Skinning A Cat, Beethoven Style

Conductor Bill Eddins posted a terrific blog on 2/22/2012 that lambasts the concept of right and wrong interpretations via recordings. Coincidentally, regular Adaptistration guest author, Chris Blair, sent me an email on the same day with a link to a YouTube video that provides a chronological survey of the opening chords of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3; from 1924 through 2011.

So, just in case you find yourself getting sucked into the fixed artistic interpretation bear trap Eddins’ describes just pull up that YouTube vid to remember there’s more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to artistic interpretation.


Here’s another great chronological survey but this time it’s all about Siegmund’s Valse cry from Walkure (thanks for sending along the link Bill!):

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4 Responses to Skinning A Cat, Beethoven Style

  1. Michael Comins Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Notice the different E-flat pitches. Some orchestras tune to A-440, and some as high as A-446.

    • Drew McManus Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

      I’d also hypothesize that some of that is due to changes in recording technology over the decades.

  2. Chris Blair Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    The historic trend is ever-higher A’s. Concert A-440 was not actually “standardized” until a London Conference in 1939. A previous attempt to standardize pitch was in Paris in 1859 when A-435 was chosen. Period bands these days might be heard as low as A-426 which I think (not sure) is the frequency ascribed to Handel’s tuning fork.

    I think BostonSymphony has floated up to around A-442 in the past few decades.

    (It was a lot easier to sing Handel’s high notes back then…Beethoven’s too)

    • Michael Comins Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

      I think Boston was A-444. When Met Opera clarinetist Gino Cioffi went to Boston during the Munch era, he refused to put shorter barrels on his clarinets. Good as he was, he always sounded a little flat.

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