All tagged Symphonies & Orchestral Music

What is the best way to exact revenge on a woman whose very existence torments you with pangs of jealous obsession? a) Be a creep and put compromising pictures of her on the internet. b) Pull an “O.J.” c) Keep a stiff upper lip and show that you can handle yourself with dignity; show her who’s the adult. d) Compose one of the greatest and most original symphonies in history.
This may come as a shock to the uninitiated, but conductors alter orchestration all the time, and not just in Schumann. Yes, in Beethoven and Schubert as well, if not usually in Mozart and Mendelssohn. Just go to a rehearsal. In no time you’ll see a conductor ask a clarinet to double a passage for bassoons and horns, or divide the double basses so only half play a scampering figure, or tell the flute to play something an octave lower…
How did Beethoven’s successors respond to his overwhelming prestige, to his inescapable influence? Mendelssohn’s three great Beethoven glosses (Piano Sonata in E Major, op. 6, String Quartets Opp. 12 and 13) are early works. Mendelssohn appears to be more concerned with Bach, Handel and Mozart in most of his latter works, maybe because Beethoven seemed like too big an elephant in the room to the mature Mendelssohn. Is it coincidence that Mendelssohn’s two indisputably great symphonies are placed outside of the Germanic (Beethovenian) orbit, in Scotland and Italy? Is the “Lobegesang” weakened because Mendelssohn is Handelian grandiose, perhaps, but not Beethovenian grandiose?
Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 13, written at the age of 18, and his String Quartet in E-flat, Op. 12, written at the age of 20, are at once the most knowlegeable glosses on Beethoven in existence and yet at the same time deeply original works. Beethoven’s late style was not exactly terra incognita for the early romantics, but middle period works, especially the Fifth Symphony, exerted much more influence, generally. Mendelssohn is the exception. As he comments himself, “You don’t have to start at the beginning…”. Early Mendelssohn bends back only a year or two to embrace late Beethoven. These quartets are from 1827 and 1829, and therefore can properly be regarded as a sort of continuation of late Beethoven rather than works with a retrospective orientation. Consider a wildly different repertory that looks back to late Beethoven, the Rochberg quartets, especially the “Beethoven” movement in the Third, and you will understand the difference between the creator and the curator.