I figure that if Ludwig van Beethoven had been around today, he’d have been a shred-metaller. You know – a guitar virtuoso who churns out 500-note-a-minute solos on top of complex polyrhythmic backings built around augmented minor chord progressions. Think Yngwie Malmsteen.
That’s basically how Beethoven’s stuff was viewed back then by a generation bought up on Mozart. (“Ach, this new music! Such clatter! Vot has Napoleon done to Europe’s culture?”)
Besides which, Beethoven sounds best today as shred metal. Want proof? Get this. Way back when I was studying piano I tried learning Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor – ‘Sonata quasi una Fantasia’. He wrote it in 1801-02 and dedicated it to a pupil, Julie Guicciardi. It got the name ‘Moonlight’ in 1832 when Ludwig Rellstab likened the first movement to moonlight shimmering over water.
Each movement is harder than the last, though they’re all challenging in their own way. The first, ‘Adagio sostenuto’, is built around a deceptively simple ostenato, which sounds fine until you have to play a polyrhythmic third part with the little finger of the right hand. I learned that OK. And the second movement ‘Allegretto’. As for the third – ‘Presto agitato’, well, that hit my limit. It’s music lingo for shred metal. Here’s Valentina Lisitsa performing it on a Steinway Model D, as Herr Beethoven wrote it:
And here it is as shred metal. See? I rest my case.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2017