The purpose of this series is to present the death metal fan (and by extension, the death metal writer/artist/composer) with a look into great classical string quartets that evoke the same violent and stark atmosphere that is typical of death metal.
The metal fan is encouraged to look beyond superficial parallels or differences so that he realizes how these string quartets by master composers developed into a cornucopia of expressions, patterns and details. I wish this would also be an aspiration or at least an inspiration for the artist (or would-be artist) that has the chance of reading it.
Another good reason to listen to string quartets in general is that they tend to express a more sincere and private facet of the composer while also being a test to his prowess in composition.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Op. 133, Grosse Fuge
Originally written as the last movement of his Op. 130, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, this massive movement was once commented on by Stravinsky saying that it is “an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever.”. Stravinsky was referring to the absolute character of the music and its jarring disparity with temporal conventions.
Dmitry Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 10 in A flat, Op. 118
The well-known dark personality of Shostakovich’s compositions comes through in distilled and intensified manner in his string quartets. In here we find a mature Shostakovich channeling visions of a personal hell. We can imagine his will to fight through and see the light at the end of the tunnel despite facing terror and dread.
The Death Melodies Series (DMS) continues with pioneering Romanticist composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
Quite possibly the most well known composer to ever walk this planet, Ludwig van Beethoven’s music has inspired the world for two centuries. Beethoven ushered in the Romanticist Period after he was under the guidance of Joseph Haydn in which he studied and performed works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His Mozartean mastery furthered his reputation as a performer and when Beethoven sought to compose, he started out with heavy influences from his Classical Period contemporaries.
Romanticism: Some time around 1804, Beethoven grew weary of the state of music and decided that he was going to pave a new way. Inspired somewhat by the glimpses of Romanticism that Mozart hinted at during his later years, Beethoven presented a fully formed Romanticist style that would be extended throughout the 19th century in Classical Music. This period of Beethoven’s career is known as the ‘Heroic Period’. The most notable musical work from this time is his Third Symphony in which the second movement is a Funeral March for the then-still-alive Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven was originally going to make the symphony a tribute to Napoleon’s role in the French Revolution, but he was rather disgusted by Napoleon proclaiming himself the Emperor of France, so Beethoven instead insulted Napoleon with a Funeral March.
Beethoven’s hearing started to deteriorate around the age of 26. As his condition worsened he isolated himself and had thoughts of suicide. His art overrode his depression and he was striven to live his life through his works. He kept hammering out innovative and groundbreaking compositions of epic portions that would forever change the course of Classical Music. Ludwig van Beethoven immortalized himself through his art.
“…after having learned the art of conducting with second class orchestras, he became a reputed conductor from 1922. But the nazi era imposed him to make a choice : Furtwängler stayed in Berlin, but as an exiled in his own country, as he used to say. With the end of the war, he was given the opportunity to come back at the head of European musical culture, promoting humanity in music. But times were changing, and he was perceived more than ever as distant from “modernity”, as this concept was understood then.” – www.furtwangler.org
Furtwängler believed that he captured the time signatures that the composers intended. Though, not as popular as Karajan and others, the unique standpoint which Wilhelm Furtwängler displayed shouldn’t go unnoticed.