Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Beethoven Symphonies 3 & 4. Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major (Eroica), Opus 55 [42:21]; Fidelio Overture, Opus 72b [6:36]; Symphony No. 4 in B-Flat Major, Opus 60 [29:41]

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Beethoven Symphonies 3 & 4. Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major (Eroica), Opus 55 [42:21]; Fidelio Overture, Opus 72b [6:36]; Symphony No. 4 in B-Flat Major, Opus 60 [29:41]

Article excerpt

"Beethoven Symphonies 3 & 4." Symphony no. 3 in E-flat Major [Eroica], Opus 55 [42:21 ]; Fidelio Overture, Opus 72b [6:36]; Symphony no. 4 in B-flat Major, Opus 60 [29:41 ]. Gewandhausorchester conducted by Riccardo Chailly. Notes by Peter Korfmacher in English, French, German, and Italian. Recorded September-October 2008, May 2009, and September 2009 at the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig. © 2011. Decca 478 3494. $18.98. Rating: ***

It is no great secret that Carl Maria von Weber, Beethoven's younger contemporary and one of the earliest of the Romantics, did not always admire Beethoven's creations. After hearing the end of the first movement of the Seventh Symphony, for instance, Weber decided Beethoven was "ready for the madhouse." Weber's reaction to the Fourth Symphony was even more colorful. He describes a dream, which I quote here via Sir George Grove:

The double bass is speaking. "I have just come from the rehearsal of a Symphony by one of our newest composers; and though, as you know, I have a tolerably strong constitution, I could only just hold out, and five minutes more would have shattered my frame and burst the sinews of my life." . . . The first violoncello (bathed in perspiration) says that for his part he is too tired to speak. . . . After this the orchestra-attendant enters and threatens them with the Sinfonia Eroica if they are not quiet, and makes a speech in which he tells them that the time has gone by for clearness and force, spirit and fancy, "like those of Gluck, Handel, and Mozart," and that the following (evidently an intentional caricature of the work before us) is the last Vienna receipt for a Symphony: - First a slow movement full of short disjointed unconnected ideas, at the rate of three or four notes per quarter of an hour; then a mysterious roll of the drum and passage of the violas, seasoned with the proper quantity of pauses and ritardanaos; and to end all a íxxñoxxsfinale, in which the only requisite is that there should be no ideas for the hearer to make out, but plenty of transitions from one key to another - on to the new note at once! never mind modulating! - above all things, throw rules to the winds, for they only hamper a genius. "At this point," says Weber in his own person, "I woke in a dreadful fright, lest I was on the road to become either a great composer or - a lunatic." (George Grove, Beethoven and his Nine Symphonies, 3rd ed. [New York: Dover, 1962], , 101-02)

Grove can forgive Weber only with great effort. I actually find his account pretty entertaining, and I do not think it is so far off the mark. Today we tend to consider the Fourth Symphony a more congenial work between the monumental Third and Fifth, but Weber's reaction reminds us that the revolutionary - and perhaps unsetding - spirit of Beethoven was present in everything he wrote.

Riccardo Chailly has recendy released his complete set of Beethoven symphonies with the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester. Chailly was chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from 1 988 to 2004 and became chief conductor at Leipzig in 2005. His career has been marked, among other things, by a strong interest in modern music, sometimes to the detriment of ticket sales: at his 1985 debut at the Concertgebouw, for instance, he conducted a concert of avant-garde twentieth-century Italian composers to a mosdy empty hall. (Nevertheless, his career at the Concertgebouw was eventually a success.) For all Chailly s interest in contemporary music, however, he draws on great experience with Beethoven: he tells us in the liner notes that the ideas in these recordings "represent the sum of thirty years of preoccupation with Beethoven - not to mention the Gewandhausorchester s two hundred years of preoccupation with his music."

This disc contains Chailly s performances of the Third and Fourth Symphonies and of the Fidelio Overture, Opus 72b. …

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