Beethoven on the brain

So I’m reading An Equal Music by Vikram Seth. It’s a novel recommended by my friend Rhonda. Michael, the main character, plays second violin in a string quartet. He is obsessed by an old lover with whom he used to play. One piece comes to his mind that reminds him of her: Beethoven’s early piano trio in C minor (Opus 1 no. 3).


His current lover (who is not a musician) reveals to him that Beethoven made a different version of this same music and changed from a piano trio (piano, violin, cello) to a string quintet (2 violins, viola, cello).  beethovenopus104cover


This latter piece (Opus 104) is pretty obscure I guess. Michael searches high and low for recordings and the sheet music of the quintet. At this point, the story becomes pretty dated. I became curious about the music and stepped to my computer and was looking at scores almost instantly online.


Also it turns out that the local college owns performing copies of the piano trio. I checked them out and my violinist and cellist graciously agreed to play through it. Which we did yesterday.  The violinist fell in love with the music. We played the first and last movement of the trio that Seth uses in his novel. The last movement, a finale, was more immediately understandable to me. As I confessed to my musician friends, Beethoven has never been a composer that I was simpatico with. For me, he has definitely been an acquired taste in my life. But I have acquired it. Like so much good romantic music, it doesn’t make that much sense to me initially. I have to let it sort of sit in my brain for a while. We played the first movement twice. It made more sense the second time, as Beethoven often does for me.


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