The composers who followed Beethoven writing symphonies did so at the risk of a failed serious comparison. Some managed to survive. But, Schumann has suffered greatly by comparison. Beethoven set the stage. Brahms forged ahead and gave four sparkling masterworks. Schubert was not to be outdone in his 8th (unfinished) and 9th symphonies. But what about Schumann? His symphonies (the 2nd movement of the 2nd symphony comes to mind) are weak shadows of the giant. I think he may have known this because he revised his revisions. But now let us set the record straight and give Schumann his due. Beethoven fathomed the depths of our psyche to the very bottom. He found suffering there. His reaction was to triumph over it with his music. We call Beethoven's music 'heroic' for this reason. I would add that his music is even therapeutic. His heroic temperament accounts in part for his universal appeal. On the other hand, Schubert did not have the courage to oppose the tribulation. So he did something just as good. He transformed it into something beautiful and therefore bearable. Brahms' reaction to it is somewhere between Schubert and Beethoven. Brahms can be heroic and poignant in the same passage. What about Schumann? Schumann seemed to want to create something uplifting and gay (that is to say uplifting in a not too serious way). In this he failed. If he could of ignored Beethoven (fat chance) and just been himself, he would of been better off. Well then, what is the result? Schumann plumed the depth of our suffering like the rest. He made something beautiful like the others. In this he compares favorably with Schubert and Brahms. And that is the answer. Take Schumann on his own and his music is worthily crafted and splendid. He wanted it to be delightful but the burden of suffering still shows through. Taken in this way, Schumann's symphonies are solid masterpieces. Always brooding and sometimes gay and often delightful and always wonderfully crafted. In concert, audiences usually spontaneously applaud the virtuoso performance of the violins for their speed and precision in this scherzo. Tip: listen for the dissonances. He occasionally has notes semitones apart sounding together. *** Debussy and the Tri-Tone Western music has some recognizable principles: The major scale of 8 notes and the associated chords called the tonic, the fourth and the dominant. The scale is the do-ray-me ... sequence or otherwise the notes c-d-e-f-g-a-b-c on the piano keyboard. The three chords are c-e-g and c-f-a and b-d-g. Only the white keys are used. These sounds are familiar to our ears because Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven used them extensively and inspired their followers to do the same. An excellent example would be Haydn's Clock Symphony, the 2nd movement. The C major chord c-e-g is, however, unbalanced. Unbalanced because the e is a major third above the c while the g is only a minor third above the e. Likewise, the corresponding c minor chord c-(e-flat)-g is top-heavy with the g being a major third above the e-flat while the e-flat is only a minor third above the c. One way to achieve balance is to make both intervals a minor third. That is, c-(e-flat)-(g-flat), and this is the tri-tone that attracted Debussy. He used this tri-tone sound whenever possible in his (only) string quartet. That is why this music sounds new to us. It sounds modern. It sounds convincing. *** Schubert wrote two trios for piano, violin and cello. Both are masterpieces. However, there also survives a single trio movement presented here. With this trio movement there is a problem of balance. The modern concert piano is much more massive in it's strength and loudness than the piano of Schubert's day. The challenge today is to prevent the piano from drowning the strings in it's sea of sound. It does no good to play the strings louder because then they lose Schubert's intended sweetness. No, the piano must be softer, but without losing it's strength. A good balance may be a distant dream in the concert hall but not so in cyberchambermusic's studio. Four separate channels are used one each for the violin, the cello, the piano right hand and the piano left hand. The four channels can then be combined in such a way that each can be heard for it's own part. The four voices are spread across the stereo spectrum starting with the violin on the far left, then the cello mid left, then on the mid right the piano right-hand (high notes) and on the far right the piano left-hand (low notes). However, there is also the problem of musical balance. What should be the natural role of each of the four voices? In the violin sonata, the role of the piano and violin duet had been firmly established. Beethoven and Mozart had been at it already. But adding the cello to make a trio means Schubert has something new to say. While he created something beautiful in this movement, it does not have the balance he sought. Each of the four parts seem to be in a secondary accompanying role. Nowhere does the violin (or cello) lead and the others follow. It is the piano that demands our attention throughout even though not in the usual leading way. The movement is a scene with four bit players and no leading man. Cyberchambermusic can in it's studio successfully attack the problem of volume balance but be assured we are helpless to improve Schubert's musical balance. *** Victor Borge walked onto the stage, sat, adjusted the piano bench, smiled at the audience and played his piece. When he was done, he rose, turned and accepted the audience's applause and said, "For my next piece, I would like to play all the notes I missed in this first one." Mr. Borge is a very funny man and also a good pianist. However, his amusing joke raises an interesting question that I would like to pursue. Another good story comes from an interview with a well-known concert violinist. He said that sometimes in concert he forgot Mozart's concerto score and had to fill in with some notes he just made up. He hoped Mozart would forgive him. Even studio performances do not always satisfy. When Toscanini was unhappy with a section of a recorded performance, the piece was fixed by his allowing the recording engineers to splice in the same section with a tape from another (years) earlier performance. So fine was Toscanini's art that such a fix could succeed. The advantage of a studio recording is that if any notes are accidentally skipped or altered while playing, it is a simple matter to discard the recording and redo it - as many times as it takes to get it right (assuming the players schedules allow them time). The disadvantage of the studio is that the soloist loses the interaction with the audience which may well have inspired him to a superior performance. Another concert pianist said that because of his interaction with his audience during the concert, no two of his concert performances of a piece were ever the same. Indeed, he went further and confessed that he even lacked the control needed to produce two identical performances. While it is indeed a thrilling experience to sit in the hall (and socialize) and marvel along with the others in the audience at the soloist's expertise, to be fair it must be said that the best place for the recording of many live concert performances is in the trash can. The reason for raising this point is because modern computer software gives us more control over a performance than ever before. The number of ways for the man at the computer to fix his performance is nearly unlimited. Let me continue with an example. I have in mind Chopin's piano Fantasy in f minor. Here is a place where the computer-controlled performance can excel. First of all the recorded "sound" of a piano is the same whether it is generated by the sequencer at the computer keyboard or by a soloist at the piano keyboard. That is to say, if one note is hit by the pianist and recorded, it sounds the same when played back even though the computer initiates the playback. So far, so good. It is the combination of many notes both together and one after the other where the listener can hear a difference between the pianist versus the computer sequence. The difference is of course that the pianist, being human, introduces many subtleties of dynamics and tempo and phrasing and tone (yes tone, even on the piano) and all the rest. We call this human contribution the "rubato". But secondly you see, the sequencer has all the computer power needed to endow his performance with his own artistic rubato. He can computer-change the dynamics, the tempo, the phrasing and all. The difference is only one now of analysis and time. Because he has none of the time constraints of a live concert performance, he can computer play the entire score just one-finger one-note at a time, literally, before assembling the whole. Now comes the difference. The pianist has many "takes" and selects the best for his recording and it is done and he goes on to the next project. He can never go back and change a single note. But the sequence exists permanently. The sequencer can produce exactly the same performance again tomorrow, unchanged. Or one month hence, the same with only one note changed. One note altered in pitch or loudness or length or altered in it's relationship to all the other notes. Do you feel the power - the computer power? We do here at cyberchambermusic. We started sequencing Chopin's Fantasy several years ago. We stopped half way through discouraged at the sound of the piano. Then we came across a fine Bossendoerfer piano which has been sampled for computer music. It sounds fine. It sounds great. So we chose it for the Fantasy. And just think, we can produce exactly the same performance in the future with another (Steinway) piano. We will always have that option. Cyberchambermusic produced Vivaldi's Seasons, Summer, on our first album, Cyber Beethoven, Mozart and Vivaldi (one of our most popular tracks). But we produced it again on another album, Cyber Strikes Baroque. What's the difference? Well the sequence is the same. We replaced the samples from solo strings to ensemble strings. That is, instead of one first violin we have a whole violin section, etc. In fact, we have plans to redo it again in the future. Summary: suppose you are a concert pianist. You give a concert and play the Chopin f-minor fantasy. The concert performance is recorded and published. A year later you hear another pianist perform the fantasy and you have a revelation. You like his tempo in the slow section. Your tempo was faster. You think, I wish I had played his tempo. I wish I had done it slower. What are you going to do? Record it again? Tell your audience here it is again with an improved tempo? Of course we have never seen that. But compare your anguish with that of the sequencer and his recorded performance. Suppose you are the sequencer. Here it is! You can return to the sequence and not change anything but the tempo in the slow section. The rest is unchanged - exactly as it was before. And indeed, you can now publish the fantasy anew and gleefully, without anguish, present your audience (if you have one) the new version telling them it is the same with an improved tempo in the slow section. And indeed it is. No problem. In this way, a computer performance can excell.