Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Beethoven 250 review


Streamed from the Lighthouse, Poole and on BBC Radio3

Fate knocks at the door in mysterious and ingenious ways as we celebrate in this locked-down year the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth.
The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, who recently presented such a brilliantly socially-distanced live concert with a full complement at its Lighthouse home base, returned to the venue tonight with a Beethoven-inspired concert aeons away from the meat-and-two-veg overture, concerto and symphony menu which would have been an easy homage.
Instead we began with the UK premiere of Magnus Lindberg's Absence, a co-commission from the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Cologne Philharmonic, and the BSO itself. We are told the inspiration comes from the little conversation notebooks the deaf Beethoven carried around with him, and that one bar from his Les Adieux Piano Sonata is a fuelling element. I didn't hear that so much as a crucial motif from Wagner's Gotterdammerung.
Never mind. This is a rich, well-imagined work with captivating orchestral sonorities, from solo chamber elements, through noble horn solos, to deeply engaging, luscious sounds from the full orchestra under Kirill Karabits.
There was a wonderful sense of affirmation here, one which was reinforced at the end of the account of the complete score of Beethoven's rarely-heard ballet The Creatures of Prometheus which followed.
We should hear this more often. It brings delightful orchestral colours (Beethoven writing for the harp, a warmly bubbling basset-horn almost rivalling Mozart's writing for that gorgeous instrument, vivid woodwind solos, imperious timpani and natural trumpets), a perhaps unexpected dramatic verve in this, Beethoven's first work for the stage, and hints of not only the early symphonies but also of the Eighth.
And then there are the melodies, crowned at the end by a certain little theme which pops up in a set of Piano Variations, in a contredanse, and in the finale of the Eroica Symphony, joyous and dancing and easily rivalling the turgid "Ode to Joy" which crowns Beethoven's Ninth.
Karabits and his willing forces conveyed all of this with warmth and affection, and radiated so much cheer and hope in these ghastly times.
Christopher Morley

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