Sunday, July 02, 2006

eBay orchestra auction - must it be?

A rare opportunity has arisen to buy an orchestra. The Beethoven Academie, based in Mechelen, Belgium, has put itself up for sale on eBay because the Belgian government has stopped paying its annual subsidy. Bert Anciaux, the country's Culture Minister, is being blamed for the orchestra's plight. 'We don't know what to do,' says a spokesman for the musicians. 'That's why we offer ourselves on eBay to the highest bidder. Maybe you know a jackpot winner or multimillionaire who could save us?'

From today's Observer. Follow this link to the eBay auction. As I write 116 bids have reached a healthy Euro 100,100 (£69,000, $125,000). Buying your own orchestra may just be the answer if you are a contemporary composer seeking that elusive first performance, and the current bidding makes the Beethoven Academie look quite a bargain compared with the BBC's annual commissioning budget for new music of around of £350,000 ($630,000).


There are many impressive precedents of using your own band to premiere your music including Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig, Rudolph Mauersberger with his sublime (and seriously neglected) 1948 Dresden Requiem which was first performed with his Kreuzchor, and, of course, Pierre Boulez, who gave many premieres of his own works both with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and his Ensemble InterContemporain which he formed in 1967. But if you want your own ensemble hurry, as bidding ends on 4th July.

Now playing - Beethoven's String Quartet Opus 135 in F Major played by the Alban Berg Quartet (this budget priced re-issue of their first Beethoven Quartet cycle is a superb bargain incidentally). In a three-note phrase in this great quartet the composer asks the question 'Must it be?' ('Muss es sein?') and then answers it with the same phrase turned inside out to assert 'It must be.' ('Es muss sein.') In 1826, the year of the Opus 135 quartet's composition, a Viennese patron wanted to know if 50 florins had to be the subscription price for a performance of Opus 130 in his own home. Beethoven's retort came, set to a musical canon, 'It must be! Yes yes yes yes! Out with your wallet!' The question and answer stuck in the composer's mind, and when he came to write his last quartet, he famously turned it into music.

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2 comments:

Rob said...

I used to think, "It must be" was about Beethoven's struggle to come to terms with fate.

Of course there may be a double meaning here....apparent flippancy (the fee) might hide darker feelings (lack of a marriage partner).

Pliable said...

Rob you are quite correct. Just as there are alternative finales for the Opus 130 Quartet, so there are alternative versions of the 'Es muss sein? story.

Sometimes the Grosse Fugue suits in performance, and sometimes it doesn't.

This time the 50 florin version of 'Es muss sein? suited my financially themed article. And anyway it is just too hot here in the UK to think about darker feelings and the meaning of life.