Beethoven: A “Minuet”

How is anything by Beethoven relatable to my project? After all, that 250 year-old German composer has some of THE most-played music ever. Specifically for cello, one or more of his five sonatas are featured, seemingly, on half of all cello recitals.

Question? Have you played or heard one of Beethoven’s best-known little ditties? You know, that happy little Minuet all kids learn. The one that goes something like, “Daa d’ Dee d’ dee d’ dee d’ Deeee da d’ deeee da d’ Deeeee”.

If you aren’t recalling the tune yet, here is a little excerpt to help you out.

L.v. Beethoven “Minuet in G” excerpt

In case you are still wondering what point there is to posting a blog about anything Beethoven, think form, structure, melody, harmony, and appreciation.

Historical progress in music

When you listen to any of the music from the Master composer’s output, you hear the direct influence of the 1600 an 1700’s. Especially with earlier compositions that placed emphasis on pleasing and correct harmonization, (Melody and form included.) the beautiful comes through. Although this is a “simple” and short piece, it displays a knowledge of theory and aesthetics that is astounding.

We tend to disregard it as child’s music. It is cute and easy enough for children to learn that it could never be held as a master piece. Master piece it may not be, at least compared to the complexities of his piano or CELLO sonatas, but a very fine example of how an expertly composed piece of music is put together, it is.

Prodded on by a Student’s Enthusiasm

To be perfectly honest, I thought about this Minuet on account of a student. The student came in and excitedly wanted to play something for me. It was Beethoven’s ubiquitously learned Minuet.

They were so happy about it that I decided to revisit it and play a two-cello version of it and record just for said student. As I played the cello 2 part–merely plucking the bass of the left hand in the piano accompaniment–it hit me. The two parts are nearly harmonically complete on their own! That is, the ear can ascertain harmony from the two notes being played simultaneously. It is frequently implied harmony, but Bach does that all the time in his educational Inventions, which are only two parts (and never more).

This is precisely what was going on in the Baroque period. We had a solo line with a basso continuo. The b.c. is really a line of bass music and figures written in to inform the player of the chords. If one were to play only the written music, however, it is enough to give one the sense of harmony–it is implied.

This how I have presented all of my Baroque era selections if recorded with two cellos; a solo line and the bass line. This concept brings us back to the project of Forgotten Cello Music. The connection is not really about music that is nearly unplayed but about the completeness of those two outer lines of music.

Baroque music must be the favorite* era for this reason. The beauty and elegance command respect and cause the informed and casual listener to want to listen. And it seems that it doesn’t matter too much whether it is a master piece or not, it is just nice music.

Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739), Sonata in E minor, Adagio

In this video I played only two lines, as described above. It can be extremely satisfying to play this way. If you choose to fill out the harmonies that is fine, too, since that was the standard practice anyway. (Usually with a harpsichord and a second cello.)

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Anyway, that was a temporary musing. I hope it was interesting and that you even liked it. If so, please consider “liking” this post and the video as well. Thanks.

*I don’t have any hard statistics on it but one only needs to turn on the radio, listen carefully in stores and search some of the more well-known Baroque composers on Youtube and Spotify to make a generalization. Look at the view/play numbers. They are quite high.

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