Beethoven and Beethovathon
Despite being a celebratory year for those two Scandi-giants Sibelius and Nielsen, a number of my opening concerts this year have a distinctly Beethovenian theme. Take this weekend, for example: an all-Beethoven evening on Saturday, with an award-winning soloist, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care. We open with Coriolan – it’s always a huge joy to conduct this overture. A display of pure rhythm, yet partnered with one of the most touching second subjects in the repertoire. I still remember sitting there, dewy-eyed, minutes after the postman delivered a box-set of Carlos Kleiber DVDs. This was the first time I’d seen his live performance of this piece, only days after DG released it, with Bayerisches Staatsorchester.
The 8th symphony completes the first half, undoubtedly a more challenging undertaking for all – including the conductor. And (to quote Paavo Järvi – one of my teachers – in a rehearsal I was lucky enough to catch in Bremen) “clear proof that, by this point in his life Beethoven was profoundly deaf” – referring, tongue-in-cheek, to the insane timpani writing in bars 480 & 490 of the finale. Go check it out. It always makes me smile, as it did in Bremen. Of course, it was helped by the superb timpanist in the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Stefan Rapp. He never needs much excuse to play insanely.
Post-interval, the Violin Concerto, with Joo Yeon Sir – currently a junior fellow at London’s RCM and embarking on a bit of a Beethoven odyssey herself. It’s one of my favourite concertos, for any instrument, by any composer. I remember as a kid, aged about 13, stealing mum’s knitting needles and swiping my way through it in my bedroom, accompanied by that famous recording with Schneiderhan and the Berlin Phil. Mum blamed me for bending all her needles. I blame that recording, and this piece, for kickstarting my conducting career.
The week after, on Saturday 7th Feb, I accompany another fine soloist in another marvellous concerto – Cordelia Williams in the fourth piano concerto. Again, breathtaking music – and I can’t wait. Full details of this concert, and the Macmillan all-Beethoven programme, are HERE on this website. I’d love to see some of you at one of them!
Finally, to another charity event – a huge project in aid of Comic Relief Red Nose Day 2015. On Saturday 21 March, along with many conductor colleagues, I’m involved in the Beethovathon – a simply wonderful, not to mention utterly, utterly bonkers project to perform all nine symphonies. Yes, all nine. In one day. And in order. Which is, by the way, if you’re going to undertake such a thing, the only good way to do it (today’s top tip for those planning to emulate this project in future).
We’re performing in the acclaimed acoustics of the Turner Sims Concert Hall in Southampton, in four little (or not so little) concerts, spanning the whole day from 11am until after dark. Full details of this are HERE on the Beethovathon website – please take a look, and don’t leave that site until you’ve (a) bought tickets; (b) popped the date into your diary; and (c) clicked on Ludwig’s red nose. Disclaimer: I abdicate all responsibility for this crude ploy, as I didn’t design the site. It is rather amusing, though.
This is a potentially huge fundraiser. We’re determined to raise well over £10K — but can only do that with your help. Please would you get involved? Come along for even a small part of the day, especially if you’re a physiotherapist or osteopath (!) – and send some money via the just giving page.
I love the fact that Beethoven’s incredible music – concertos, symphonies, and all the rest – is raising passions, and raising for charity more than ever. Long may it continue – may every year be a Beethoven year!