All’s well that ends well

April 7, 2016

About 15 months ago I embarked on a little “listening project” to hear all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, violin sonatas, symphonies, and string quartets in chronological order. Today I’ve finally finished, with his String Quartet No.16, Op.135. (Yes, I know he wrote the final movement of the Op.130 quartet afterwards, but never mind.) I’ve had a great time.

Here is the charming final movement of that last quartet, played by the Alban Berg Quartett:

5 Responses to “All’s well that ends well”

  1. Mac Horton Says:

    I’m amazed that you can find time to do all this listening, considering that you have a family and listening to music is not your job. I’ve started similar things, but on a much more limited scale, e.g. just the string quartets, and usually get sidetracked. In some cases, the quartets being an example, I know the late works are better and get impatient with the relatively less interesting early ones. Even without that, though, I don’t think I could manage a serious hearing of that much music in 15 months. I usually feel like I need to hear a piece at least three times to have a good sense of how much (or little) I really like it. I’m currently doing Bruckner’s symphonies, and am on #3.

  2. cburrell Says:

    The secret to my success is that I commute for about 90 minutes each day, and I have nothing to do during that time but listen to music (or books, or lectures). It’s fabulous.

    Beethoven wrote 32 piano sonatas, 9 violin sonatas, 16 string quartets, and 9 symphonies, so that’s about 70 pieces in this “listening project”. There are about 70 weeks in 15 months, so that’s about one week per piece. In some cases I listened only to one recording of a piece, but for some — including most of the late ones — I listened to three or even four.

    My next listening project is on the origins of thrash metal. I’m not joking. (Today it was Metallica’s Master of Puppets.) Although I cannot stomach most heavy metal, I have a secret admiration for thrash.

  3. Mac Horton Says:

    I also had a 90-minute (total) commute every day for a number of years. I listened to much more pop (speaking broadly) than classical in the car, though. I found a lot of classical music to be a problem in the car, because of the dynamic range. I always had somewhat noisy cars. I did get through about 20 of Mozart’s piano concertos during my last year of commuting, though. You’d think I could indulge myself wildly now that I’m retired from that job, but I actually don’t have that much time.

    I have a not at all secret liking for heavy metal, though it’s not something I want to hear all that often. Surprisingly, I’ve never really heard that much of Metallica–never wanted to buy their music, and it wasn’t available on streaming services. I suppose it’s on YouTube now, though. Perhaps I’ll join you.

  4. cburrell Says:

    Pop is definitely more car-friendly. Most classical music is recorded at a lower level than pop, and, as you say, it has a wider dynamic range that sometimes sinks into the road noise. This is especially true of orchestral music. I find piano music is not bothered too much by the road noise. It also helps that for about half my drive I am pretty much parked in traffic.

    I find Metallica one of the more congenial metal bands. I can’t stand the throaty screaming of many metal vocalists; the singer for Metallica has a real voice. They have melodic instincts, and what sounds to me like serious virtuosity on their instruments. I believe the rhythm guitar work on their albums is especially revered.

  5. Mac Horton Says:

    I remember someone recommending Metallica to me 20+ years ago and letting me hear a few tracks. I didn’t much like them but I was impressed with their technical skill.


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