Saturday, November 28, 2009

Riccardo Muti conducts Honegger and Beethoven

Last night, with LW, I heard Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) for the first time, played by the New York Philharmonic. A native of Switzerland, he studied at the Paris Conservatory and banded with fellow students--Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Georges Auric, Germaine Tailleferre, and Louis Durey, with Eric Satie as spiritual godfather--to become known as Les Six. Symphony No. 2 (1941), played by a string orchestra and a lone trumpet. was composed during the Nazi occupation of France, which Honegger refused to leave though he could claim neutrality as a Swiss. The symphony is in three movements. The trumpet comes in at the very end to support the strings in a chorale-like finish. An economy of means, fitting, perhaps, to a wartime symphony.

I always fear disappointment when going to a performance of Beethoven's symphonies. Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic are in my head, and no performance will, of course, sound like them. I thought Muti gave an uneven interpretation of the Eroica last night. The first movement sounded a little too ornamental for my taste, without sufficient propulsion. The third movement sounded slight, if that makes sense. But the slow second movement was wonderful: solemn, dignified, heartbreaking. The funeral procession broke off and restarted so many times, and each time the music did not drag but deepened. The set of variations in the final movement sparkled.

2 comments:

Rui said...
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Rui said...

If you like Beethoven's symphonies, try Carlos Kleiber's recordings. No 'Eroica', unfortunately - but what there is, is wonderful. There are some videos of his conducting on youtube - amazing stuff.

And this article from the Guardian puts it all in the context of the man's life and personality:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/1990/jan/01/classicalmusicandopera.artsfeatures

Okok so i admit i have this fascination with reclusive geniuses who don't give a damn about conventional measures of fame and just do their own thing to perfection.