Beethoven Septet Melbourne Chamber Plauers.jpg


July 20, 7pm

Church of All Nations, Carlton, 180 Palmerston St, Victoria, 3053

Parking: There are spaces available around the church, however sometimes it can be a little busy. To avoid the search there is a parking lot 200m from the venue for $8 after 5pm. Visit GreenCo Parking for more details.

Tickets: Adult $35/Concession $20/Under 18 Free. Bookings can be made online or purchased can at the door (cash only).

All audience members are invited to join the players post-performance for a drink and an opportunity to meet the musicians.


Performance Notes

Goldberg Variations (ar. V. Vonasec for wind trio) - J. S. Bach
Septet in E-Flat, Op. 20 - L. Beethoven

Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes


Goldberg Variations BWV 988 - Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Bach’s Goldberg Variations were published around 1741 titled as Aria with diverse variations for a harpsichord with two manuals. The legend is then to have said that the work derived its common name after, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg the private harpsichordist of Count Kaiserling, a Russian diplomat, of whom it was composed for to sooth his restless sleep.

This is a beautiful work of elegance, poise, spirit, and tenderness. Within it, a hidden maze of intricacies and complex puzzles and is a candy shop for musical intellectuals. The piece is constructed symmetrically, beginning with an Aria of which the bass line fuels material of the 30 variations to follow. Bach might have adopted this idea from Handel’s Aria and 64 variations published earlier in 1733. Every third variation is a canon and there is a natural break after the 15th variation. The work is composed for a two manual harpsichord and he specified which manuals (“Clav”) were to be used for each variation. Glenn Gould first recorded these in 1955 at the age of 22 years – it was a fast, brilliant, and flashy recording, lasting only 39 minutes (without repeats) fitting on a two-sided LP. 

There are many discussions as to whether the work is more suitably played on the piano or harpsichord although there is little difference between the two if the performer allows the transparency of the lines to shine through. Here we are tasked with the challenge to provide you the same sort of transparency as a wind trio. We believe that the vastly different tonal colours that can be achieved by the oboe, clarinet, and bassoon will give our listeners some new food for thought when approaching the infamous Goldberg Variations. This arrangement was written by the Principal Contra-Bassoonist of the Berlin Philharmonic, Václav Vonášek whom kindly gave us the music and permission to perform this version. 

For this concert, we will share with you the following movements from the Goldberg Variations and would love to hear your thoughts about the efficacy (or contrary!) of this adaptation for our wind instruments

Aria: a sarabande* in triple time (three beats to a bar)  

Variation 1. a 1 Clav: in a polonaise character, where the bassoon and clarinet solely act as the two parts.  

Variation 2. a 1 Clav: three-part counterpoint in duple time (two beats to a bar) 

Variation 3. Canone all’Unisono. a 1 Clav: The first of the regular canons. This canon is at the unison: the follower begins on the same note as the leader, one bar later with a supporting bass line. The time signature of 12/8 and the many sets of triplets suggest a kind of a simple dance. 

Variation 8. a 2 Clav: two-part variation in triple time 

Variation 29. a 1 ô vero 2 Clav: grand variation in triple time of large chords 

*Sarabande: A dance that was popular in Baroque music in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Septet in E flat Major, Opus 20 - Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

I. Adagio; Allegro con brio (Slow; Fast with spirit) 

II. Adagio cantabile (Slowly, in a singing style) 

III. Tempo di minuetto (Speed of a minuet dance)

IV. Tema con variazioni: Andante (Theme and variations: moderately slow) 

V. Scherzo: Allegro molto e vivace (spritely and humorous: Very fast and lively with spirit) 

VI. Andante con moto alla marcia; Presto (Moderately slow with movement of a march; quickly) 

Ludwig Beethoven composed his well-loved, Septet in E Flat Major during the years of 1799-1800. Beethoven had only left his birth place of Bonn to move to Vienna a few years earlier in 1792. At this point in time he was mainly known as a piano virtuoso, appearing at many private salon performances around Vienna. Despite never having the opportunity to study under Mozart, Beethoven absolutely worshiped the works of Mozart having met the master in 1789. During his time in Vienna, Beethoven learnt composition and counterpoint in much detail under Haydn whom was a dear friend to Mozart. Count Waldstein, Beethoven’s first patron in Bonn, wrote in his farewell note, “Through uninterrupted diligence you will receive Mozart’s spirit through Haydn’s hands”; something of which many would agree can be heard in the works of Beethoven.  

Beethoven’s Septet was premiered at the Burgtheater in 1800 alongside his Symphony No. 1, Piano Concerto No. 2, as well as a symphony by Mozart, and an aria and a duet from Haydn's oratorio The Creation. Essentially, this concert acted as Beethoven’s debutante ball to the people of Vienna. Beethoven had also composed his first six string quartets between the years of 1798-1800, the same period of time that it is reported he suffered the trauma to cause his decline in hearing.  

Despite this, the Septet marked a new ground in harmony, melody, and phrasing. It is composed for an interesting combination of instruments (clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello, and double bass) for that time and supposedly provided inspiration for Schubert’s Octet which was written for almost the same instrumentation. The work is in six movements, more or less constructed in the genre of a classical divertimento although more symphonic of nature. Beethoven doesn’t always stick to the conventional division of giving the melodies to the treble instruments, instead composing with a great deal of interplay between the instruments and the swapping of roles. Listen out for the third movement as it utilises a melody from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Opus 49, No. 2, a work that was written very early in his career but only published later (hence the later catalogue number) and the fourth movement as it is a set of five variations on a Rhenish folk tune.

By Stephanie Dixon