Sunday, August 24, 2008

Comparing Recordings: Brahms Symphony #2: Boston vs. Philadelphia

Today I'll evaluate a second version of Brahms' Second Symphony and use the opportunity to get to know this beautiful work even more intimately.
Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Complete Symphonies
Philips, 1989
I'll spend a fair portion of this post highlighting differences between today's recording by the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the more polished, almost mistake-free version by the Boston Symphony Orchestra that we listened to back in April.

Before we get started, however, let me be clear on one point: despite the fact that I'll be citing strengths and weaknesses of one performance versus another, the actual differences in quality between these two performances is extremely small. So small, in fact, that it's simply further proof of my prior assertion that you can purchase pretty much any recording of any symphony performed by any major orchestra (think NFL cities), and it will be an excellent recording.

Still, there is a detectable quality difference between these two performances--and in my opinion the Boston Symphony Orchestra's version of Brahms' Second is slightly better than the Philadelphia Orchestra's. While Philly's string section is, surprisingly, far more expressive than Boston's, its woodwind and brass sections have occasional distracting lapses (I'll point out a few below), and it's these lapses that slightly drag down Philly's overall performance quality. Boston has more talent and consistency across its entire orchestra and it simply records a cleaner performance.

Listener notes for Brahms' Second Symphony:
1) A perfect example of a lapse in the Philadelphia recording is the whiny and wimpy trombone entrance at the 11:50 mark of the first movement. They don't sound like they were quite ready to play, and you can hear the difference ten seconds later when they repeat the part again. That time, they sounded like they were actually ready to go.

2) However, you can hear great examples of the expressiveness of Philly's string section throughout the first movement. A good section to compare the two orchestras is at the 15:29 mark in the Philly recording (this same passage is at 16:08 in the BSO recording). If you have each of these recordings, listen to both passages and see if you don't agree that Philly's strings play this part with more heart and soul than Boston. It just goes to show how a performance can still be beautiful and emotional even if it has a few imperfections here and there.

3) No doubt about it, the woodwind section is one of the weakest links of the Philly symphony. A typical example: the 1:09 mark in the fourth movement when the clarinet plays a brief solo. He comes in off-key and his tone sounds pinched and nasal.

Granted, that solo is extremely difficult--the poor clarinet player has to traverse about a two-and-a-half-octave range in just a couple of seconds. It's nearly impossible to play something like that on a clarinet while maintaining an easy rounded tone, so I'll cut him a tiny bit of slack here. But again, a comparison of this passage to the BSO recording (at 1:09 in the fourth movement on that disc), is instructive: the BSO's principal clarinetist plays the part, comes in totally in tune, and maintains a rounded and less strained tone.

4) The fourth movement of this symphony always lulls me with the soft opening, only to jolt me upright in my seat when the main theme begins, loudly, at the 0:28 mark. No matter how many times I've listened to this symphony, it makes me jump every time.

5) Another good comparison point between these two recordings is the last minute or so of the fourth movement. Here's where Boston's brass section fires up a really rich and deep pyramid of sound for the symphony's finale. All of the brass instruments are perfectly in balance, from the tubas creating a massive sonic foundation to the trumpets ringing out over the top of it all. It is beautiful to hear.

Philly's guys just don't seem to have the ability to do this: its trombones let it rip for a brief moment at 8:15 in the fourth movement (compare that same part at 8:28 in the fourth movement on the BSO CD), but they're surrounded by weakish trumpets and a barely audible tuba. There's no triumph and no power here--and certainly nothing like the rich sound pyramid of Boston's brass section. Yes Philly's strings might be more expressive, but at the end of this dramatic symphony you need some serious brass to get at all of the gripping emotion that Brahms wrote into this score. That's what the BSO has that Philly lacks, and that's a big part of what makes the BSO performance just a little bit better overall.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Schumann: Symphonic Etudes, Kinderszenene (Scenes From Childhood) and Kreisleriana (Fantasies)

Today we're going to cover disc 2 from this amazing four CD set of Schumann's piano works, performed by pianist Wilhelm Kempff.

After listening to these recordings, I've never been more inspired to want to learn to play the piano. It's amazing what this man can do when he composes for this instrument. One work is a spare, beautiful and unforgettable melody, and the next work resonates with the depth and complexity of an entire symphony.
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Performed by Wilhelm Kempff (1895-1991)
Schumann: Piano Works
Deutsche Grammophone, 1975

And yet this man lived such a short life with so much suffering. If there's anything that even a cursory survey of the history of classical music shows, it's that so many of the world's greatest composers ranged from insane to insecure to shockingly miserable. More evidence of how true geniuses are doomed to suffer in this world.

Let's get right into the listener notes:

Notes for Etudes (opus 13, tracks 1-13, disc 2):

1) What exactly is an etude, anyway? Since I grew up playing etudes on my trumpet, let me share my own definition: It's a brief musical composition designed specifically to torture beginning and intermediate musicians. Etudes are almost always musically boring to play; many of them just suck. And they typically contain technically difficult passages designed to make the musician acutely aware of his shortcomings. All etudes are written by sadistic and downright mean composers who like to drive musicians to tantrums, fits of swearing and otherwise utter misery.

At least that's what I thought an etude was until I heard these beautiful works by Schumann. If I had had etudes like these to play on my trumpet when I was a kid, I would have been unstoppable. You'd have to lock the basement door to keep me from running down there to practice.

2) This work is structured in the form of a simple theme (track 1, disc 2) followed by twelve variations. See if you can recognize and pick out the main theme undulating under each of the following etudes. I found it fairly easy until Etude #7 (track 8, disc 2)--where exactly is the theme in that work?

3) My top favorite of all of the Etudes is the impressionistic, Debussy-like Etude #11 (track 12, disc 2).

4) Listen at the 6:16 mark in Etude 12 (track 13, disc 2), where there's a surprise jump into a new major chord. That beautiful unpredictability is one of Schumann's trademark gifts and one of the key reasons his works are such a pleasure to listen to.

Notes for Kinderszenen (opus 15, tracks 14-26, disc 2):
1) These are works meant to represent Schumann's remembrances of his childhood. Given his fierce battles against depression and mental illness throughout his adult life, they are surprisingly--almost unbelievably--peaceful and happy.

2) Once again, many of these works sound like they'd be playable by relatively novice pianists (with the obvious exception of "Catch Me"), and yet they are detailed, well-painted scenes, packed with emotion. Scene #1, "About Foreign Lands and Peoples" is possibly one of the most elegant, simple and beautiful pieces of music you'll ever hear. Who says you have to write sadistically difficult music in order to show your genius at composition?

3) Scene #12, "Child Falling Asleep" perfectly captures the restless uncertainty and fear a child experiences when drifting off to sleep. It's perhaps the one work of this collection that lets you into the recesses of Schumann's unsettled mind.

Notes from Kreisleriana/Fantasies:
1) Kreisleriana is one of Schumann's most highly regarded compositions. It was dedicated to Chopin, perhaps the only other composer of piano works who could be considered Schumann's equal.

2) The first movement is technically demanding, and unfortunately it's surprisingly imprecisely played by Kempff in this recording.

3) Fantasy #2 (track 28, disc 2) shows yet again how Schumann can create compelling music and emotional tension with a simple melody.

4) Notice at 7:29 in Fantasy #2 (track 28, disc 2) how Kempff flubs a note right in the second-to-last chord?

5) Works like Fantasy #6 (track 32, disc 2) bring me practically to tears--how does Schumann do this with such simple and elegant melodies? I'm beginning to think that this guy is one of the greatest composers of the 19th century.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Piano Music of Robert Schumann: Papillons, Davidsbundlertanze and Carnaval

If you're going to spend time learning Schumann's music, be sure to spend some time learning about Schumann the man. I found that having some sense of how this composer fought valiantly against personal demons and mental illness throughout his life was extremely helpful in helping me grasp his music. Try starting with his Wikipedia page for an overview of his life and key works.

Today we will cover four works by Schumann: Papillons (opus 2), Davidsbundlertanze (opus 6) and Carnaval (opus 9), which are on disc 1 of a four-CD recording of Schumann's piano works performed by Wilhelm Kempff.
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Performed by Wilhelm Kempff (1895-1991)
Schumann: Piano Works
Deutsche Grammophone, 1975

First, if you do the math on the various dates above, it's worth noting that pianist Wilhelm Kempff performs these works, which were recorded over the years 1967-1975, at ages ranging from 72 to 80! Presumably Kempff was well past his prime as a musician at this point, and indeed these recordings do feature more minor technical errors than you'd typically expect in a classical music recording. However, Kempff plays this music with deep expressiveness, and I'll always choose a slightly imprecise performance played with profound feeling over an emotionally flat, yet technically perfect, performance.

Ironically, Kempff, who died at age 95, lived more than twice as long as Schumann, who died at the relatively young age of 46.

Before we get into our listener notes, let me share a moving quote from the liner notes of this delightful CD on our pianist, Mr. Kempff:

Kempff's long artistic life was permeated by this joy in music-making, by "the joy of spontaneous creation" as he called it. He radiated this joy, and transmitted it to his listeners throughout the world... He even regarded the medium of recording first and foremost as a means of spreading joy to those people he could not reach in person. Then one day, as he was playing for a small circle of friends, the 85-year-old pianist stopped suddenly in the middle of his performance, closed the piano and spoke quietly in an almost sorrowful voice: "I am so tired. Throughout my entire life I have sought to bring joy and love to people through my music. Now I can do it no longer."
--Ursula von Rauchhaupt

At that, he retired, and his wife disclosed that year that Kempff had Parkinson's disease. He died 11 years later.

For my part, having never really listened at length to any of Schumann's works prior to tackling this blog post, it is a profound pleasure to experience how Schumann composed--and how Kempff performs--these brilliant scenes and vignettes. It's given me a refreshing new way to think about piano music, and it reminds me yet again what a genuine pleasure it has been to start this blog.

Notes for Papillons (opus 2, track 1, disc 1):
1) Kempff plays this multifaceted, 12-movement piece with no breaks between movements. It sounds like twelve Chopin preludes played end to end.

2) If you want to hear the very first flubbed note, it's at 0:40 in the first track of Papillons (disc 1, track 1). Again, I wish I didn't have this habit of noticing this stuff.

After Papillons, the rest of this disc consists of 39 brief tracks ranging from tidbits of less than a minute long to appetizers of 3-4 minutes in length. Can you think of better music to load on to your iPod for an introduction to some of the best piano music in existence?

Notes for Davidsbundlertanze (opus 6, tracks 2-19, disc 1):
1) Many of these works sound like they could be played by intermediate-level piano players, at least from a technical standpoint. Quite a far cry from Beethoven's solo piano works, which are so crushingly difficult that only experts can play them. Obviously, however, there is much more to it than just hitting all the notes. Which helps explain why Kempff "devoted decades to the piano music of Robert Schumann."

2) Note the use of contrast in this collection of short works: there is suspense and keen urgency (and massive use of pedals) in #4 (track 5, disc 1) versus the driving, repetitive rush of #6 (track 7). Another example: consider the contrast between the suspense and urgency of works like #4, #6, #10 and #13 and the pensive melodiousness of works like #11, #14 and #18.

3) A particular favorite of mine is #17 (track 18)--in just four and a half minutes, you feel like you've listened to an entire symphony.

Notes for Carnaval (opus 9, tracks 20-40, disc 1):
1) I just about jumped out of my seat at the very beginning of the first movement, "Preambule." Again, there is such complexity and so many voices in this composition that it's hard to believe this is just a solitary piano.

2) Another particular favorite: #5, "Eusebius" (track 24, disc 1), in which Schumann depicts the calm and quiet side of his personality.

3) Do you recognize anything familiar about #6, "Florestan"? Uh-huh. Schumann reprises the introductory theme from Papillons here. Note also that Florestan depicts the fiery and impulsive side of Schumann's personality.

4) If you heard #12 "Chopin" in a vacuum, would you be able to tell that it isn't Chopin, but rather Schumann imitating Chopin? Me neither.

5) In #14 "Reconnaissance" (track 33, disc 1) notice how the melody consists of double notes during the main theme, and again at the 1:29 mark in this movement.

6) Have you ever heard a one-minute waltz? After listening to #16 "Valse Allemande" (track 35, disc 1), you can say you did!

7) In the final movement, #20, you should be able to recognize a variety of themes from throughout the work reprised here in the finale. Test your ear and listen to this final movement a couple of times by itself to get familiar with it, and then listen to the entire Carnaval straight through. When you get to the final movement this time, what themes can you detect that you've heard earlier in the work?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mahler: Symphony #5

"A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything."
--Gustav Mahler

We return yet again to Mahler to listen to his Fifth Symphony in an exceptional recording by Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 5
Deutsche Grammophon, 1993

Readers of this blog know that I'm partial to Mahler because of his--how shall I put this?--liberal use of loud brass instruments. And as a former trumpet player I can't help but really fall for the Fifth, a symphony that starts out with a big, bright trumpet solo.

What can I say? He had me at "hello."

Like all of Mahler's symphonies, the Fifth blows your hair back with power chords and gripping climaxes, but this symphony is also surprisingly complex and varied, and it also has a highly interesting and irregular five movement structure. We've come a long way since the universal and rigidly obeyed four-movement symphonic structure of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. Classical music in Mahler's era really started to push away many of its old structural boundaries, but--fortunately--it hadn't yet broken into complete atonality.

Before we get to the listener notes, let me make a blatant plug to my readers: If you've at all taken a liking to Mahler and his larger-than-life symphonies, you should seriously consider getting Mahler: The Complete Symphonies. This 12-CD collection, conducted by a youngish Leonard Bernstein, is considered the gold standard recording of the Mahler symphony cycle, and it's an easy way to get great recordings of all of Mahler's works in one simple purchase. Better still, for 12 CDs, the price is quite reasonable at US$62.99 on Amazon. Of course, please keep in mind that I get paid a small affiliate fee on any purchase made on Amazon via links from this site. Think of it as my tip jar, and I thank you for your support.

Nine listener notes for Mahler's Fifth Symphony:

1) We've already talked about the great trumpet solo at the very beginning of the Fifth. But there are plenty of other examples why this symphony is a brass player's fantasy. Here's a typical one: Listen in at 7:17, 7:19 and 7:21 of the first movement for three enormous brass power chords, which are then followed up by even more massive chords from the low brass and low strings. When you hear a powerful symphony like this with modern instruments and a zillion extra musicians, it's tempting to imagine what guys like Haydn and Mozart could have done with all of this extra weaponry.

2) In the second movement, at 11:50, enjoy some more really triumphant trumpet power chords. However, these chords could have been transfixing rather than being merely exciting, if they didn't spring up out of nowhere with no real logic. My sole complaint about Mahler, after familiarizing myself with three of his symphonies, is that he doesn't string his music together with any logic or narrative structure. Rather, he seems to run through a list of compositional vignettes--an entire taxonomy of melodies, tunes, single chords and themes of varying length. One by one they rise up from the deep, break the surface (a few of the largest ones blast hot air into the listener's face for good measure), and then they submerge and disappear, to be replaced by the next melody on the list.

3) What do you think of the lush and creepy waltz of the third movement? It's part waltz, part Mexican dance and even part hoedown. And note how the french horn player gets a good workout in this movement.

4) At the 6:52 mark in the third movement, Mahler tries to score the principal violinist to sound like a guitar, while the rest of the string section plucks away in accompaniment (oom, bling bling; oom, bling bling). The trouble is, no violinist can pluck sixteenth notes on individual strings like a guitar can. The poor guy sounds uneven and amateurish. Mahler wrote that part for the wrong instrument.

5) A particularly interesting example of Mahler's taxonomy of melodies: in the third movement, listen for the clarinet softly playing Bach-like arpeggios underneath the rest of the orchestra at various points. It surfaces most notably at 7:52, and then again from 16:00-16:25.

6) Cough alert! Actually, I wanted to congratulate the Berliner Philharmoniker's audience for hardly any coughs throughout this live performance. Much better than last time.

7) The fourth movement, the Adagietto, is perhaps the most popular movement of Mahler's most popular symphony. This lush, beautiful flower of a piece was supposedly a "wordless love letter" from Mahler to his wife Alma.

8) On to the fifth and final movement: notice how themes and melodies (or officially, "motifs") get passed around from instrument to instrument throughout the movement.

9) And from 11:00 to about 11:15 in the fifth movement, when the tympani and what sounds like another fifty guys in the percussion section rise up and beat the hell out of all their drums, I unconsciously reached up to fix my hair. Yep, I was in my own Memorex commercial.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Comparison of Recordings of Brahms: Symphony #1

We're going to put in to practice the comparison exercise I talked about in our last post by comparing a new recording of Brahms' First Symphony (this one part of a 3-CD collection of the complete symphonies of Brahms performed by conductor Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1989) to the original recording that I profiled back in February (which was a 1983 performance by Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic).
Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Complete Symphonies
Philips, 1989
I can't do justice to describing what an absolute pleasure and a great learning experience this process was. Two wonderful hours flew by while I listened to each of these symphonies back to back, taking notes all the while. Let's get right into the listener notes.

Listener notes for Brahms Symphony #1 (Philadelphia Orchestra):
1) A general (and extended) comment on the tone of the overall recording: the Philly symphony recording was more sedate and acoustically darker (almost as if somebody had turned down the treble), while the Berstein/Vienna Philharmonic recording is much brighter in tone and far more theatrically performed (well, it is Leonard Bernstein after all).

While Philly's conductor Riccardo Muti stands back and lets the music speak for itself, Bernstein takes many more liberties with the score. A simple example is the use of tempo: Bernstein is all over the place with tempo, a technique when used appropriately can convey powerful emotion to the listener. When overused, however, it can make a symphony sound like a John Williams score. I never noticed the extent to which Bernstein pushes things here until I heard Muti's less theatrical performance.

In fact, listening to the one CD gives you the impression that Muti just stands there on the conductor's podium, under complete control, while Leonard Bernstein flaps, flops and gesticulates, trying to extract every last drop of feeling out of his orchestra. When you think about how Bernstein mumbles the melodies to himself on this disc, it makes you think that he's conducting in a reverie state and couldn't dial back his theatricality even if he wanted to.

I'd hazard a guess that Bernstein's approach probably sells more tickets, but it doesn't necessarily make for a superior performance.

2) The intro to Brahms' First Symphony is one of the more foreboding in romantic-era classical music. The darker sound of the Philly recording really shows this off.

3) There's a french horn player who is playing too loud (either that or they miked him up too much), and his out of control playing is a distraction. We'll hear a bit more about him in note #6 below.

4) There are some instruments that can really make or break a symphony, and in Brahms' First, the oboe is definitely one of them. Listen to the oboe solos in the first and second movements, and you can tell that the Philadelphia Orchestra has a good one. If you don't have an extremely talented oboe player on your roster, you can never be a well-regarded orchestra.

5) However, Philly's woodwind section isn't perfect. Listen to the descending and ascending chords in the final minute of the first movement and see if you can hear the out-of-tune clarinet in there.

6) Note at 6:55 in the second movement, when the principal violin and the principal french horn play counterpoint melodic lines together. Unfortunately, they're not in tune with each other. Both musicians are probably thinking, "why should I blend with him? He's the one who's off-key."

But it's also possible that they can't really hear each other, as the french horns typically sit quite far away from the principal violinist on a typical concert hall stage. This raises an interesting question: whose job is it to blend these two instruments when they can't--or won't--blend themselves?

Uh, it's the conductor's job. Muti misses a chance to get this right. Note that in the Bernstein version of this symphony, the two musicians are in tune and the french horn player plays his part much more softly, subordinating himself to the violinist.

7) Finally we get to the fourth movement and my favorite passage, at 3:57, where trombones softly play the key theme. This was the one part of the Bernstein disc that sorely disappointed me. I could hardly bear the anticipation.... and... and... yessssss, they nailed it. Phew.

8) An example of a (small) part I never noticed before in this symphony until I listened to an alternate recording: When the strings play the key melody at 8:55 in the fourth movement, listen for the soft "meep, meep" of the oboe in the background. In the Bernstein recording (at about 9:49 in the fourth movement), that same part is there, but it's almost completely inaudible. This little throwaway part is almost Haydn-like in its facetiousness, and I would never have expected Brahms to have the sense of humor to put something like this into his very first symphony.

9) Also note that the fact that in Bernstein version, the meep-meep part comes up nearly a full minute later than in the Philly Orchestra version. That time difference helps quantify the substantial liberties Bernstein takes with this symphony. Again, I'd never know the difference unless I took time to compare his drawn-out and gesticulatory performance to a recording where the symphony is played "straight." Which version would you prefer?

10) Finally, let's pick on Philly's trumpet section a little bit. In one of the fourth movement's most gripping climaxes (at 16:09 in the Philly recording), you simply can't hear the trumpets at all. They should be absolutely unloading out over the entire orchestra, as they do in the Bernstein version (occurs at 16:41). Eat some Wheaties, guys!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

One More Comment on Comparing Recordings

One more general comment on comparing recordings of symphonies:

If you go too long listening to only one recording of a favorite symphony, too often that recording becomes the default standard by which you judge all other recordings. It was arbitrary that it happened to be the first version you bought, and yet after several listens your mind starts to make that performance into the definitive performance. As a result, other equally well-performed versions sound less appealing only because they are different.

Try to avoid this. You want your ear to stay flexible and non-judgmental, so don't wait too long before branching out and getting alternate versions of your classical music favorites. You don't need twelve versions of each work--two or three at most will do. Every version you hear, as long as it's above a certain baseline level of performance quality, will teach you something new about your favorite symphony.

We'll be back shortly with our comparison of Brahms Symphony #1.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Comparing Recordings of Symphonies

One of the more subtle pleasures of classical music comes after you've become familiar with a few different symphonies and you have the opportunity to compare different recordings of the same piece.

There's no better way to get to know a great classical music work. In fact, after you've bought five or ten different MP3s or CDs to start your classical music collection, I strongly encourage you to choose your favorite two or three symphonies from your first crop of discs and get yourself an additional copy of each one of them.

A few thoughts on the process of comparing recordings: once you get your new recording, before listening to it, I suggest having one more close listen to your old one. Then, after listening through both, think about which aspects of your new recording are different, superior, inferior, etc., to your original one, and why? On the whole, which recording do you prefer, and why?

There are no right or wrong answers here. The point of the exercise is to enjoy the process of listening, and to gain even more familiarity and intimacy with a favorite work of classical music. When you hear different orchestras perform the same piece of music, you can get to know even extremely complicated classical music works on a much deeper level.

This process becomes even more fun if you have a favorite passage or two from a favorite symphony. I'll shortly be writing about my alternate version of Brahms' First Symphony, and I will do this exact exercise with my personal favorite passage from that work (it's in the fourth movement, where the trombones softly--and in my original recording, discordantly--play the key theme). This passage, which to me is the emotional climax of the entire symphony, turned out to be a big disappointment on my original CD, so I'm interested to see how my other recording handles that same portion of the work. Will they bungle it too, or will they nail it?

As you repeat this process with other favorite works, you'll start to notice subtleties about them that you never before perceived. This goes way beyond basic differences like how fast or how loud the orchestra plays. Rather, you might hear emphasis on certain instruments or sections of the orchestra on one recording that you don't hear on the other. You might even hear totally new parts--one conductor might really bring out a particular instrument at a certain point, while another conductor might ignore that same part. Conductors (and for that matter recording engineers) have wide discretion in how they produce a given performance.

Finally, think about how you respond on an emotional level to the two works. Does one version of a symphony really move you, while another simply doesn't? Why? A mediocre recording of truly great symphony can drive me to tears, and yet I will sometimes listen to a supposedly high quality recording of that same symphony and feel absolutely no emotional connection to the work whatsoever.

And of course, there's the occasional performance that is so bad that it drives me to eye-rolling and groaning (and not the good kind of groaning). Hopefully we won't cross paths with any such recording over the course of this blog, but if we do, I'll be sure at least to make an amusing and insulting blog post out of it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Beethoven Had a Shadow Too...

In this blog I've spent quite a bit of time talking about Beethoven's shadow and how it loomed over so many composers who came after him.

Would it surprise you that there was a composer whose shadow loomed over Beethoven?

From David Dubal's The Essential Canon of Classical Music:

On March 27, 1808, Haydn, now Austria's major celebrity, was seen for the last time in public at a performance of The Creation [this was Haydn's best known oratorio], conducted by Antonio Salieri. After the first part of the work, overcome by emotion, Haydn had to be carried home. Beethoven, who had also attended the performance, rushed to the doors of the theater, passionately kissing the old master's hands and forehead.

This is typical of the fascinating anecdotes throughout David Dubal's book. It's been an enormous pleasure to read, and as a source of information for this blog, it has been second only to the music itself.

I highly recommend it as a reference if you want to learn more about classical music.