Did Classical Composers Make Mistakes?

Did Classical Composers Make Mistakes?



hi this is Robert Estrin at living pianos calm with a really interesting show for you today mistakes composers almost made or did they we're gonna find out today I'm gonna three examples of questionable compositional aspects you know the real challenge is composers who lived hundreds of years ago how do you know what is authentic what comes to mind is Beethoven echoes say the famous G major echo say and I want you to hear the way it appears that it was written listen to this now there's one part in there we hear that kind of funny chord and a lot of editions it corrects it well are we correcting Beethoven that's kind of takes a lot of guts to do that but listen to it and see what you think of this altered version which you find in many editions that doesn't have that funny sounding part in it so you could hear that it kind of took away that odd harmony there whether it's correct or incorrect did Beethoven make the mistake to the editors make the mistake it's really tough to know a lot of times it's interesting that what is oftentimes correct is what doesn't sound good because editors throughout the ages try to make things sound right because there's often times questions if you've ever seen Beethoven's calligraphy you'll know exactly what I'm talking about I've got another example for you here the etude actually pardon me the Nocturne of Chopin and E minor published pasta posthumous Lee after his death it's got a really strange harmony in one place in many editions and I want you to listen to it listen to it with that and you'll hear what I'm talking about and then I'll play it the way it's found in many other editions which one's authentic you know to say the truth I have not researched this I probably get a bunch of comments from you and I welcome them so listen first just to know which which Nocturne this is I'm just gonna play the beginning of it just so you know which a minor Nocturne we're talking about so in the middle section there's a strange note and I want you to listen to this and you'll spot it you probably will if you're familiar with this Nocturne so I don't know if you heard the funny sounding third there I'm gonna play it the way it's written in other editions that sounds better to my ears and I'm interested in your opinion as well listen to it this way did you catch that difference just how I can pinpoint where it is I'm gonna play it for you with the original with the notes it sound funny then I'm gonna play the corrected notes you can just know what I'm talking about so you know it's a funny thing even though I heard this piece so many times growing up when I studied it I just took out an earth text Edition learned it and then one time I was playing it for my sister and she said you know Bob that's a wrong note there in a lot of editions and I said you know I thought so and so I end up playing it the second way the corrected way the way that sounds better whether it's authentic or not we find a lot of challenges like this now the last one I'm going to bring to your attention is truly an almost epic fail in my opinion one of the greatest sonatas of all time is to listen out and be mine or grand work it's all in one movement essentially it's all played without pause and it's an about 30-minute work it's absolutely monumental and interestingly there was an alternative ending that list wrote first that ended incredibly heroically I mean all the fireworks you could imagine he's saved for the end well Clara Schumann who lists was friends with just hated it and encouraged him to rewrite the ending which he did and thank goodness he did because the ending of the list B minor Sonata is what brings that whole work together in my opinion because it has all the heights and the depths and the end there's a solace and what I'm gonna do for you I don't play the alternative ending there are YouTube recordings of it and I find it almost laughable because I'm intimately familiar with the Lisp E minor Sonata and to think that he could have ended it with this big long you know where it doesn't seem to end just keep getting more and more exciting it's antithetical to what this whole piece is about so I'm gonna play just a little bit of the end of this the last heroic part going into this solitude that ends this 30-minute work it's truly a profound piece of music if you've never heard it it's worth a listen so listen to the end of the lease B minor Center the way it was written keeping in mind that after a 30 minute work imagine you know raring it up again at the end what all no holds barred that was the what he originally wrote not this where it ends quietly and poetically so I think we all have a debt of gratitude to both clara schumann and franz liszt for making this one of the milestone compositions of the piano repertoire and it really is a great piece and it's good that it ends this way I think love everybody's opinion and if you listen on YouTube to other performances where they show the alternative ending that list originally wrote love your comments on that I wasn't even aware of this until quite recently by the way so I find it pretty fascinating hope you think this is interesting too again I'm Robert Esther and here at living pianos calm your online piano store and look forward to more viewer questions see you next time

32 Comments

  • lazy Guitarist says:

    Theirs no such thing as a mistake in music it just turns into another phrase.

  • Fryderyck Chopin says:

    All those hours we spent perfecting our pieces are gone

  • Hue Manatie says:

    I have often wondered (as a newbie) if what I was hearing was intentional or not. Sometimes there just seems to be a better way, but who am I to say. Purest will cringe but others may not even notice. I'm playing for my own enjoyment so I think I'll just have to play it by ear.

  • Zvonimir Tosic says:

    1) It could be (partly) the tuning issue too. Slightly different tuning between instruments and the music eras, and some chords sound off (especially diminished).
    2) Then it could be the nature of the instruments: Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, etc. used straight strung pianos, that definitely produce a different sound when compared to more modern instruments which are cross-strung. When straight strung pianos wires vibrate, some harmonics created (vibrations of other wires) are definitely missing in later pianos.

  • Vai Adrian Gais says:

    Beethoven wanted to sound burlesque and some morones wanted to make it sound stylish that piece but they made it sound bad..

  • Braňo Rabatin says:

    Even clearer example would be Chopin Waltz in B minor (69-2), which originally had a very weird harmony in measure 14 (15 if you count up beat as a separate measure) which went like b c #d e, and someone (Fontana?) corrected it to b #c d e…I honestly prefer the corrected version.

  • Purpled says:

    I think it's funny how a lot of different editors have a lot different editorials for Beethoven's manuscripts. I mean just look at his writing lol..

  • Maddisyn Magela says:

    why does Beethoven got blue hair in the thumbnail?

  • JT Roy says:

    Discrepancies in Chopin's music came from the fact that he was always changing the way he played things as he taught them to different students/performed them at different places, especially in his posthumous works. This is the reason that almost all of his posthumous music is very different in each score you'll come across. He never officially published a "correct" version of any of the pieces, so all of the editions we have came from his various students basically saying "oh hey he taught it this way" and other students would say "nuh uh he taught it this way." In reality they were both right. A lot of times he would write a piece, perform it, decide he didn't like what he wrote, and change it. An excellent example of this situation occurring is in the C# Minor Nocturne, Op. Post. Almost every single edition I have looked into (the actual number was like 5 or 6) has a lot of differences in several different sections of the piece in notation, grouping, ornamentation, etc.

    I can't speak definitively to the Beethoven example, as I'm not as familiar with his tendencies in composition, but this is actually the reason urtext isn't necessarily always quite as helpful as everyone thinks that it is. In a situation where a composer is always changing what he is writing, there really can be no true "urtext." Just something interesting my professor taught me last year because she and I were having a really interesting conversation about this same topic.

  • Claudio Sanchez says:

    Correcting Vivaldi (LOL): https://youtu.be/7xU0jrJZumo

  • Nick Austin says:

    I certainly prefer Ludwig’s version. I think it makes it special. The corrected version sounds ok but ordinary. The original stands out. It’s called genius

  • Vl4rt says:

    I've read that Clara Schumann hated the whole piece (sadly), it was dedicated di Robert Schumann and according to wikipedia "His wife Clara Schumann did not perform the Sonata; according to scholar Alan Walker she found it "merely a blind noise". So Liszt must have rewrote the ending by his own initiative. He rewrote often his pieces so it isn't that strange. Maybe he just wrote that ending impulsively then, after a moment of reflection, he understood that was not the proper way to end such a sonata.

  • 4pedos says:

    love your description of Liszt´s B-minor Sonata (Liszt´s best work…?). Interesting to hear that the beautiful, intimate, profound (and perhaps even strange) ending was set up after Clara Schumann expressed her disdain towards the more spectacular one that was originally intended. I believe that change ennobled the piece immensely, so one could claim Mrs. Schumann is (unintentionally) responsible for some of Mr. Liszt´s best ideas!

  • EZRA ALLEYNE says:

    Musique Classique Fantastique Automatique

  • Jacob Sherk says:

    It's worth a liszten

  • mark nol says:

    Beethoven, love the first part you play, with a bit dissonating note.
    Chopin, love the 2nd part you play. The 1st part, it sounded like someone angry hitting twice a car horn. The second part is more lyrical, a bit melancolic but growing towards happyness.
    Liszt sonate: you sure know how to play. Thanks for your performance!

  • Frédéric François Chopin says:

    Chopin is best

  • AKS says:

    Wonderful video…..as many observed here already, dissonance is just as desirable in music as consonance. Robert, have you had a chance to play on a piano tuned with the common methods used at the time of these great artists? They used an unequally tempered scale designed to produce varying degrees of consonance and dissonance from key to key, so for example, the truer thirds in C major would produce a rather bland quality in that key versus the more edgy quality of Ab major, with its more "adventurous" thirds.

    Sadly, we have completely lost all the various key "colours" with our unfortunate modern adoption of equal temperament. If you are ever in my area, you can drop in and try a modern piano tuned to a late 19th-century tuning and experience the difference. The key choices of composers before the twentieth century will suddenly make a lot of sense and were clearly planned on the basis of varying colour.

    Given the radical shifts in tone between registers of the straight-strung period-pianos which many of the great composers used, and the unequally-tempered scales, and the examples in the literature (particularly some surviving baroque performance notes) of seemingly "wrong notes", and the folk influences on many compositions, it seems that some shocking moments of dissonance were intended….absolutely.

    Of course, following your observations, it is also quite likely some moments are simply editorial or compositional errors…….
    Thanks for a great video on the topic.

  • Marianne says:

    I think very few of the great composers did mistakes as in mistakes that sound wrong. Of course they did when playing, everyone makes mistakes. But I'm sure they'll hear what a mistake is. Now, to the culture of the modern classical music: It's annoying to talk about stepping out of the original composition, when in reality many of them were great at improvising, for example Mozart even left space for the player to improvise in his compositions.

  • Michael Buschmann says:

    Mistakes are inevitable. We are only human.

  • TeaTime says:

    I just have to say that I LOVE the alternate ending to Liszt b Minor Sonata. So powerful!

  • Ludwig van Beethoven says:

    O~o

  • mali carter says:

    I like all of the first pieces. The “mistakes “ make the compositions more interesting to listen to and play.

  • Briana Walker says:

    A lot of these actually sound better in their original form

  • Matt O'Dowd says:

    I thought the “wrong” chopin sounded beautiful?? Anyone else think??

  • pianofucboi pianofucboi says:

    There are no mistakes, you need dissonance in your music, and that's what the composers did, it gives the music it's taste. Listen to Chopin's etude op 25 no 5

  • Cammy Cechini says:

    What an interesting video! And what a nice host, I love his enthusiasm.

  • brian me says:

    They were purposely written down on paper by master composers and they weren’t changed by those master composers. That means that they are right in the sound that the composer wanted. You can’t change a note and say that it’s now right. Strawberry Fields Forever was recorded out of tune, in 2 different keys and at 2 different speeds. Could someone else make that right? I know that’s a bit different, kinda the same thing though.

  • J.S. Bach says:

    There’s a similar thing with Bach’s first unaccompanied Violin Sonata, where some editors mistook the tails/flags (whatever you call them) of a sixteenth note to be an actual note in a chord.

  • Adam Colbert says:

    There is another way to answer this question, and that is, that during PERFORMANCE classical composers (I'm thinking Beethoven in particular) DID make mistakes. But this was not due to a lack of skill (obviously!), but rather that, Beethoven for example was so passionately and intensely connected to his music; to his inner MUSE while in live performance; and to his medium of expression (i.e. the piano); that accidents were simply a HUMAN result of putting so much energy and passion and intensity into it. And so these are the accidents that only occur when you are DARING to go beyond what your current limitations of "perfect playing" are, and yes you make mistakes when you cross that line of being able to execute perfectly, but also it is only when you cross that line that you will reach deeper insights and intensity into the piano (or other instrument) than you would have by playing it "perfectly". And it is also a healthily humbling reminder for when we make mistakes, that even the greats such as Beethoven made mistakes sometimes and that's okay.

  • Adam Colbert says:

    6:34 I guess you could say… It's worth a Liszt-en 😉 😉

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