Monday, October 11, 2010

Beethoven in A-flat; Michael Tilson Thomas, Alicia de Larrocha, and Dudley Moore

[1:14] "This key of A-flat, to Beethoven" says Michael Tilson Thomas to Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009), "is this key of reconciliation."



He plays the first part of the second movement of the fifth symphony as an example, and de Larrocha begins to sing, caught in sympathetic vibration. Thomas compare this to the late masterwork in A-flat major; the Op. 110 sonata. De Larrocha plays the opening of the sonata with a deep and human warmth.

A-flat major then, can be an expression of "the inward, all-forgiving Beethoven. [2:07]"

This clip is from a lovely series of six television programs filmed in 1993 called "Concerto!" Dudley Moore (1935-2002) was interested in further developing the series he began with Sir George Solti (called "Orchestra!") a few years earlier.

This is an early example of Thomas in his role as an educator. Here he is exploring how to create connections to musical style through highly personal collaborations.

Dudley Moore was a trained musician. We think of him laughing in his most famous roles, but he was musical also. At [3:35] he launches into his imitation of Beethoven mixed with the theme from the "Colonel Bogey March." De Larrocha seems to love it and the first time you hear it the charm is irresistible. But Moore did this parody at every available opportunity--there are several versions on YouTube.

Thomas and Moore had a complicated relationship; they respected one another but never quite harmonized. They each expressed it in an interview in "The Independent" from 1993:

Tilson Thomas on Moore:
"Dudley seems to want music to be comforting, and, at the same time, an amusing force which somehow makes it possible for the audience to stand further away from the sadness and confusion of life. For me, the most important part of music is the breadth and depth of emotion. Despite the fact that we were coming at the music from two different places, there was a great deal of trust between us. When I was talking about something with great seriousness, Dudley would frequently add some surreal comment prefaced with 'Come off it, Michael.' He has this extraordinary ability for brilliantly clever repartee - a never-ending comic stream of consciousness."

Moore on Thomas:
"To an extent, musicians are quite isolated and I couldn't imagine Michael with a massive group of friends. I wouldn't say Michael is a friend in the sense of wanting to make sure that he was OK, but he's certainly much more than just an acquaintance. If he were to walk into my kitchen now, I would be absolutely delighted."

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