Magazine article Musical Opinion

Beethovenfest Bonn

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Beethovenfest Bonn

Article excerpt

We'll try to Ignore the dreadful acoustics, sightlines and cavernous foyer-space of the World Conference Centre, home in 2018 of Bonn's annual Beethovenfest while the creaky Beethovenhalle was being revamped, and concentrate instead on the imaginative programming of the Festival's artistic director, Nike Wagner.

The theme was "Fate", a concept ineluctably connected with Beethoven, and particularly with the Fifth Symphony's 'Fate knocking on the door'. That work provided an obvious, spirited finale to the opening concert of this month-long festival, given by a somewhat rough-edged Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France under Mikko Franck. We had begun with another thread commemorating the centenary of the "war to end all wars", Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin written in memory of friends fallen during World War I. The orchestra was too large for this intimate scoring of what was originally a work for piano, and tempi were impatient, paradoxically rendering this performance ultimately dull. Bertrand Chamayou was the articulate soloist in Saint-Saēns' Fifth Piano Concerto, a piece indebted to Chopin, Liszt, Wagner and Tchaikovsky, and even with resonances of Ketelbey. His encore, Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante Défunte, provided the evening's best music-making, despite the premature applause from some musically brain-dead member of the audience.

Mikhail Pletnev brought his Russian National Orchestra with a brilliantly-constructed menu centring upon the posthumous Violin Concerto of Schumann, whose final years were spent incarcerated in a Bonn asylum. …

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