Beethoven’s Sketchbooks

Presented and illustrated by Denis Matthews (8 LP Discourses)

Denis Matthews (27 febbraio 1919 – 25 dicembre 1988) fu un pianista e musicologo inglese, la cui carriera artistica ebbe corso ne dopoguerra, negli anni ’50 e ’60. Successivamente si dedicò sempre più alla radiodiffusione, alla scrittura e all’insegnamento. Denis James Matthews nacque a Coventry, figlio di un venditore di motori. Frequentò la Arnold Lodge School, Leamington Spa, dal 1927 al 1932 e la Warwick School dall’ottobre 1932 all’estate del 1936, quando partì per studiare alla Royal Academy of Music. Debuttò come pianista nel 1939 e iniziò anche a comporre: i suoi Cinque schizzi per violino e pianoforte furono eseguiti da Isolde Menges e Howard Ferguson nel maggio 1940. La guerra interruppe le sua carriera. Matthews si arruolò nel 1940, prestando servizio nella RAF fino al 1946.
Riprendendo la carriera professionale dopo la guerra, fece numerose tournée come pianista e formò collaborazioni di successo con il Griller Quartet e l’Amadeus Quartet. Sua particolare predilezione fu per la musica di Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven e Schubert, e la sua edizione delle sonate per pianoforte di Mozart, preparata con Stanley Sadie, divenne di riferimento. Registrò molto, in particolar modo musica per pianoforte moderna britannica, ed eseguì in WP il Concerto per pianoforte di Edmund Rubbra nel 1956. Durante gli anni ’50 e ’60 fu regolarmente conduttore televisivo e presentatore di argomenti musicali per la BBC.

La sua autobiografia “In Pursuit of Music” apparve nel 1966. L’anno successivo fu intervistato per il programma radiofonico della BBC Desert Island Discs. Tra il 1971 e il 1984 fu professore di musica presso l’ Università di Newcastle. Scrisse una biografia di Arturo Toscanini nel 1982 e nel 1985 pubblicò uno studio su Beethoven nella collana  della Dent “Master Musicians”. Particolarmente prezioso è il suo breve libro sulle sonate per pianoforte di Beethoven (pubblicato come BBC Music Guide). Nei pochi anni prima della sua morte, lui e la sua terza moglie, la pianista e insegnante Beryl Chempin, insegnarono entrambi alla Birmingham School of Music.

Matthews è stato sposato tre volte, con tre musiciste. La sua prima moglie fu la violoncellista Mira Howe, dalla quale ebbe un figlio e tre figlie. Divorziarono nel 1960. La sua seconda moglie fu la pianista Brenda McDermott. Si sposarono nel 1963 ed ebbero un figlio e una figlia. Il loro matrimonio durò fino al 1986, dopodiché sposò Beryl Chempin. Soggetto ad attacchi di depressione, Matthews si suicidò il 24 dicembre 1988. Beryl Chempin morì nel 2012.

A lato: ritratto di Denis Matthews, olio su cartoncino di Juliet Pannett © National Portrait Gallery, London, 1950 circa. NPG 6038

Note al Buio – suggerimenti e confronti per un ascolto beethoveniano di qualità

Con uno slide delle registrazioni citate nell’ articolo – A cura del canale YouTube SecondAVitA

… Dalle note di copertina del volume Symphonies 8 and 9:

Now on record for the first time ever… the secrets of Beethoven’s Sketchbooks, revealing how he created his great masterpieces, from the first jottings to the finished work.

It was while sketching his Seventh Symphony that Beethoven made, as it turned out, a far-flung prophecy: ‘a second symphony in D minor*. Later, when the Eighth was under way, the idea persisted: Symphony in D minor — Third Symphony*. (The terms ‘second* and ‘third* are of course taking No. 7 as the starting-point.) Meanwhile No. 8, very definitely in F major, followed close on the heels of No. 7, and work on it continued in the same sketchbook. The year was 1812, and a dozen more were to elapse before the completion of No. 9 ‘in D minor*, a project that caused Beethoven immense toil, even by his own standards, and immense time, if we carry it back a quarter of a century to the setting of Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy* he sketched as early as 1798 or 9. In the present record, both Nos. 8 and 9 are reviewed in the light of the sketches, taking Gustav Nottebohm’s articles in Zweite Beethoveniana as the main source, but relating his findings to the symphonies as we know them.

No. 8, which may make friends more slowly than other Beethoven symphonies but invariably keeps them, was once described as Vintage Beethoven in a Mozart-sized bottle’. Its sequence of events is unusual: in place of the expected slow movement, an allegretto scherzando deriving from a canon parodying Maelzel’s metronome; in place of Beethoven*s customary scherzo, a leisurely minuet with a trio-theme that appears in various rhythmic forms in the sketches. In the first movement, too, the all-pervading opening figure proves to be a variant of an early sketch, and two preliminary bars were discarded. A more advanced version covers the whole of the exposition, though the symphony was to add an important extension to the second group. These and other points are illustrated, including Beethoven*s many experiments with the theme of the finale, and a potential by-product in a piano-piece.

If Beethoven had died in his mid-forties posterity might have endorsed the views of some of his contemporaries that he had written himself out or succumbed to his increasing deafness. After the richness of the middle period there had been signs of a lull, though in retrospect it is easier to see a new style emerging in the concise manner of the F minor Quartet, op 95, or indeed in the Eighth Symphony. But who could have estimated the loss and range of the works from 1815 onwards: the cello sonatas op 102 and the series of late piano sonatas, the Missa

Solcmnis, the Ninth Symphony, and the quartets yet to come? No. 9 is surely the most eloquent public affirmation of faith in mankind ever made in musical terms, though the sketches show that the merging of a further symphony ‘in D minor* with a setting of Schiller’s Ode caused doubts until the last moment.

Sketches for the scherzo and the first movement of No. 9 date back to 1817, and before that the scherzo-theme had been noted down as a fugue-subject, reflecting Beethoven’s growing absorption in counterpoint. Other works, including the ‘Hammerklavier* Sonata, show this absorption, and there are significant sketches for ‘a new overture on BACH, very fugal*. There appear many changes of mind about the order of the movements in No. 9 and indications of a different type of choral symphony on a religious text; but a further note about a German symphony ‘to end with Turkish music and choir* was to ring truer. Meanwhile the last piano sonatas, the Diabelli Variations, and theA/isra intervened, and the sketches for No. 9 are taken up in more advanced detail in 1823. Various ideas were suggested for the slow movement, and at one stage the theme of the episodes appears, marked *minuet’, as a starting-point. The sketches for the eventual B flat adagio introduce the feature of the ‘woodwind echoes’, carried at one stage into whole sections of the theme. Then arose the difficult decision of the finale, including sketches for the instrumental theme that later developed into the last movement of the op 132 Quartet. Having decided to incorporate Schiller’s. Ode, how was it to be justified and introduced? First, it seemed, instrumental music must be found wanting. The sketches suggest that the rejection of the themes of the previous movements by the cellos and basses took its root in a vocal commentary, and the written-out words (such as ‘That’s it, now it is found!’) give a clue to the whole interpretation of the introduction.

The decision to leave this process to the orchestra, including the arrival and acclamation of the ‘Joy’ theme, has often been criticised; but the sudden flash-back to the briefest vocal summary, as though to prove that instruments have in fact been found ‘wanting*, is as Beethovenish as it is dramatically valid. The ‘Joy* theme was not easily found by Beethoven himself, and the evolution of its middle section, bar by bar, is illustrated from a series of successive sketches.

Denis Matthews

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