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.


Unknown said…
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Unknown 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:


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.

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