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Orchestra

19 Nov '20

Concert
19 Nov '20

Orchestre des Champs-Elysées

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Beethoven's public concert at the Theater an der Wien on 5 April 1803 included (among others!) three new works by the great composer from Bonn: the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, the Piano concerto No. 3 and the Symphony No. 2. While the press didn't say a word about the latter following the first performance, there were unrestrained criticisms two years later, after the work was published in Leipzig: "This is a gross monster, a pierced dragon which will not die, and even in losing its blood (in the finale), wrote a certain Spazier.
A "monster", really? This much-denigrated work shows no signs of the deep inner crisis that Beethoven went through in 1802, the year of the ill-fated "Heiligenstadt Testament". Driven to despair by his relentlessly increasing deafness, the musician wrote a letter to his brothers, which he never sent in the end: "(...) I was on the verge of ending my life - it was only my art that held me back. Ah, it seemed for me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me (...)." Beethoven gave a foretaste of this creative power in his Symphony in D Major, which was mainly written during that year 1802. "I am now ready to embark on a new path," he then told his pupil Carl Czerny. Innovations are numerous and significant in this crucial work, which is characterised in particular by a powerful slow introduction, a decidedly vocal slow movement and a sweeping finale.
Ludwig van Beethoven worked four years on his 5th Symphony, during a period stretching from 1804 to 1808 - a clear sign of the high standards he set for his first symphony in a minor key. Several notable events – of both political and private nature – occurred during this lapse of time: the threat of a defeat against Napoleon, Beethoven's acknowledgement of his irreversible deafness, but also a new artistic level reached after he has accomplished the "Eroica". What concept did Beethoven pursue in the new symphony? It is a known fact that the famous opening notes of the Fifth stand for fate "knocking at the door". The musical process they set in motion is, however, decisive. Beethoven did not merely write a symphony that begins in a minor key and ends in major. He staged this development as a logical, not to say necessary process. Fate is overcome in four stages: the C major key, for example, seems to have already been reached at the end of the first movement, before a sombre coda annihilates this result. In the second movement, the overall lyrical impression is noticeably disrupted by signals of a march - foreshadowing the final triumph. Even the Scherzo (not designated as such) lives entirely from musical conflicts. Here, in the last bars, the definitive shift to the redemptive C major finally takes place. The final movement is pure jubilation, its global ethos expressed through additional instruments such as the piccolo, trombones and the contrabassoon. "I will seize fate by the throat" said Beethoven – and it happens here, musically speaking.

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Orchestre des Champs-Élysées

By founding the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées in 1991, Philippe Herreweghe provided the French music scene with the quality ensemble playing on original instruments that it lacked. In doing so, the conductor added a new orchestra to his series of ensembles that he had specially designed for the exploration of given musical eras. The Orchestre des Champs-Élysées focuses on symphonic works and oratorios of the Classical and Romantic periods, as well as the classics of the XXth century, performed on the instruments of the respective periods. Several award-winning recordings of works by Mozart and Beethoven, but also Berlioz, Bruckner and Mahler resulted from this initiative. Guest conductors invited by the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées include included Daniel Harding, René Jacobs and Heinz Holliger. This Paris-based orchestra has toured Asia, Australia and the USA and performed in major venues in London, Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam. Musicological research and educational projects complement the activities of the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées.

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