Two Hundred Years of Woodwinds #3
This 1959 series features members of The Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet, made up of flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, and bassoon. The musicians play a piece, then break it down in order to show how their instruments evoke certain images through music. They also explain the history of the instruments and how they were grouped - eventually culminating in the modern day quintet.
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Tony: This might be called a Viennese jam session.
Our group doesn't look quite like
these 200-year-old Dresden figurines you see,
but we're going to play a septet for the same instruments.
If you look closely, you will see
that there are four strings and three winds.
This combination was the outgrowth
of a very popular form of music making
called the divertimento.
These musical diversions
were intended to be performed in the open air,
perhaps in a palace garden,
where they serve purely
as background music for social functions.
This type of music was especially popular
Tony, you remember when we were in Vienna
with the Philadelphia Orchestra?
The incredible amount of musical activity
that took place there?
It seems that every street and every house
had some special significance --
the statues and the markers all commemorating
some famous Viennese musician or composer.
Vienna was the musical crossroads of the world
in those days, and every instrumentalist
and composer of any value made his way to Vienna
to seek his fortune.
The princes and the noblemen, the rich people there,
they maintain very fine establishments
where they put on concerts,
and not only chamber music concerts
but entire symphony concerts.
It was just incredible.
And this Viennese public,
how they clamored for the latest pieces,
and they insisted on having the composer present.
They wouldn't settle for a repertoire
or old music like they do today.
It was no wonder that Beethoven decided to leave Bonn
and seek his fortune in Vienna
and compete with Haydn and Mozart in 1792.
But you know, Sol, Beethoven really had quite a time,
quite a struggle
making his living at music in Vienna.
He had to give piano lessons,
do all sorts of musical jobs,
and another way of making money
was by dedicating his compositions
to members of the nobility
or other people with money.
These dedications were usually very florid
and effervescent in their style,
and today's composition -- the Beethoven septet,
is a case in point.
This was dedicated to the Empress Maria Theresa.
Now, the first public performance
of the Beethoven septet
was at a concert at the Burgtheater in Vienna
On the program, there was also listed
a Mozart symphony,
a Beethoven piano concerto
with a composer playing,
improvisations by Beethoven,
some arias from "The Creation,"
and Beethoven's first symphony --
quite a long evening.
But we are sure that they probably had
a wonderful buffet there
from which the musicians and the audience
could gain some pleasure.
Now, this septet was a huge success,
and it became very popular.
Many, many transcriptions were made of it.
Beethoven himself transcribed it for piano trio.
This was for a doctor friend of his,
an amateur musician.
As per custom in those days,
the manuscript was given to the doctor.
It was his sole possession
for the period of one year.
Beethoven also recommended to transcribe the piece
to include flute.
Flutists were bugging him for music,
and he wrote his publisher Hoffmeister,
saying, "If only you would transcribe this for flute,
perhaps a quintet, why,
the flutists would swarm about this
like hungry insects.
This composition is a fine example
of the mature development
of the divertimento form.
This form could include as many as 10 movements.
In Beethoven's septet,
there are six movements.
There's a theme and variations and a scherzo
in addition to the usual four.
Now, today, we will perform
the theme and variations -- the fourth movement.
We are very pleased to have with us
some of our colleagues from the Philadelphia Orchestra
to help us out in the septet,
and I'm gonna call upon David Madison, violinist,
to give us the theme.
This theme is a folk song
from the Rhineland region
near Bonn where Beethoven was born.
Our violist, Carlton Cooley,
plays a syncopated version of this theme
in the first variation.
Harry Gorodetzer, our cellist,
imitates this same variation
also in the first part.
Our double bass player, Roger Scott,
plays a fragment of this theme later on in the composition,
But this is in a soft, minor,
Now, in the second variation,
the violin carries on sort of a flirtation
with the woodwind instruments.
The woodwinds come into their own
in the third variation, where they play a game of tag.
Well, this game of tag creates such a rumpus
that it seems to wake up the French horn
from his long slumber,
and he plays a rather mournful melody,
the soft accompaniment
in the footsteps of the bass and the cello
and the agitated nervous accompaniment of the violin,
this time in a minor key.
This takes us to the fifth variation,
which is a serene, smooth,
soft version of the theme
played mostly by the strings.
This goes directly into the coda, or the end,
where there is introduced new material
in the woodwinds -- a little march-like theme
over the steady accompaniment of the strings.
This builds up to a fortissimo climax,
there is a cutoff, silence,
and we hear this mysterious minor mode
in the low instruments --
the double bass, cello, and viola.
This fades out to practically nothing
and then Beethoven steps in
and gives us two final chords as if to say,
We think this is a masterpiece of the variation form.
It shows the great variety
within small bounds.
Gentlemen, let's tune up and give a complete performance
of the theme and variations.
[ Instruments tuning ]
What wonderful music.
Theme and variations from the septet by Beethoven
for three winds and four strings.
Really a great example of the chamber music
in the period that we're discussing today.
The period when winds began to be included
in chamber groups
along with the stringed instruments.
In our last program,
we discussed a period when wind instruments
were used almost exclusively out-of-doors.
That is very much like our bands of today.
Then refinements in the instruments and players
also led to the time
when these composers used these wind instruments
a little bit moreindoors with chamber groups.
And when real giants like Beethoven
took over the job,
why, our position with chamber music
was really firmly established.
Speaking of giants,
Brahms once said when he was referring to Beethoven,
"It makes the likes of us uneasy
when we hear the tramp of a giant behind us."
But I should hasten to say that we are not composers.
We're woodwind players,
and we don't feel at all uneasy in the company of these giants.
On the contrary, we delight to be in their company
because these men knew our instruments intimately
and knew how to use them
to their maximum advantage
just as in this Beethoven septet that you have just heard.
This Beethoven septet, John, reminds me
of one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Back in 1943,
we were just organizing the pension foundation
of the Philadelphia Orchestra,
and the men in the orchestra asked me
if I couldn't get Maestro Toscanini to come
and conduct a concert for our benefit.
Well, I went up to New York, to the NBC
where Toscanini was conducting in those days,
and I prevailed on the maestro to come down and do this.
He was very gracious about it,
and he said he would be delighted.
And when I asked them what the program would be,
he suggested an all-Beethoven program
and the Beethoven septet Opus 20.
This seemed a little strange to me,
but when the maestro explained that as a student in Parma,
he saved money from his lunch allowance.
And with this money, he purchased
the first score he ever owned -- this Beethoven septet.
It was something special and precious to him.
Well, I tell you, anybody who was at that concert
will never forget it because it was a memorable performance.
Well I certainly envy you an experience like that, Sol.
Well, you know, if Brahms was uneasy
when thinking of Beethoven,
I wonder how Beethoven felt
when he thought about Mozart.
Mozart is the composer
of the next composition that we're going to play.
That is the oboe quartet
for oboe, violin,
viola, and cello.
I'm quite sure that most musicians will agree,
and I'm sure that all oboe players will agree,
that this is really the great masterwork for oboe
in the chamber music repertoire.
It was written by Mozart in 1781
expressly for Frederick Ram,
who was the great virtuoso oboe player
in the equally great Mannheim orchestra of that day.
Mozart had been to Mannheim, travelling,
and he'd heard this wonderful oboe player.
He was so impressed that he wrote this quartet
and other works for him
over a period of years.
One of the great tragedies in music is that this quartet
is the only one of those works that was not lost
and so it's the only one
that we're able to play for you at this time.
Tell me something, John. Is this the instrument
which was used in those days?
Yes, it is. It was the instrument
which was generally played throughout Europe
in the 18th century
and probably was the instrument
that Ram used to play this very work.
It's incredible that he could've played
such a difficult work on an instrument
which really is almost devoid of keys.
There's just these two keys and a few holes.
Well, I would agree with you, but you know,
it just shows you how important a point of view is
because it's very interesting.
There is in a collection of old letters --
that's one of the instrument makers in Europe --
a letter from one of the prominent oboe players
of the day,
acknowledging the receipt of a new oboe
from this instrument maker.
And instead of it being like this,
this instrument maker had added five or six new keys,
thinking that he'd facilitate the playing of the thing.
And this oboe player was very indignant about it
and very outspoken,
and he said he thought it was ridiculous... [ Chuckling ]
...and how can anybody play with all these obstacles,
and the keys he's got in the way of his fingers,
and it was just, as far as he was concerned,
a complete failure. [ Chuckling ]
Well, sometimes I feel the same way about mine.
[ Laughter ]
Well, I'd be afraid to count the keys on this one because --
That's quite a few. Yes, that's right.
Well, look, I'm going to go out
and get ready to play this quartet for you.
So you just carry on without me. Excuse me.
This is the score to the Mozart oboe quartet.
John certainly went through a lot of trouble
to get the original score from Paris.
It's certainly neatly written -- Mozart's writing.
It's a beautiful manuscript.
I must say that he's certainly very fortunate
to be able to obtain an original manuscript of the work
because, you know... [ Instruments tuning ]
...the manuscript of the clarinet concerto
was completely lost. Yes.
Same is true of the bassoon concerto.
You know, Mozart sent this bassoon concerto
to his publisher Andre and Offenbach,
and they never found the concerto.
But now let's listen to John DeLancie
and his colleagues play the rondo
from the Mozart quartet.
This is National Educational Television.
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