program notes by composition > B > The Beethoven Machine

The Beethoven Machine

Michael Colgrass

The Beethoven Machine ,written in 2003, is based upon the primary motive from Sonatina in G , a simple piano work dubiously attributed to Beethoven. This piece is divided into three “choirs”: The Children’s Orchestra (represented by woodwinds, primarily set in B-flat), the Adult Orchestra (mainly brass in differing keys), and a funny, quirky Machine that “somehow has the ability to crank out music in the style of Beethoven” (percussion and assorted winds).

The Machine opens the piece, out of which comes the Children’s Orchestra playing their playful version of Beethoven’s melody. This is answered by the Adult Orchestra in a more mature Beethoven style, almost like parents saying, “This is how it should be.” The Machine brings the children back in again, playing blissfully in their own light manner, and the adults respond in a minor key, ominously asserting their authority. As the music develops, the two orchestras gradually find a common ground and finally play together in one style and finish in harmony – though the astute listener will notice that the Adult Orchestra somehow got maneuvered into playing in the Children’s key (B-flat).

Michael Colgrass (1932 – 2019) graduated from the University of Illinois and served as a timpanist in the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra in Stuttgart, Germany. While composing in New York City he worked as a free-lance percussionist at such venues as the New York Philharmonic, American Ballet Theater, the original West Side Story orchestra on Broadway, the Columbia Recording Orchestra’s Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky series, and numerous ballet, opera and jazz ensembles. He lived in Toronto, Canada.

Last updated on May 8, 2022 by Palatine Concert Band