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CD Feature/ Beethoven: "Symphonies 3 & 8"

img  Tobias

Mozart and Beethoven , the two Classical figure heads, still hold an undeniable grip on the public’s perception of what music should be like. The former, whose “genius” is being celebrated this year, represents the mainstream: Music, this current claims, is about melodies and about pleasant harmonies. Beethoven’s heirs, on the other hand, put an emphasis on progress, on expanding the form and exploring the outer limits of compositions. According to them, every work should be a cosmos full of surprises, confounding expectations whenever and wherever possible. This recent release by the Minnesota Orchestra, makes this point amply clear.

Bundling Beethoven’s third and eight symphony, the album shows an artists, who was never content to merely cater to the wishes of his audience – and who had made it an art making predictions impossible. Madonna, for sure, must have listened to a little of his music somewhere along the line. With each and every new work, Beethoven seemed to disrupt another layer of the symphony, changing its form and fathoming its borders, until he had created and entirely new super-sized entity. With the third, a piece of unprecedented size, he reached a new climax: The two opening movements alone take up half an hour – a space, which would have been filled by about five entire Haydn symphonies. The eight, however, completely breaks with this tradition, and comes at a concise length and with a lot of references to the “old masters” – an almost conservative effort, which is merely interrupted by some powerful string attacks, pierecing the tender tissue of the first part. After which, of course, Ludwig would lay down his arms for almost ten years, before creating his ninth, which again raised the revolutionary flag and became a part of the world’s cultural heritage. It’s a colourful affair, therefore and after the winding corridors of the collosal opening, the reduced approach of the later piece works extremely well. It is clearly ess spectatcular, though, and especially the two middle movements, sandwiched in between a demonstrative beginning and a finale, which slows down to sleep only to jump up again and run, seem to disappear almost at first listen. The third, meanwhile, still conveys the same strong emotions it did at the time of its conception, sweeping the audience along and covering new horizons. Conductor Osmo Vänskä has a weakness for extreme dynamics, which means you will have to turn up your stereo to the max to be able to enjoy the whispering moments of near-silence – and to make sure you are blown away by the perplexing peaks.

No experimental rock artist could deny the power this man anmd his art still exercise over the music scene – this is a blueprint for almost all big progressive albums since the 70s. Time to celebrate Beethoven’s genius for a change - it’s a pitty, therefore, that his 300th birthday is almost 65 years away.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Minnesota Orchestra
Homepage: BIS Records

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