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Wagner’s middle stage output began with Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman, 1843), followed by Tannhäuser (1845) and Lohengrin (1850). These three operas are sometimes referred to as Wagner’s “romantic operas”.[154] They reinforced the reputation, among the public in Germany and beyond, that Wagner had begun to establish with Rienzi. Although distancing himself from the style of these operas from 1849 onwards, he nevertheless reworked both Der fliegende Holländer and Tannhäuser on several occasions.[n 14] These three operas are considered to represent a significant developmental stage in Wagner’s musical and operatic maturity as regards thematic handling, portrayal of emotions and orchestration.

In the vigorous finale, Tchaikovsky incorporates a famous Russian folk song, “In the Field Stood a Birch Tree”, as the secondary theme – firstly in A minor, the second time in B flat minor and then in D minor, which leads to the A-flat phrase of the first movement, with the ‘lightning bolts’, with cymbals added, being much louder. The coda is also vigorous and triumphant.

Perhaps the best reflection of these emotional extremes is the Second Movement, which he titled “Funeral March,” a powerful musical evocation of the massive state funerals then taking place in Paris.

The music suggests the thunder of drums and the roar of the crowd. In this movement, Beethoven explores grief, its public face and its intimate expression.

The oboe solo at the beginning is a personalized and interior expression of grief within a public ceremony. It’s a modern solo in that it has tremendous psychological dimension.

The music is evocative—we can almost see the funeral procession pass before us and ask, What really has died here? Perhaps it is part of Beethoven that is being mourned.

In the years before he wrote Eroica, Beethoven realized he was going deaf, and his initial reaction was terror and shame. He tried to keep it a secret. He couldn’t bear for anyone to know that he—a musician—was not able to hear.

But he came to realize that, as a musician, he could function perfectly well. What really scared him was being cut off from other people, losing the possibility of hearing intimate conversation.

What kind of strange, isolated, lonely, crazy individual was he in danger of becoming? That was the real terror.

As Beethoven’s personal crisis deepened in 1802, he took refuge in the village of Heiligenstadt. He hoped that the quiet of the countryside would bring relief to the distortions in his hearing. And he needed time to get himself together—to face the decision, literally, of whether to live or to die.

In Heiligenstadt, he wrote the most important document we have that reflects the turmoil in his life. The so-called Heiligenstadt Testament is a kind of last will, or possibly a suicide note.

It wasn’t meant to be read during his lifetime. But it reveals Beethoven’s state of mind just before he wrote Eroica. Somehow he found the strength to go on. In the works that follow the Heiligenstadt Testament, he inserted his humanity into the very fabric of the music.”

 

The second theme always gets me at 30:00.  Such struggle, fighting with inevitable fate, such majesty…  yeah.  There I go again. :>

We’ve look at Beethoven’s 6th before here on a Interlude Friday, but I wanted to highlight what I think is the section of the symphony that is most likely to get me killed while driving.  The last two parts in particular.

4. Thunderstorm, Storm: Allegro
5. Shepherds’ song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm: Allegretto

The storm in the 6th symphony builds from the violas outward, each new instrumental addition bringing more stress to the musical line ending in a shattering musical climax that simply begs to be air -conducted.  Try it, when you hear the timpani and brass swing the energy back and forth with the strings rising to meet them.  It’s awesome.  If you can make it to the Shepard’s song without incident you are golden.

All of this going on is not conducive to safe driving, so be warned. :)

 

Next week – Mozart’s Requiem and the parts that endanger my safe driving record.

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