Beethoven – Symphony no.4 in B-flat major, op.60Boulez – Dialogue de l’ombre double
Beethoven – Symphony no.3 in E-flat major, ‘Eroica’, op.55
|Images: BBC/Chris Christodoulou
Daniel Barenboim conducts the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Beethoven's
Fourth Symphony at the BBC Proms
This second instalment of the Beethoven symphonies from Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra reversed the chronological order, so that the Fourth was to be heard in the first half, along with Boulez’s Dialogue de l’ombre double, with the second half given over to the Eroica. Fair enough, one might say, the latter symphony being an obvious work with which to conclude the programme. I wondered whether it might therefore have made sense to mix up the programming a little more, rather than to present an almost-but-not-quite chronology, but any ordering will possess its particular advantages. As it was, even though the Fourth came first, I could not help but hear it to a certain degree in the light of what was yet to come.
|Jussef Eisa performs Boulez's Dialogue de l'ombre double at the BBC Proms
The first movement of the Eroica took a little while to get into its stride, the only (relative) disappointment to the concert. Accents, surprisingly for Barenboim, sounded a little over-emphasised, more akin to the artificial ‘excitement’ lesser musicians impose upon Beethoven. Counterpoint, however, was clear and harmonically propulsive, and momentary apparent desertion from Furtwängler’s path was put right with yearning voicing – and working – of the second subject. The magic tended to be reserved for hushed moments, at least until echt-Beethovenian defiance was voiced in the recapitulation. Gloriously apparent was the status of the coda as second development – perhaps a link, despite the formal perfection of Beethoven’s scheme, to the open-endedness integral to Boulez’s æsthetic. Klemperer, hewn from granite, remains the model for so many of us in the Funeral March, but Barenboim’s more fluid approach more than justified itself. There was some especially fine playing from the WEDO’s woodwind principals. The episodes unabashedly evoked Furtwängler, not just in their shaping but in their organic growth from existing material. Nobility of utterance verged upon the supreme. This was Wagnerian Beethoven, and all the better for it; several times I heard intimations of Die Walküre. Wagner’s 1851 programmmatic explanation of this symphony came to mind:
... the term ‘heroic’ must be taken in the widest sense, and not simply as relating to a military hero. If we understand ‘hero’ to mean, above all, the whole, complete man, in possession of all purely human feelings — love, pain, and strength — at their richest and most intense, we shall comprehend the correct object, as conveyed to us by the artist in the speaking, moving tones of his work. The artistic space of this work is occupied by … feelings of a strong, fully formed individuality, to which nothing human is strange, and which contains within itself everything that is truly human.