ALL ARTS Vault Selects

FULL EPISODE

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.

AIRED: October 20, 2020 | 0:29:31
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the All Arts Vault. I'm Maddie Orton.

The Vault is the place to go

for special access to all things arts.

So we're going into the archives

to uncover some of our greatest gems

and share these programs with you

as they would've been seen decades ago

when they first aired.

Join us for a deep dive into a rich programming history

of over 50 years of archival content.

It's all here in the Vault.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

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

in Vienna.

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,

teach composition...

do all sorts of musical jobs,

performance 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

in 1800.

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,

mysterious mode.

♪♪

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,

"The end."

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.

STREAM ALL ARTS VAULT SELECTS ON

  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv

FEATURED PROGRAMS