With the Louisville Orchestra’s performances of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Choral” Symphony coming soon, I thought I would recommend a couple of recordings of the work. In the historically informed performance (HIP) category, I would recommend the EMI recording of the London Classical Players as conducted by Roger Norrington. Norrington’s group seems to capture the best aspects of HIP which includes the raw power of the original instruments and the faster tempi of the movements.
When the EMI Norrington recordings first were issued they were scorned by some critics and hailed as a revelation by many listeners. Much of the ire was aimed at the tempi, according to Norrington:
“The speed of the music was a particular problem. Beethoven had carefully given a metronome mark to every movement and every change of tempo in his symphonies. But almost every conductor ignored these speeds and performed the music much more slowly and ‘grandly’.”
The Romantic movement saw orchestras getting larger. At the same time, Beethoven’s shadow cast over music history like a titan. The orchestras lead by Gustav Mahler, Leopold Stowkoski and others performed Beethoven’s opuses with a sense of reverence. The larger group of musicians required slower tempi to accommodate the bigger number of instruments.
With the smaller historically-informed groups, performances of Beethoven’s symphonies became lithe, more supple works. The original tempo markings by Beethoven seem to suddenly make sense with the smaller ensembles.
Next week I’ll recommend a “traditional” performance of the work. In the meantime, enjoy this excerpt of Roger Norrington’s interpretation of the second movement with the London Classical Players:
This week on Kentucky Center Stage (Saturday at 6pm), the first of two broadcasts of legendary banjo-player Bela Fleck and string quartet Brooklyn Rider. They performed at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville last November on the heels of Fleck’s album The Impostor.
Born and raised in England, Rebecca was of both English and American nationality. She came from an artistic family and her musical studies were encouraged. Clarke enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music in 1903, where she studied the violin. She left the institution two years later after her harmony teacher proposed marriage. Clarke returned to her studies in 1907 at the Royal College of Music, where she was Charles Stanford’s first female student.
In 1912 she became one of the first female musicians in a fully professional ensemble, when Henry Wood admitted her to the Queen’s Hall orchestra. In 1916 she traveled through the United States on a recital tour. During these years Clarke achieved fame as a composer with her Viola Sonata and Piano Trio.
Many of Clarke’s work remains unpublished. If “new” works by Rebecca Clarke emerge, WUOL will be sure to present them. In the meantime, please enjoy a performance of her most famous composition:
Henriëtte Bosmans (1895 – 1952) was a Dutch pianist and composer. She came from a musical family as her father was principal cellist of the Concertgebouw Orchestra and her mother taught piano at the Amsterdam Conservatory. Henriëtte studied the piano with her mother and she soon gained a reputation as a quality pianist in the 1920′s. Bosmans appeared many times as soloist with European orchestras and in a number of chamber music ensembles.
She began composing in her teens. Her friendships with two cellists resulted in several works for cello, including two concertos, a sonata and Poème for cello and orchestra. Her music was known for its lyrical quality and melodic passages.
During the war Bosmans’s music was banned because she refused to become a member of the Kultuurkamer, which was required of all Dutch musicians. After the war Bosmans wrote mostly vocal compositions. After her death, she received a knighthood.
Enjoy this performance of Henriëtte Bosmans’s Piano Concertino: