Archive for November, 2020

Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas: Setting the New Performance Standard

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas are among the most famous works of chamber music history and represent, together with Mozart’s works for this instrument duo, the core of violin repertoire from the Viennese Classicist period.

Though composed in a short span in Beethoven’s creative life (nine of the ten were written between 1798 and 1803, with the final one appearing in 1812), these sonatas bear all the marks of Beethoven’s compositional innovation: the breaking of formal tradition, a vast emotional scope, skillful musical manipulation, and, of course, the trademark urgency and power.

The new Bärenreiter edition of the violin sonatas — or, as more appropriately titled by Beethoven himself, sonatas for the pianoforte and violin — offers a revolutionary editorial approach to the music that does more than simply hand down the text.

These new volumes, edited by historical performing practice expert Dr. Clive Brown, present an approach to performance that is quite different from what most of today’s musicians are accustomed to. This approach not only falls much more in line with what Beethoven would have expected, but also imbues the music with a renewed vigor and offers musicians an incredible array of opportunities for creativity.

“This is the highest quality of academic scholarship, but it is not only that: this edition has enabled me to bring these sonatas to life in a way that has not been possible before – this is historical research in the service of living and breathing music!”

Viktoria Mullova, Violinist

Here violinist Viktoria Mullova and pianist Alasdair Beatson demonstrate some of their most illuminating discoveries from the “Spring” Sonata (Op. 24) and show us why they’re excited to work with these new editions:

The Editorial Approach

Dr. Brown’s new editions of the Beethoven violin sonatas combine a traditional scholarly Urtext approach with a wealth of information on historical performing practice informed by the thorough study of recordings and editions made by 19th-century musicians, many of whom had direct contact with Beethoven himself or with others that did.

These historical sources reveal a striking discrepancy between performance and notation. Composers in Beethoven’s era, including Beethoven himself, simply did not write down a large swath of the expressive gestures that they would have expected musicians to make, including rhythmic and tempo flexibility, piano arpeggiation and asynchrony, portamento, cadenzas, and ornamental, rather than continuous, vibrato effects.

By not including these details in the text, composers created a space bursting with potential for the creative performer to exploit in what could and, most importantly, would be wildly distinctive and thrillingly emotional performances. In many respects, it was a creative freedom much more akin to jazz than to today’s renditions of classical music.

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SongwritingWith:Soldiers: Using Music to Help Veterans Ease Back into Civilian Life

Founded in 2012, SongwritingWith:Soldiers (SW:S) is a non-profit that transforms lives by using collaborative songwriting to expand creativity, connections, and strengths. SW:S holds three-day retreats and custom workshops that pair veterans, active-duty and military families with professional songwriters to turn their stories of service and returning home into song.

Many veterans return home from combat and do not seek services, avoiding therapy or military resources because of the stigma associated with PTSD and depression. The Veterans Administration estimates that approximately 20 veterans take their own lives each day, and of those, 14 have little to no contact with the Department.

During SongwritingWith:Soldiers retreats, veterans and active-duty service members are paired with professional songwriters to share stories and craft songs about their experiences, often about combat and the return home. Participants are registered with ASCAP as co-writers of their songs and have ownership.

Sometimes participants know exactly what they want to say in their songs, but most of the time it’s the community of others who know the same struggles that lets participants find their emotions. And it’s the genuinely interested, empathetic ear of the artist that invites participants to openly share very personal stories that they’ve never shared at all.

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Save The Music Foundation: Helping Students, Schools and Communities Reach Their Full Potential through the Power of Making Music

In 1997, John Sykes, one of the original MTV/VH1 executives, spent a day as principal at a school in Brooklyn. He was shocked to see that the school’s instruments were being held together with gaffer tape and that the entire music program was at risk. In response, he helped mobilize a pro-social initiative at VH1, which quickly gained steam as it became apparent that many more music programs across the country were being deprioritized with severe budget cuts or even eliminated.

Soon thereafter, Save The Music became its own independent 501c3 public charity. Since then, Save The Music has donated more than $60 million worth of new musical instruments, equipment and technology to 2201 schools in 277 school districts across 42 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, improving the lives of millions of children throughout the United States.

Here’s how Save The Music partners with local communities and school districts to build sustainable music programs:

  • Investing in schools: Save The Music donates instruments, music technology and other equipment to jumpstart public school music programs.
  • Supporting teachers: Save The Music supports music teachers with professional development, ongoing program support and other resources.
  • Advocating for music education: Save The Music advocates at the local, state and national levels to ensure music is part of a well-rounded education.
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The Sphinx Organization: Transforming Lives through the Power of Diversity in the Arts

The Sphinx Organization is the social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Sphinx’s four program areas – Education & Access, Artist Development, Performing Artists, and Arts Leadership – form a pipeline that develops and supports diversity and inclusion in classical music at every level:

  • Music education
  • Artists performing on stage
  • Repertoire and programming
  • Communities represented in audiences
  • Artistic and administrative leadership

Sphinx was founded in 1997 by violinist Aaron P. Dworkin with the goal of addressing the underrepresentation of people of color in classical music. The name Sphinx, inspired by the mythical creature and legendary statue, reflects the power, wisdom and persistence that characterize Sphinx’s participants, as well as the enigmatic and interpretive nature of music and art.

Now led by President and Artistic Director Afa S. Dworkin, Sphinx programs reach more than 100,000 students and artists as well as live and broadcast audiences of more than 2 million annually.

Here’s a brief overview of all the work the Sphinx Organization does. Click on each link to navigate through the article and learn more!

And watch two of its finest professional ensembles in a moving performance from Sphinx’s virtual gala in October here:

Continue reading ‘The Sphinx Organization: Transforming Lives through the Power of Diversity in the Arts’


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