I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Beethoven String Trios, Thomas Tallis

Right now, I'm listening to Perlman, Zuckerman, and Harrell perform Beethoven's Trios for Strings, an EMI-issue that I purchased from Borders Books and Music in Rochester, NY, likely, in 1993. It, along with so much music, has for me associations with place and time. We studied in great detail each of Beethoven's String Trios in my music theory classes at the University of Rochester. Our professor, Dr. Daniel Harrison, chose these for some specific reason, I'm sure. This was not a history class, mind you, but theory. We studied the structure of each piece, the harmonic details at play, and we were quizzed on being able to recognize an excerpt of the pieces--specifically, what work and what movement. I am not sure why he gave us these quizzes. Except, to say, you got to know the pieces really well, and you sort of ended up liking them a lot. I think when you spend a lot of time with something, you appreciate it (or end up loathing it; that's an option too). The String Trios are far less-well known than Beethoven's more prodigious genre, the string quartet. While I own all of both collections, it's the trios I come back to most often for listening. I know the characteristics of each one, and simply like them all. I'm listening now to the Scherzo of op.9 no.3, and it puts me right back into the classroom: I see some of the faces of my academic colleagues. I can smell pencil (freshly sharpened, ready to strike on the paper to write that this is, in fact, the Scherzo from op. 9, no. 3). I remember writing to my friend Neumann at the time, telling him in a letter that "Beethoven was a genius," despite the fact, in high school, I had declared him boring. For me, Bach was #1. But now Beethoven was approaching as competition. It was soon after, probably another year, that I had asked for the set of all of Beethoven's piano sonatas. The set I received was the one by Richard Goode, on Nonesuch. All 10 CDs. It was in graduate school that I asked again for a set, this time, the Emerson Quartet with Beethoven's string quartets. To this day, I have favorites from both the quartet and sonata collections, but it is the string trios to me that are the more interesting and accessible. Having written my own string quartet, you wouldn't believe how difficult it seems (to me, fellow composers) to write only for three voices. Being a rather anti-social person, you wouldn't believe how frustrating it is to have lost all the personal relationships that I had when I first discovered all of this fascinating music. Each us there, together in a room, set with the assignment of getting to know old Beethoven's trios for strings better than we knew our favorite music, connected by our location and time (Rochester, NY, mid-1990s), by our professor, by our interest (music), by our age (on the cusp of turning 20), each of us intelligent with unknown futures, etc., etc., etc. What would become of us? What has become of us? My searching thoughts feel more appropriate listening to Thomas Tallis' Spem in Allium, a 40-part motet for 40 voices. We studied that in music history class, described by our professor (Dr. Massimo Ossi) as "renaissance surround sound." It just happens to be the next track on my iTunes after the Beethoven trios (organized by performers: Perlman, Peter Phillips). What awesome sounds. I have heard this piece in person (some years ago, the Tallis Scholars came to Richmond, VA, and performed this at the University of Richmond). How I long to find fellow enthusiasts. It's a shame to go through life appreciating this art in solitude. (Not to end on such a sad note; but the Tallis is not exactly as happy or optimistic as the Beethoven.)

David Daniels and Martin Katz

Speaker Cable