Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

TGIF! Boisterous Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev

1 Comment


Rock on, Ludwig!

The weekend is here, finally, and there is definitely a fun, Friday night vibe in the program of tonight’s free live webcast by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with pianist Ingrid Fliter (8 PM, GMT -4).

First up is Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 (“Classical”).  He said, “If Haydn had lived to our era, he would have retained his compositional style but would also have absorbed something from what was new.”1 So what we have is a classical era symphony with unmistakably modern harmonies and voicings (some way higher than Haydn would have dared,2 and 2-octave leaps!3). This symphony has been called “intentionally rude but wonderful fun” and a “joyous romp.”4  Sounds like a great Friday night symphony!

Next on the program is Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1.  Mendelssohn wrote it in 1831 after falling in love with a beautiful young pianist while traveling to Italy.5  It’s youthful, flashy music, and a delight to hear (and watch!).  The piano can’t wait to get the party started–it jumps right in before the orchestra can even state the first theme!6

The tempos of the movements tell the whole story: Molto allegro con fuoco [fiery!]; Andante (a sweet theme); Presto; Molto allegro e vivace [lively].  It’s a fun bit of music!

The concert will conclude with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, written in 1813.  The words used to describe this symphony sound more like rock than Beethoven:  “hard-driving,”7 “loud, ferocious outbursts alternating with soft, light responses,” and “raging demonic energy.”8 Wow!  Listen for the rhythm patterns that give the symphony that driving sound (heavy/light/light in movement 1 and long, short/short, long, long in movement 2).9

Can you imagine Beethoven conducting it?  Here’s a firsthand account by violinist Ludwig Spohr:

At this concert I first saw Beethoven conduct.  As often as I had heard about it, it still surprised me very much.  He was accustomed to convey the marks of expression to the orchestra by the most peculiar motions of his body.  Thus at a sforzando [strong accent] he tore his arms, which until then had been crossed on his breast, violently apart.  He crouched down at a piano [soft section], bending lower as the tone decreased.  At a crescendo [gradual increase in loudness] he raised himself by degrees until at the forte [loud section] he leapt to his full height; and often without being conscious of it, would shout aloud at the same time.10

Mosh pit Beethoven!

Even without the shouting, I’m sure it’s going to be a great concert, and I hope you’ll be there online.  If you can’t be there, DSO offers their DSO Replay program.

If you can’t make it, or if you can’t wait to hear this music, here are some performances to watch.

Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with pianist Ilya Yakushev

Prokofiev’s Symphony No 1, Valery Gergiev conducting

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Ivan Fischer



1, 2. Libbey, Ted, NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection.  NY: Workman Publishing, 1999 pp 129-130.

  1. Berger, Melvin, The Anchor Guide to Orchestral Masterpieces. NY: Anchor Books, 1995 pp 228-229.
  2. Libbey, Ted, Op. cit.

5, 6.  Berger, Melvin, Op. cit. p 180.

  1. Smith, Tim, NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Classical Music.  NY: Perigee Books, 2002 p 90.

8, 9, 10.  Berger, Melvin, Op. cit. pp 43-44.

Image attribution:  Try as I might, I could not find a source for this image, but thanks, Artist!  The sunglasses are mine though.


One thought on “TGIF! Boisterous Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev

  1. Way neat! Great program- lots of fun, exciting music. Thanks!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.