By Christopher Costanza
Beethoven meets Frankenstein…what could that be about? If images of Ludwig van Beethoven confronting the grotesque Frankenstein monster in the middle of a dark German forest come to mind, clear your head and read on to find out what we’ll be up to in the Bing Studio on November 3, when we present works of Beethoven and H. K. Gruber.
Mary Shelley’s brilliant, groundbreaking, and timeless novel Frankenstein was first published in 1818, two hundred years ago. That wildly imaginative work has inspired visual artists, writers, filmmakers, scientists, and musicians ever since. One such person was composer Heinz Karl (H. K.) Gruber, an Austrian musician known for his brilliantly innovative compositional style. In the late 1970s, Gruber created a wildly entertaining piece entitled “Frankenstein!!, a pan-demonium for baritone chansonnier and ensemble after children’s rhymes,” bringing him instant notoriety. Gruber’s friend H. C. Artmann created those socially critical and politically-charged rhymes, each filled with hidden meanings and fanciful images. Gruber’s musical language is playful, tonal, catchy, and endlessly entertaining. Most of the ensemble musicians double on toy instruments, ingeniously woven into the overall musical texture
How to construct a program around this one-of-a-kind work? Beethoven to the rescue! Both Gruber and Beethoven are universally accepted as great musical innovators in their respective eras. Beethoven was at the height of his powers when Frankenstein was published, and by programming several of Beethoven’s works composed in or around the year 1818, we mark the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s profound opus. And as a bonus, we honor Mary Shelley’s home country through our presentation of Beethoven’s beautiful arrangements of folksongs native to the British Isles.
So, when Beethoven and Frankenstein meet, what will happen? You’ll have the definitive answer on November 3!
—Christopher Costanza is cellist with the St. Lawrence String Quartet.
Related Event: Nov 3
Beethoven Meets Frankenstein