Wednesday 11 September 2019

Starting the celebrations early: rare Beethoven, new perspectives and contemporary transcriptions

Beethoven in 1803, painted by Christian Horneman
Beethoven in 1803, painted by Christian Horneman
Next year is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth, which means that we are in for a lot of Beethoven, but it is also a chance to look at neglected aspects of the composer's output and to gain insights by performing music rarely given. Inevitably organisations are starting early in the 2019/20 season. So, on 2 October 2019, the Academy of Ancient Music launches its new season at the Barbican with a complete performance of Beethoven's incidental music to Goethe's play Egmont. Whilst the play is about the Netherlands in the 17th century (Count Egmont is a patriot standing up to the Spanish domination), Beethoven saw it as a metaphor for Napoleon's domination of Europe. The overture is well known, his extended incidental music is less so; mature, neglected Beethoven. Just the material we should be welcoming for the centenary. Full details from the Barbican website.

And next weekend (14 and 15 September), the Wigmore Hall kicks things off with its Beethoven Festival Weekend. The Wigmore Hall will be celebrating Beethoven's music throughout 2020 until the anniversary of his birth in December 2020, enabling us to hear almost all his instrumental and chamber music. The festival weekend is a chance for major artists to provide some interesting new perspectives on the composer, his music, his health and composers who were influenced by him.

Steven Isserlis (cello) and Robert Levin (fortepiano) open the festival weekend at the Wigmore Hall with the complete cello sonatas and variations, whilst Hugo Ticciati and O/Modernt offer us a series of intriguing perspectives on Beethoven's convalescence from illness (including the Heiliger Dankgesang - string quartet no. 15), his immortal beloved and the influence he had on Brahms! The ensemble will be joined by guest artists.

The festival weekend also gives us a chance to hear Beethoven's music for unusual combinations of instruments such as the quintet for piano and winds. And the event ends with pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja in Beethoven's final three piano sonatas.

Full details of the Beethoven Festival Weekend from the Wigmore Hall website.

Over at Conway Hall this weekend, Leon Bosch and I Musicanti will be performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C in a transcription for chamber ensemble published during Beethoven's lifetime by his publisher, and I will be giving the pre-concert talk about the art of transcription and arrangement [details from the Conway Hall website]. Beethoven's own transcription of his Symphony No. 2 for piano trio will be performed at Conway Hall on 24 November [details from the Conway Hall website].

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