Eroica again…

Sometimes the ARTS Channel is worth every cent!! Tonight I watched the film "Eroica" – strangely enough about Beethoven’s Eroica symphony  🙂

Some of you may remember that I wrote about this work last year when I conducted it. This is a "turning point" Symphony  – a seminal work if ever there was one. From the very first notes, the Symphony was never the same again – some would say it never recovered  🙂

The other night I also watched a performance of Beethoven’s fifth Symphony – a performance from about 20 years ago. It was great to see the conductor (Herbert Blomstedt) place the cellos and basses where I like them to be (ie swap them with the traditional seating for second violins). It was a good performance of this well-known work. However one thing that struck me was the way the performance  displayed the triumph of the 4th movement. It has never quite come over that way to me before. While the style was a little old fashioned, it was quite breathtaking to watch and hear the change as the trombones enter the symphonic repertoire for the first time in a totally magical passage going from minor to major tonality.

The Eroica performance on the film is on the other hand quite up to date. I can imagine if I asked players to perform in this fashion they would think I was a little strange. I can just see the review from a certain reviewer – who can stay relatively anonymous…….after talking about the discomfort of the chairs, or inability to see the fireworks, he would then display his ignorance to the world with some comment such as the inability to capture the ethereal nature of the work……

Enough of that, I shan’t say any more about him despite his lack of objectivity towards me in the past!

The Eroica is not a work of beauty. It is a work of passion! It has moments of pure ugliness, but it does speak from and to the heart. The second movement especially is full of sadness – the fall from grace of Napoleon – It is a work aptly named the "heroic". Here is a composer who dared to stand up in a society that demanded that one conformed and say that he wanted to write in this fashion. This composer was himself "eroica".

About David Adlam

I am a conductor, composer, clarinettist and examiner for Trinity Guildhall working in Auckland, New Zealand and overseas
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