Beethoven – The complete chamber music vol XIV

One of the pieces in this box is the Duet for viola and cello “mit zwei obligaten Augengläsern“. While playing it, it is necessary to wear spectacles. It seems to refer to its first performance, when both players had to wear them, I suppose for more mundane reasons: they just couldn’t read very well without them.

Obligato just means mandatory. It is the musical opposite of ad libitum. Usually it is musical instruments that are mandatory, but strange cases exist. Malcolm Arnold’s 1956 A grand, grand overture asks for four rifles and three vacuum cleaners and an electric floor polisher. But those are still meant as instruments, strange as they are. Spectacles, boy, I don’t know.

This record was a bit of a disappointment when I bought it. I thought the sound of the violins too screechy, too empty. Now when I listen to it, it sounds amazing. It is detailed, to the smallest bit of the strings. I suppose the sound was there all along, but it took a better records player to get it out of the groove. No idea when this was made, but the recording engineer did a superb job.

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