Thursday, August 29, 2013

Haitink Conducts Beethoven's Ninth at Tanglewood

Haitink Conducts Beethoven's Ninth 

Review: BSO closes with joy and majesty

Leonard Bernstein on Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

Beethoven's Birthday: A Celebration in Vienna with Leonard Bernstein

It's not often that I can acquaint my readers with a musical event that I have actually attended. In this case though, not actually the performance you might get to hear at the first link on this page, but the rehearsal the previous morning. Bernard Haitink had them just play it through, though he did stop them at the beginning of the 3rd movement for playing ... not as sweetly as he wanted. 

I'd have nothing much to add to what the review in the Berkshire Eagle had to say except that my personal reaction to this concert was perhaps unique in my memory. I seriously doubt whether many have felt the same kinds of things, though I might be wrong. When it was all over, both my friend and I were utterly speechless for many minutes as we passed out from under the music shed where we'd heard the performance from good seats in the middle about 24 rows from the stage. I finally managed to say between choking sobs, (come on Burton, pull yourself together!) that had it gotten much better I might have died. My friend remarked simply that it couldn't have been done any better. Neither of us had heard things quite the way they are usually heard on every recording. We'd actually each heard this piece before live when we were in our 20's. Now in our 60's we were coming back for another hard listen and we couldn't believe how much better and deeper the music had seemed to have advanced with us. 

Neither of us had fathomed the depths of tragedy and indifference to it that the first movement contained, nor how sad much of it really was. The second movement seemed to shine with many specific instrumentalists and groups of instrumentalists contributing the unique colourings of this great music. The third was literally a landscape in sound, Elysium, with the sense of depth created by layering of instrumental groups. The fourth movement literally blew us away: the epitome of this performance was clarity, on so many levels; if the music is allowed to sound at proper tempo allowing each sound, each phrase to have a chance to resonate and that without excessive affectation or vibrato, then Beethoven's messages become stunningly more modern and immediate, especially those where he is clearly against war. 

Later my friend sent me a link to Leonard Bernstein's comments on Beethoven's Ninth (the third link). My own ideas concerning this work are tied up with the other work Beethoven was working on contemporaneously with this one, his Missa Solemnis Op 126. That piece too has an anti war undercurrent and is probably overdue a re acquaintance. 

Finally, I leave you all with Bernstein's Beethoven's Birthday Celebration in Vienna. Despite Bernstein's critique of Beethoven as a person, one perhaps way too easy for anyone to make, he seems to have little regard for Beethoven's condition as representing the effects of child abuse by his father and of the natural affects of enduring a terrible physical disability, especially for any musician, of losing one's hearing. We can't even imagin whatever other injuries were done to him as a child that may have resulted in other physical and mental abnormalities. The issue with his nephew was actually more direct and involved the plain facts of a terribly handicapped person needing someone to help him and look after him. Yes, before state intervention and socialism, such matters were the matters of families, as probably they should begin to become once again. Am I disagreeing with Bernstein's assessment? Not really. If you had been around in Beethoven's day or in Vienna, and had encountered him, no doubt you would have been repelled. It's just that a lot of it wasn't totally his fault. We have Beethoven's often miraculous music (Fidelio, the largest subject in Bernstein's Celebration, really isn't). The ninth symphony however, has no equal in all of music.

No comments:

Post a Comment