Through the Digital Door: Works connected to Beethoven (part 1)

To celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, this week's Through the Digital Door delves into the CMC catalogue and looks at works inspired by the German composer. This is the first of a two-part series.

Gerald Barry Beethoven (2008) 17' for voices and large ensemble

Beginning with a work that bears the name of Beethoven, Gerald Barry's 2008 work for voices and large ensemble was commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. The work was premiered by Stephen Richardson (B-solo) and BCMG with conductor Thomas Ades in March 2008. The text used is from Beethoven's famous letter The Immortal Beloved, collected and translated by Emily Anderson. This work is published by Schott.

This work is discussed and analysed by Daniel March in Tempo Journal1, and describes how Barry:

continues his individual process of engaging with the mainstream of musical history in a way that continues to raise original and highly creative possibilities.

1March, Daniel. “BARRY, ‘BEETHOVEN’ AND 'BEETHOVEN': IMMORTALITY AND INFLUENCE.” Tempo, vol. 67, no. 263, 2013, pp. 19–32., Accessed 21 Oct. 2020.

Jane O'Leary Five Bagatelles (2013) 15' for piano

This work refers to Beethoven's late Bagatelles in both form and inspiration. It was commissioned by Music for Galway and premiered by Ah Ruem Ahn in November 2013. The works five movements are titled i. gently; ii. light, sparkling; iii. as if in a dream... softly; IV. curious, hesitant; V. Gently, as if muted...

With humility I have borrowed the title Bagatelles from Beethoven's fascinating collections of short pieces. Like Beethoven, I have written these pieces to be performed as a 'cycle'. Also like Beethoven, I have avoided any stories or pointers for the listener other than the instructions regarding tempo - they are abstract works, simply relishing the complex sonorities of a massive box of strings.

Sam Perkin Timpano (2017) 6' for solo timpani and orchestra

This work was commissioned by Co-Orch Orchestra in 2017 and premiered by the orchestra, conducted by John Doyle. Timpano was premiered alongside a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Conceived as a bold concert-opener, Timpano takes something old and explores it through a new lens. It is an attempt to show one of the most enduring fragments in all of classical music in a fresh and new light, seeking to illuminate the universality of musical thought, regardless of era.

June Armstrong Waltz for Elise (2013) 3' for solo piano

This pedagogical work is for solo piano. It is part of a series titled Reinventions and is based on Beethoven's Für Elise.

Frank Corcoran Sweeney's Total Rondo (2001) 5' for solo piano

This work was commissioned for the 2003 AXA Dublin International Piano Competition by RTÉ lyric fm. In this work Frank Corcoran uses the Scherzo theme from Beethoven's Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op. 26.

This 'Sweeney' rondo is total, permeated in all its expressive registers by the opening figure which (could Mad Sweeney really have thought this up?) was stolen from Beethoven's Opus 26 final Allegro, Sweenified life becomes music.

Watch an interview with Frank Corcoran from November 2009 ahead of an Association of Irish Composers concert featuring a performance of Sweeney's Total Rondo.

Seán Clancy Neue Kraft Fühlend (2013) 15' for string quartet

This work was premiered by Quatuor Bozzini at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November 2013. This work's relationship to Beethoven is through Beethoven's A minor string quartet Op. 132. Neue Kraft Fühlend takes the structure of the slow movement from Op. 132 and inverts it.

Linda Buckley Beethoven Reflected (2019) 12' for string quartet

This work was commissioned by the National String Quartet Foundation and premiered by ConTempo String Quartet in February 2020 at the Triskel Christchurch in Cork. This work is a reflection on Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Op. 131. This work was performed in the second of a series of concerts called 'Beethoven Reflected'.