BEETHOVEN: Modlinger Dances / German Dances / Minuets (Capella Istropolitana/ Karol Kopernicky/ Oliver Dohnanyi) (Naxos: 8.550433)
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Eleven Dances / Modlinger Tanze, WoO 17
Twelve Contredanses / Zwolf Kontretanze, WoO 14
Twelve German Dances / Zwolf deutsche Tanze, WoO 8
Twelve Minuets / Zwolf Menuette, WoO 7/p>
In 1792 Beethoven left his native city of Bonn to seek hisfortune in the imperial capital, Vienna. Five years earlier his patron, the Archbishop ofCologne, a scion of the imperial family, had sent him to Vienna, where he had hoped tohave lessons with Mozart. His plans were frustrated by the illness and subsequent death ofhis mother, which made it necessary to return to Bonn and before long to take charge ofthe welfare of his younger brothers. Beethoven's father, overshadowed by the eminence ofhis own father, Kapellmeister to a former Archbishop, had proved inadequate both as amusician and in the family, of which his son now took control.
As a boy Beethoven had been trained to continue familytradition as a musician and had followed his father and grandfather as a member of thearchiepiscopal musical establishment. In 1792 he arrived in Vienna with introductions tovarious members of the nobility and with the otter of lessons with Haydn, from whom helater claimed to have learned nothing. There were further lessons from the Court Composer,Antonio Salieri, and from Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, and an initial career of somebrilliance as a keyboard virtuoso. He was to establish himself, in the course of time, asa figure of remarkable genius and originality and as a social eccentric, no respecter ofpersons, his eccentricity all the greater for his increasing deafness. This lastdisability made public performance, whether as a keyboard-player or in the direction ofhis own music, increasingly difficult, and must have served to encourage the developmentof one particular facet of his music, stigmatised by hostile contemporary critics as"learned", the use of counterpoint.
It is a curious sociological fact that dance has so oftenassumed importance in society .In the later 18th century court dances were dominated bythe elegant form of the minuet, a dance that Mozart, a former composer of court dancemusic in Vienna, had treated in a way befitting his genius. In the 19th century theposition of the minuet was usurped by the waltz, with its greater opportunities for briefintimacy between partners. The contrivance, with its duple measure, had undoubted appealalso to the middle classes, while the so-called German dance from the villages of Bavariaand Austria provided the basis of the waltz itself.
Dance music for balls in Vienna was provided by composers ofgreat contemporary distinction. In 1792 Haydn wrote a set of dances for the Artists'Pension Society Ball, followed in 1793 by the composer and publisher Leopold Kozeluch. In1794 Dittersdorf and Mozart's friend Eybler wrote sets of dances for the ball, and in 1795Beethoven provided a set of twelve minuets and twelve German dances, later to be listed asWoO 7 and WoO 8, for the same annual occasion. These sets of dances were intended for thesmaller of the ball-rooms available, while the principal ball-room used music written forthe occasion by Mozart's pupil S??ssmayr. Beethoven's dances make use of the usual modestorchestra, the tenth of the minuets allowing the brief appearance of the popular"Turkish" music of the time, identified with percussion and piccolo. A post-hornis heard in the coda, signalling the end of the set.
The Twelve Contredanses, WoO14, were completed in 1802, making use of same earlier compositions of the samekind. The seventh and eleventh are used in the finale of the ballet-music for the dancerSalvatore Vigano's Creatures of Prometheus,staged at the Vienna Burgtheater in 1801. The Cantredanses were dedicated to JohannBaptist Friedrich, assistant to Dr. Johann Schmidt, the composer's doctor, who had at thistime inspired Beethoven with new optimism about the possibility of a cure for hisdeafness.
The eleven ModlingerTanze, WoO 17, were apparently written in 1819, although some have doubtedtheir authenticity. Beethoven's assistant and biographer Schindler tells how the composerhad retired to the country, to Modling, where he was occupied in the composition of the Missa Solemnis, for his patron and pupil, ArchdukeRudolph. In answer to a request from a group of seven local musicians at the Gasthof"Zu den drei Raben" in the neighbouring village of Br??hl, he is said to havewritten a set of eleven dances.
In view of the state of his temper, as recorded by variousvisitors to Modling, that summer, this would have been unexpectedly obliging of him. Nowvirtually stone deaf, he complicated his stay there by the usual difficulties of his ownmaking. Unreasonable quarrels with servants, leading to their abrupt departure, and withinn-keepers unable to provide exactly what he wanted, as the mood took him, punctuated hiswork on the great setting of the Mass. The parts of the so-called Modling Dances werediscovered at the Thomasschule in Leipzig in 1905 and were published two years later. Theoriginal instrumentation was limited by the number of players, who nevertheless were ableto turn their hands to more than one instrument each, switching, as occasion demanded,from wind to string instrument.
The Capella Istropolitana was founded in 1983 by members of theSlovak Philharmonic Orchestra, at first as a chamber orchestra and then as an orchestralarge enough to tackle the standard classical repertoire. Based in, Bratislava, its name drawn from the ancientname still preserved in the Academia Istropolitana, the orchestra works in the recordingstudio and undertakes frequent tours throughout Europe. Recordings by the orchestra on theNaxos label include The Best of Baroque Music,Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, fifteen eachof Mozart's and Haydn's symphonies as well as works by Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann.
Oliver Dohnanyi was born in 1955 and studied the violin,composition and conducting at the Bratislava Conservatory, in the Slovakian capital,pursuing further studies in Prague under Vaclav Neumann and others, and in Vienna underOtmar Suitner. He graduated in 1980 but had already established himself as artisticdirector of the Charles University Art Ensemble and the Canticorum lubilo chamber ensemblein Prague. He has won distinction in various competitions, including the RespighiCompetition in Italy and international competitions in Budapest and Prague. From 1979 to1986 Oliver Dohnanyi was conductor of the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra in Bratislava andhas appeared with major orchestras there, in Prague and in Hungary, as well as with theWest Berlin Symphony Orchestra, and since 1986 has been principal conductor of the operaof the Slovak National Theatre. In addition to work with the Slovak PhilharmonicOrchestra, he has appeared as a guest conductor in the concert hall and in opera inFrance, Italy, Austria, the USSR, Cuba, East Germany, Bulgaria, Switzerland and elsewhere.