"Beethoven's ghost was in the room. It was absolutely apparent. You could hear it in the rehearsal but when we did a long run, then he came and sort of sat on the stage. It was a little bit spooky," said the conductor Stefan Asbury, describing a new composition inspired by Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. Written by Austrian composer Bernhard Lang, it had its world premiere at the Beethovenfest. We'll get to hear it this hour, along with "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" by Richard Strauss.
Over a period of five years, the Beethovenfest in Bonn commissions a new piece of music each year, specifying only that the composer reference a work by Ludwig van Beethoven. Each time, the piece is repeated after the intermission. Then, in the year 2020, when Beethoven's 250th birthday will be celebrated in Bonn, all five of the compositions will get a repeat performance.
"Monadologie XXXIV" is Bernhard Lang's computer-aided analysis of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3. Lang explained his compositional approach: "I replicate Beethoven's temporal structure, using the three movements and keeping my piece about as long as the original. It's a technique derived from post-modern architecture, where architects construct new buildings on committed sites, creating new contexts with old structures."
This, added Lang, wasn't done to make his work as a composer easier, but instead as a necessary artistic response to the way "classical music" is presented in our time:
"The whole music business is dominated by repetition, and Beethoven is a victim of this. In Vienna in Beethoven's time, the creation of new works was essential and necessary. But somehow after 1945, things got stuck, and we are in a loop where I would say 99 percent of the classical music business is dominated by looping the compositions of the 18th and 19th centuries. Even what goes by the name of "new music" more or less replicates the inventions of the 70 and the 80s. Any intelligent person has to think about this and has to react as an artist to this situation."
Monadologie XXXIV (world premiere)
Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks
Marino Formenti, piano
Central German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Stefan Asbury, conductor
Recorded by Deutsche Welle, Bonn (DW) in the World Conference Center, Bonn, on September 6, 2018Rick Fulker