Friday, February 22, 2013 by Tim Webb
You should always listen to WNYC's Radiolab for its amazing use of sound design to explore science, but you should definitely listen to this week's podcast! Speedy Beat considers the tempo Beethoven indicated his Symphonies should be played at, which most people ignore when playing them.
My parents dragged me out to a lot of Classical concerts and ballets. At the time I did not appreciate this, but that's one of the reasons I'm classy as fuck today.
I've always been impressed with the epic scope in Beethoven's work, but a lot of it is just too slow and boring. It turns out this is exactly the sort of thing Beethoven wanted to avoid when he retconned his first 8 with fast tempos!
Beethoven's supposed to sound more like PsyTrance than Eine kleine Nachtmusik. Think about it, if you're in the early 1800s and you're going to see Beethoven, you want something moving! Life was boring. Beethoven didn't want you drifting off to sleep, he wanted you to feel alive and experience his drama!
Radiolab takes a look at why we've only ever heard Beethoven played wrong, and then they get some pros to play it right.
The reason I wanted to share this with you today is what happens when they go beyond that. Once you hire a quartet for the hour you might as well abuse them, so they push the limits and get them playing the Fifth at 160 BPM! It sounds amazing. Seriously, if you listen to nothing else, scrub up to 16:00 and hear that. The vibrancy inspires a picture in my mind of a sweaty, disheveled, conductor gesticulating at and on the edge of madness; struggling, and successfully keeping it together.
This is Beethoven alive! Stop mourning him. Instead of making his music sound like a funerary dirge, make him come alive.