Sunday, January 15, 2012

Beethoven writes a letter to Stockhausen

Last week Norman Lebrecht had this post up about a newly-discovered Beethoven letter. He joked that sadly there was no analysis or criticism of Gruppen. Well, this blog dares to go where no-one has gone before, so here, newly discovered, is a letter from Ludwig to Karlheinz:

My Dearest Karlheinz,
It seems scarcely admissible to be on the friendly terms on which I consider myself with you, and yet to be on such unfriendly ones that we should live close to each other and never meet!!!!! It must be that strange idea of the space-time continuum that some Austrian dreamed up. Still, I had the opportunity recently to hear one of your works called "Gruppen". Now you say that you are reproducing the contours of the mountains in Switzerland seen from the little village you were staying in. Good, good! It's a bit dull, though, isn't it? After all, if you have three orchestras, you could aim to more than just skylines. In my Battle Symphony I had two bands, each depicting one of the adversaries in the battle and a great number of drummers and other percussion. Even cannons! Still, after listening to your effort, I must agree that you have forged ahead onto entirely new ground. Those mountains seem to be falling down!
Indeed, I must ask, and I beg you to answer candidly: who is it that is fighting in your Gruppen? Instead of two sides, each identified with a national theme as in my Battle Symphony, there seems to be mere anarchy within each of your orchestras. And I suggest that you get new copyists as there seem to be so many wrong notes in the parts that right notes and wrong ones can scarcely be told apart!
But never fear, with careful editing, I'm sure that all will be well and you can present your Gruppen again to greater success. In the meantime, I beg you to recommend me to your publisher as mine has run off to London with the scores of several of my new works and I know the wily dog will sell them to the publishers there so I will never receive a ducat for my efforts! 
Your ever-devoted friend,


Battle Symphony:

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