctoral studies at the University of Manchester in the UK in 2013, with a dissertation on Beethoven’s preliminary sketches for multi-movement instrumental works. From 2013 to 2019, she was on the music faculty at Canterbury Christ Church University (UK). She is editor of the Beethoven Journal, and her publications include chapters in the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to the Eroica Symphony and Beethoven in Context. She is currently writing a book about social dance music in Beethoven’s Vienna.

 

Ruth Carter’s unparalleled ability to develop an authentic story through costume and character has made her one of the most sought after and renowned costume designers today. She is the 2019 Academy Award winner for “Best Costume Design” for her work on BLACK PANTHER, making history as the first African American to win in that category. She has also garnered two additional Academy Award nominations for Spike Lee’s MALCOM X (1993) and Steven Spielberg’s AMISTAD (1998) as well as an Emmy nomination in 2016 for the reboot of ROOTS. She has worked in the industry for over three decades and has been credited with over forty films and counting, collaborating with Spike Lee on over ten films beginning with SCHOOL DAZE and including DO THE RIGHT THING, MALCOLM X, and OLD BOY. Carter is known for her research and diligence to the craft of costume design, specifically for her outstanding work for period ensemble films such as the highly praised Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER, Ava Duvernay’s SELMA and MARSHALL, directed by Reginald Hudlin. Carter’s work can be seen in the Netflix film, DOLEMITE IS MY NAME, starring Eddie Murphy and directed by Craig Brewer. This Summer, Carter began production on Paramount's highly-anticipated COMING 2 AMERICA, also directed by Craig Brewer and starring Eddie Murphy. In 2019, Carter received the "Career Achievement Award" and "Excellence in Sci-fi/Fantasy Film" from the Costume Designers Guild and the Critics’ Choice Award for "Best Costume Design” for BLACK PANTHER, among numerous other honors.

 

Nicholas Kitchen is one of the most active and innovative performers in the music world today. He is a solo violinist, chamber musician, teacher, video artist, technology innovator and arts administrator. Kitchen has performed an extensive range of repertoire, giving cycle performances of all six Bach Solo violin works, all the Beethoven violin sonatas, all the Beethoven Quartets, all of the Bartók Quartets and all of the Shostakovich Quartets. He has also been involved in the creation of many new works, including a premiere of the violin concerto by Stephen Jaffe, which was written for him. Kitchen is also a member of Music from the Copland House which endeavors to continues the legacy of Aaron Copland by encouraging constant exploration of contemporary music in America. He is the first violinist of the Borromeo String Quartet.

 

Each performance of the award-winning Borromeo String Quartet strengthens and deepens its reputation as one of the most important ensembles of our time. Admired and sought after for both its fresh interpretations of the classical music canon and its championing of works by 20th and 21st century composers, the ensemble has been hailed for its “edge-of-the-seat performances,” by the Boston Globe, which called it “simply the best.” “Nothing less than masterful” (Cleveland.com), the Borromeo Quartet has received numerous awards throughout its illustrious career, including Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Career Grant and Martin E. Segal Award, and Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award. It was also a recipient of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and top prizes at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France. The members of the Borromeo String Quartet are Nicholas Kitchen and Kristopher Tong, violin; Mai Motobuchi, viola; and Yeesun Kim, cello.

 

Kathryn L. Libin is Associate Professor of Music at Vassar College, and Music Advisor to The Lobkowicz Collections. For the past six years, she has led a project to catalogue the Lobkowicz Music Archive, and recently published The Lobkowicz Collections Music Series: Highlights (Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, 2019). Currently, she is producing a second volume for this series, on Beethoven sources in the collection, as well as working on a biography of the 7th Prince Lobkowicz. Dr. Libin received performance degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory and New York University, and a PhD in musicology from NYU. In 2017, she was Scholar-in-Residence for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Mozart Festival. She has served as chair of Vassar's music department, as well as president of the Mozart Society of America and the American Musical Instrument Society, and has also lectured and published on Jane Austen and music.

 

Megan Ross is originally from East Northport, NY and holds a B.A. in Music from the College of the Holy Cross, M.M in Musicology from Boston University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Much of her research has focused on the critical and artistic receptions of Beethoven’s so-called “late” style, from the 1820s to the present day, including the influence his music has exerted in film and the visual arts. Her research and teaching interests also include the development of the fields of musicology and criticism, disability studies, intersections between music and politics, hip-hop, and DJ culture.