When Beethoven Channels Hayden

I’ve decided that the pieces by Beethoven that I enjoy singing the most all have something in common: they don’t sound like “Beethoven.” They sound like Handel and Hayden, especially Hayden.

I’ve sung some of Beethoven’s early masses, plus the Mount of Olives (Christus am Ölberg), and prefer the styles of those, and how he used voices in those works.

Most English-singers know this as the “Alleluia from the Mount of Olives.” I did the full oratorio, and the German finally helped the English version make sense. The fugue is what most people have heard, or think of. It dances, bounces, like a lot of Baroque music does. (The recording takes it at a faster tempo than I have sung it, and faster than most sing the Alleluia version use.)

Beethoven is not asking for weight from the singers, vocal weight. The chorus is not instrumental the way it is in the Choral Symphony or the Missa Solemnis.

I’m grumping a bit, because due to factors beyond our control, only one first soprano was at rehearsal this week. It happened to be within my “vocal window” of days for having the top notes, and so I volunteered to back her up instead of singing the second role. Oof. I did it, I didn’t hurt anything, but trying to hold on up there without forcing is very hard. Beethoven uses the sopranos as a sort of violin obbligato, leaving us floating in the stratosphere for four and five measures at a go. He treats the chorus as another set of instruments, albeit instruments that can sing words.

I prefer composers who use the chorus as a chorus, thank you.

We’ve worked on three of the movements, with two more to go. And the concert is late next spring. I suspect I’m going to have it memorized before this season is over. And yes, I am going to get a tee-shirt for this, if I have to order one myself. 😛


4 thoughts on “When Beethoven Channels Hayden

  1. Baseball’s Tinker to Evan’s to Chance was an answer to music’s triad of Papa Haydn to Beerhoven to Brahms. Young Beethoven show the influence of his mentor Haydn, and the other northern master of the time, Handel. Hayden’s “Creation” and other works use the chorus as an additional set of instruments, as well as a chorus. All you can do is breathe well and have water on hand.

  2. When I sang (in my much younger days) in various choirs (second tenor, thank you), I recall a music director who referred to Beethoven’s musical style, when he placed excessive demands on certain vocal ranges, as “moronic Teutonic”. Hard to disagree, albeit with a smile!

  3. Enjoy, and get the free t-shirt one way or the other… I’ll pass, since I wouldn’t be able to hear you anyway. Sigh…

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