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Beethoven: Violin Sonata no. 5 "Spring" - 1st movement

Interpretation Class
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Kate Arndt (violin) with Dina Vainshtein (piano)

“I’m very interested in this issue of tempo and what Beethoven intended.”

— Benjamin Zander

Video Transcript

Ben Zander:
Bravo. Beautiful. Bravo. Gorgeous. Well done. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Gorgeous.

Ben Zander:
Well, you know, this is a great joy, Kate, because you’ve become a fully formed artist. You are no longer a student. You’re a beautiful player, and the two of you play like a wonderful duo. It’s really, really great and-

Kate:
Thank you.

Ben Zander:
I don’t have anything on a local level to say. Your playing is wonderful. There are a few things that one might say here or there but I do want to bring up an interesting issue, and that is the issue of tempo in Beethoven. I know you know that I’m very, very interested in this issue of tempo and what Beethoven intended.

Ben Zander:
Now, he didn’t leave metronome marks for this piece and so all he left is Allegro, and there are very few Allegros in Beethoven; 4/4 Allegros. This is a straight 4/4 Allegro, and there are very few of them, and I brought a list of them just so you see how few there are.

Ben Zander:
That’s one. The Emperor Concerto. And now there is this one, Opus 59 number three. Do you know that string quartet? And then another 4/4 Allegro. This one is marked. And then this one here. Where are we? That’s Opus 59, number one.

Ben Zander:
And most crucially, this one. That’s the last moment of the Fifth Symphony, a 4/4 Allegro, which is usually played too fast. It’s very often played faster than Beethoven wrote it. He wrote it at 84, which is 168.

Ben Zander:
Now, this piece traditionally has been played much slower than the category of Allegro 4/4s, and this morning I was

Ben Zander:
I just got back late last night from London and I woke up very early because I’m on English time, and at five o’clock in the morning it seemed to me that the traditional way of playing this piece, if it’s in the category of the 4/4 Allegros, is a little too slow so I’d like to suggest that we explore the category. And it sounds pedantic to use a metronome but Beethoven loved the metronome.

Ben Zander:
You know, it was invented by a friend of his and he said when the metronome was invented, at last he could dispense with the Italian markings and just give the metronome marks, because then people would be able to do the music as the way he wanted it to be done, and so the category is from 144 to 168.

Ben Zander:
So the last movement of the Fifth Symphony is 168. Let’s take that as the fastest and let’s take this as the slowest in the category, because it’s a very pastoral feeling and so we don’t want to rush it but I think something will come out very interesting if we do it.

Ben Zander:
And look, Kate, you don’t have to do it. It’s just an exploration. It’s the conversation.

Ben Zander:
If that 144 tempo, so each bar becomes like a beat, a single beat, so three, four. Good. Now the surprise of that E-Flat is going to be really shocking. All right, this is very beautiful. It can be lighter. The accompaniment can be lighter.

Ben Zander:
The bass is actually more interesting. It’s a cello. Like a beautiful cello. The lefthanded second violin, very light. Do it once again from the beginning, and it’s all based on turns. And the second bar is lighter than the first so the second is always later than the first one. Three, four.

Ben Zander:
I would suggest just as you did there because it sounds as though we’ve arrived in C-Major, which is not the case, so then I would rush right through to the court and then the surprise of the E-Flat is great. Beautiful. That’s great.

Ben Zander:
Now remember, you would be playing a forte piano, which would be a lighter instrument and more like the violin in sounds. And don’t make an accent on the fourth bar of the phrase, even though it’s an appoggiaturas, so you got to.

Ben Zander:
That interval, incidentally, is the most joyous interval there is, the interval of a sixth. Beethoven always used that for joy. And then when you get there, that’s the weakest bar of the phrase. Can we try one more time? Light as can be. Three, four. Right. Good.

Ben Zander:
Dina, this makes this disappear. Make the eights disappear so he doesn’t hear. This is much too loud. That’s great.

Ben Zander:
Can I just say a word about the word rinforzando? Which means reinforce everything in the bar. Everything is fuller than before. In this, when you have the; so get right out of the way so it doesn’t impinge at all. Do from the second theme. This is pure joy. Two, three, and.

Ben Zander:
That surprise won’t be there unless you do the repeat.

Kate:
Yeah.

Ben Zander:
If you do the repeat, it’ll be a real shock. And these forzando. Listen to that chromatic scale. That’s amazing. I mean, it just goes on down and down and down and down, and when you get this figure, you have this very linear in feeling.

Ben Zander:
Should we try from that very place? After the rinforzando bar. Yeah.

Kate:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Sure.

Ben Zander:
Yeah. Clyba, Father Clyba, said to an orchestra, he was doing the Brahm’s First Symphony and he said, “You know the Brahms First Symphony. We don’t need to rehearse it.” And so he went off to have a good time at the races, and that night half the orchestra did the repeat and half the orchestra didn’t do the repeat.
Ben Zander:
Good. This is great. This is something to think about. There’s a lightness to it and a brilliance and a versatility. Should we just try from-

Ben Zander:
Yes, in there. Good. Good. Yeah, in tempo. It’s like a will-o’-the-wisp, like a real Allegro.

Ben Zander:
Can suggest a little bit less staccato? Two, three, four, five, six, eight, one. Just right from there.

Ben Zander:
Can I say a word about that too? Do you remember when I said to Zach, “Quarter notes with the slur and dots means legatos.”? So as legato as you can. Once again. Now triplets!

Ben Zander:
Two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. One, two.

Ben Zander:
I wouldn’t give it away. Ba! Like that. Just total shock. Don’t give it away.

Ben Zander:
You know, we just recorded the Mahler Sixth and the last end of the Mahler Sixth is quieter and quieter and quieter, and suddenly there’s a chord which is so loud that you would jump out of your skin, and just before it, I made a noise, a little noise before I conducted, and the recording people eliminated the noise. They took it out, so it now goes, ba! Like that. And I knew it was coming. I knew it was coming and I was listening last night. I went, “Yah!” So make sure that it’s that; my kind of a shock.

Ben Zander:
Do from This is great. It’s very exciting, so do somewhere just before. Good.

Ben Zander:
Now, this is the only pianissimo in the piece, the only one, so I would do it not only by dynamic but also by timing. So, ba! Like that, another that is shocks, right? So just as if piece is going to end. Yes.

Kate:
Okay.

Ben Zander:
And that pianissimo followed by fortissimo. I mean as wild a difference as you can. And interesting enough, by taking more time, it’s more shocking. This time it’s by

Ben Zander:
Right. Right. So do one more time.

Ben Zander:
And play as soft as is humanly possible. Well done. Bravo. Beautiful. Beautiful. Amazing. Amazing.

Ben Zander:
Now look, here’s a very interesting thing. Here’s a very interesting, because there’s nothing wrong with what you did and it’s not as if this is right and that’s wrong. All I know from my experience of looking at all the Beethoven pieces, that this movement is a true Allegro 4/4 and therefore it has to be in that category.

Ben Zander:
Now, I listened to two performances this morning. Beautiful performances; Menuing and Kramer, and it was so slow.

Ben Zander:
Very, very slow, and Menuing, beautiful. I mean, beautiful guy. You get tears in the eyes because it’s so beautiful, but I don’t think it’s an Allegro as Beethoven.

Ben Zander:
What you just did, that’s a true Beethoven Allegro, and it’s not as fast as some of them, like the F-Major Sonata and the last movement of the Fifth Symphony, but it’s in that category, so you feel the drive and the energy and the excitement, and it’s a brilliant movement. Very, very exciting. So it’s another way of looking at it.

Ben Zander:
You’ll think about it.

Kate:
Yes.

Ben Zander:
Okay. Thank you for coming.

Kate:
Thanks.

Ben Zander:
Beautiful. That was beautifully played. You’re just great. Beautiful. Wonderful.

wajang1000
'Everyone always comments on the main player but having seen many of these videos with Maestro Zander, it is clear that unless it is unaccompanied violin (or cello or flute, etc), these are duets and the pianist is just as important. In this case, as in the others, this lady at the piano is exceptional. Her name should be included in the narrative and she should be showered with as much praise and more, in my humble opinion.'
Tommy Sargeant
'Boston-based pianist Dina Vainshtein is known for her sensitive and virtuosic collaborations with some of the most promising musicians of recent years. Dina, a longtime Faculty Pianist for the Heifetz Institute, is the daughter of two pianists, and studied with Boris Berlin at the prestigious Gnessin Academy in Moscow. While there she received the Special Prize for the Best Collaborative Pianist at the 1998 Tchaikovsky International Competition. She came to the United States in 2000 to attend the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she worked with Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, and her husband, Donald Weilerstein.

Her talents vaunted her to numerous performing opportunities, from Alice Tully Hall and Weill Recital Hall in New York City, to the Caramoor Festival, the Ravinia Festival, the Music Academy in the West at Santa Barbara, not to mention tours of Japan, China, Europe and Russia. To this day, Donald Weilerstein regards her as “an extraordinary collaborator. She is an extremely fine musician and one of the most empathetic, dynamic and supportive chamber players I know.” For nearly a decade Dina has been affiliated with the New England Conservatory and the Walnut Hill School in Natick, Massachusetts. She's been with Zander for over 15 years now. She knows everything he knows and everything he is thinking. she is like an extension of himself, as he is also an esteemed pianist from a long line of musicians, musical family and history of music ~ What he is doing with these Masterclasses is astounding. He always finds a way to connect the musician to their music, no matter how great or accomplished they are, he will tell a story, stir an emotion, connect the musician to the audience and make sure that the musician is always telling a story or evoking emotion with their music. I've seen him with musicians that are so extremely proficient at what they do, and Benjamin can still find something to discuss in a nuance of their playing, movement, facial expressions. this is why, if you watch his Cellists, while they are performing, they sway together, they literally, physically sway to the music they play. This is a mandatory requirement from Benjamin, and when you see it, it is truly mesmerizing. Benjamin Zander and Dina Vainshtein are the epitome of all things musical, from its very core.'
zamplify
'This man is made of music.'
Michael Watson
'Such a brilliant Violinist, and Dina is, once again, amazing on piano. What could Benjamin possibly say? Tempo, of course. Beethoven Tempo! So, he manages to bring out even more into the performance.

Kate has a wonderful smile, she is clearly connected with the music she is playing, and also with her audience - notice that Benjamin said nothing about that.

I am a disabled person, who is forced to spend all my time in bed. These classes bring great joy to my life! They take me out of myself. The musicians, especially Dina, do all that I wish I could do - and would not have been able to do, even if I was well. Benjamin Zander, through his drive, energy and enthusiasm, is like a cook who brings all the ingredients together and then bakes them into perfection.'
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