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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Classic Showcase: Beethoven Songs

One of the most influential figures in the Classic and Romantic eras of Western Art music, German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) left his mark on European history with his revolutionary works. With over 30 piano sonatas, 9 symphonies, 5 concerts for piano and many other chamber music compositions and string quartets, the pianist's has an inner passion of music like no other, and he performed and composed music until the very end, when he died of liver disease.

What is most remarkable about Beethoven is the fact that during his career he became completely deaf on both ears, and yet still continued to push on! One of his most well-known works, the 'Ode to Joy' (or his 9th symphony) was produced while he was completely deaf. Though he could still compose, having a hearing loss obviously made performing in public extremely difficult for him and he gave that up soon after the Ode to Joy was performed. No one knows exactly what caused Beethoven to go deaf.

This was one of the very first song series in the Classic genre of Taiko no Tatsujin. Even back during the old days of Taiko when classic compositions have only begun emerging in this rhythm game series, Beethoven's works being used first goes to show how powerful his name is in the world of music.


-Beethoven series-


 Ninth Symphony (第九交響曲) --- Old ---
x3 (223)x2 (268)x3 (268)
 Taiko PS2 2, CD Red

 Ninth Symphony (第九交響曲) --- New ---
Taiko 12 Asian, Taiko PSP DX, DS 3, Wii 1x3 (104)x4 (171)x4 (267)x6 (354)
Taiko 0, Taiko Wii 5, Taiko 3DS2x3 (104)x3 (171)x3 (267)x6 (354)
 Taiko 12 Asian, Taiko 0, Taiko PSP DX, Taiko DS 3, Taiko 3DS 2, Taiko Wii 1, 5, Taiko Wii U 3

This is the famous composer's final complete symphony: the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, originally commissioned by the Philharmonic Society of London in 1817 and finished in 1824. The score of the Ninth Symphony's four movements are for a large orchestra including Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion and String instruments; it was also the first example of a major composition to use voices in a symphony (thus making it a choral symphony) during the final movement. It is universally considered to be among Beethoven's greatest works, and by some to be the greatest piece of music ever written.

The Ninth Symphony premiered on 7 May 1824 in the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna, 12 years after Beethoven's final on-stage appearance (due to his progressive hearing loss). Even completely deaf, the German composer managed to majestically perform his ultimate opus in front of his audience, and got multiple standing ovations even before the end of the 2nd movement. Several anecdotes about this premiere have been told from other contemporary musicians and historians; according to one, Beethoven had to be turned around by the orchestra in the end to see the tumultuous applause of the audience. He wept for not being able to hear the gratitude of his listeners, but in response there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, and raised hands, so that Beethoven, who could not hear the applause, could at least see the overwhelming gestures.

The Taiko cut of the Ninth Symphony features the symphony's final movement, the only part with lyrics for four solo vocalists and a chorus. The lyrics were taken from the poem Ode an die Freude or Ode to Joy, written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785. The poem - enthusiastically celebrating the brotherhood and unity of all mankind - was later revised in 1803 and then featured with the Ninth Symphony's final movement as the official Anthem of Europe, also called "Ode to Joy". A portion of the Ode of Joy has also been used as the 'level clear' tune of the puzzle-game series Peggle as well as many other pop-culture media.

The song features several BPM changes (as with most classical songs) and starts off with the standard beat division of 1/16 but later switches to a 1/12 rhythm during the chorus, with single note sequences and easy clusters. The first time this song was done was on the 2nd Taiko PS2 game, and its Oni was identical to Muzukashii (no idea how it got a star increase). All the subsequent versions offer a much better Oni chart with longer 1/12 clusters.

 Symphony No. 5 "Fate" (交響曲第五番「運命」)
Taiko 5, PS2 3x5 (169)x5 (275)x6 (414)x6 (414)
Taiko 6x5 (169)x5 (275)x5 (414)x6 (414)
TDM x5 (169)x5 (275)x5 (414)x5 (414)
Taiko PSP 2x4 (128)x5 (169)x5 (275/241/204)x6 (414)
Taiko 12 Asianx4 (128)x5 (169)x5 (275/241/204)x7 (414)
Taiko DS 2x4 (128)x5 (169)x6 (275/241/204)x6 (414)
Taiko Wii 2, iOSx4 (128)x5 (169)x5 (275/241/204)x6 (414)
TDM (2P)

x5 (320/290) (video)
 Taiko 5, 6, 12 Asian, Taiko PS2 3, Taiko PSP 2, TDM, Taiko DS 2, Taiko Wii 2, Taiko iOS

In 1808, about two decades before the Ninth Symphony's release, Beethoven directed a concert at Vienna's Theather an der Wien, where he performed a couple of his symphonies for the first time, together with other piano improvisations and chorals. That concert was also the debut of another of his most known and appreciated works: the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67.

Composed between 1804-1808, the Fifth Symphony is also divided in four movements with different tempo signatures - mainly Allegro but also Scherzo and Andante con moto (these are all tempo markings in Italian; click here for a full list and what they mean) - in which a recurrent motif of 'fate' of four notes is repeated twice with minor tone differences, acting as an ominous reminder of the Symphony's main 'theme':  Fate knocking at the door, around the corner. Even if the first drafts of this symphony was dated right after the Third's conclusion, its gestation required a lot of time since Beethoven had been busy with other piano projects at the time, and he was also coping with his first signs of deafness.

The symphony soon acquired its status as a central item in the repertoire. As an emblem of classical music, the Fifth was played in the inaugural concerts of the most famous American orchestras, such as the New York Philarmonics and the National Symphony Orchestra. The First Movement of the symphony was also featured on NASA's 'Golden Record', a phonograph record containing a broad sample of the images, common sounds, languages, and music of Earth, sent into outer space with the two Voyager probes in 1977.

The Taiko rendition of the Fifth Symphony is an abridged version of the first movement - Allegro con brio - usually lasting over 8 minutes. No clusters at all are involved in the song's Oni mode, but this is because of the high BPM; any clusters would push this Oni chart towards the higher end. The ominous four notes so characteristic of this Symphony is also briefly featured in Symphonic Druaga, another Taiko song under the Game Music genre.

 Turkish March (トルコ行進曲)
Taiko PS2 7x3 (119)x5 (213)x6 (348)x7 (480)
Taiko DS 3x3 (119)x5 (213)x6 (348)x8 (480)
 Taiko PS2 7, Taiko DS 3, CD Full Combo

There are two songs with the name 'Turkish March' in Taiko (yes, with the exact same Japanese letters too) so it can be confusing at first to distinguish the two...but they could not sound any more different from each other! One is by Mozart (this one), and this is by Beethoven. This is a few years after the Fifth Symphony's release, and is quite a peculiar piece which emulates Turkish music, quite popular in the early 19th century.

The Turkish March was first used in Beethoven's "6 Variations on an Original Theme", Op. 76, in 1809; however the piece is better known around the world as the No.4 item of The Ruins of Athens (Die Ruinen von Athen), Op. 113, a set of incidental music tracks written in 1811. The music was written to accompany the play of the same name by August von Kotzebue, for the dedication of a new theatre at Pest.

Unlike the first two, this song is not presented in its original style, but is a techno remix by Hiromi Shibano (柴野浩美), who makes niche Namco Original songs like Kissa Rain and Obsession Latino. Unlike the first two songs of this series, the Turkish March's slow BPM allows for a different style of gameplay, featuring long successions of clusters. So much so, that it gained a star on its way from PS2 to DS.

 Excerpt from Symphony No. 7 (交響曲第7番から)
Taiko DS 1, Taiko Wii 3x3 (113)x4 (179) x6 (329)x8 (541)
Taiko 0x3 (113)x4 (179) x6 (329)x7 (541)
 Taiko 0, Taiko DS 1, Taiko Wii 3

The latest Beethoven song in Taiko comes from another symphony released in the same year as The Ruins of Athens, named Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92 and dedicated to Count Moritz von Fries. Beethoven worked on it between 1811-1812 while staying in the Bohemian spa town of Teplice in the hope of improving his health. The work was premiered in Vienna on 8 December 1813 at a charity concert for soldiers wounded in the Battle of Hanau, with Beethoven himself conducting.

Like the other symphonies, this one is divided in four movements with different tempo markings, but the Taiko version briefly features part of the first and the last ones, spacing from Poco sostenuto/Vivace of the first movement to the last one's Vivace ending (all in sonata form), offering one of the few examples of dynamic marking ƒƒƒ (called forte fortissimo or fortississimo, meaning extremely loud) in Beethoven's music.

The song's inconsistent pace makes for a lot of tough 1/16 and 1/24 clusters throughout this chart, and was quite a tough song to FC when it first came out on the Nintendo DS. Patterns like these are commonplace now, though that does not in any way make them easier to deal with if you're not used to them. This song is one rare example of a classic song that has stayed on console Taiko for a fair amount of time before moving to the arcade.

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