Timpani in Beethoven Violin Concerto
Why did Beethoven use a timpani in his violin concerto? Is it a metronomic device to ensure the ensemble stays together?
Nothing else makes quite that sound. I think it creates a certain sense of mystery in the first measure. He might have approached it instead with cellos/basses but perhaps the tympanist was already on salary.
The main theme of the first movement IS the first 5 drum-taps. Almost every phrase of every melody has a natural "resting" point on a 5th beat. And the tempo parallels a normal breath - inhale on beats 1-4, and exhale (and release of tension) on beat 5.
great response, Sander.
Are we talking about the tympani at the beginning, or the (occasional) use of tympani in the violin cadenza in the first movement (which I've heard Christian Teztlaff use)?
The only reason to include the timps in the cadenza is to repeat the motif from the opening.
And this article by Tetzlaff points out that the use of the timpani motif in the cadenza dates from Beethoven's own cadenza to the piano version of the violin concerto.
The reason for the tympani in his concerto is that at the first performance, one of Beethoven's most important patrons, Count Vtiold Wertaslewvski, insisted on playng first oboe (or else...). At the age of 87, he could barely see his score, was deafer than Beethoven, and had only had a few lessons. After it became obvious that his lack of rhythm could sabotage the whole affair, Beethoven ordered the tympani to stand directly behind the oboes, and bang mercilessly into the old man's ear, thereby hoping to discourage him from further performance.
but they're not "banging mercilessly".
That is a great story Scott.
There is no mention of this oboe amateur "important patron" in my Beethoven biographies, nor does anything turn up if one googles the name, even if you try a different spelling.