Beethoven, alpha and omega | Culture

Leonard Bernstein I had a singular fascination for Beethoven's music. "There is no isolated aspect in his music that allows us to affirm that he was a great composer," he said. during a television presentation with actor Maximiliam Schell, in 1982. “Neither his melodies, nor his harmonies, nor his counterpoint, nor as a sound painter, nor his orchestration. In all this we can find defects, ”he continued. For Bernstein, Beethoven's secret lay in the miraculous conjunction of it all. “In his music every note is always correct. No composer (including Mozart) had that ability to make everything unpredictable and at the same time successful. That makes his compositions unbeatable. How did he achieve it? Nobody knows, but he broke his life trying to reach that inevitability. ”

The director of the Bontho Beethoven-HausMalte Boecker recalled this famous video last Sunday, while explaining how Bernstein changed his life. "With 17 years I was fortunate to frequent his musical meetings and attend all his concerts in Europe." A decade later, this cultural manager coordinated the workshops where the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, in Weimar. "In them, Daniel Barenboim I used to play with Yo-Yo Ma music for cello and piano while Edward Said He gave intellectual talks, ”he says.

Boecker has always tried to return to these artistic experiences. And when he took charge of the historic institution located since 1889 in the museum of Beethoven's birthplace, dedicated to the conservation, study and dissemination of its legacy, it was proposed to intensify the concerts. "I chose to revive the chamber music festival that Joseph Joachim had founded here as honorary president, in 1890, around Beethoven," he says. For this he had a new president, the violist Tabea Zimmermann, which replaced, in 2014, the conductor Kurt Masur. "And we embarked on a six-year project that should culminate in 2020, with the commemoration of Beethoven's 250th anniversary," continues Boecker.

Five editions of the festival, baptized as Beethoven-Woche, were designed around the bicentennial of some Beethoven composition, since the Sonatas for cello and piano, op. 102, in 2015, until Diabelli variations, op. 120, in 2019. “It was a way to go from Beethoven to other composers, but also to make new music to understand Beethoven,” says Zimmermann (who has worked closely all these years with Luis Gago on the design of programming and selection of the artists). This sixth edition, however, poses a fascinating itinerary for all Beethoven chamber music, from the three Trios with piano op. one to the String quartet op. 135. An alpha and Beethovenian omega that is not grouped chronologically or by genres, such as the duo sonata, the piano trio or the string quartet. The trip arises, curiously, by thematic links that group all the chamber production into four blocks of four concerts with their own entity. Each one becomes an experience, by alternating several formations within the same evening.

The violinist Isabelle Faust, the cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the pianist Alexander Melnikov during the inaugural concert at the Bundeskunsthalle, last Friday in Bonn.

The violinist Isabelle Faust, the cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the pianist Alexander Melnikov during the inaugural concert at the Bundeskunsthalle, last Friday in Bonn.

A good example of this was the concert that closed the first block the day before yesterday Great Fugue op. 133 in its original location, that is, as finale of the String quartet op. 130. A dazzling version of Belcea Quartet, whose members received the warm congratulations on the stage of the trio formed by the violinist Isabelle Faustthe cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the pianist Alexander Melnikov, who had acted in the first part. In this Bonn festival, not only Beethoven's works dialogue with each other, but musicians of different formations listen to each other. And every evening ends, often, with endearing encounters between great soloists and chamber ensembles full of anecdotes, simplicity and a lot of human warmth. But the version of the Great escape from the violinist quartet Corina Belcea also confirmed the words of an octogenarian Stravinski, who saw her as an "eternally contemporary" musical work.

This year the Beethoven link with the current creative music will arrive at the closing concert, on February 9, with the premiere of a sextet by Olli Mustonen. But the festival opened, last Friday, January 17, with another window to Beethoven's news: a talk by the clarinetist and composer Jörg Widmann who drew up a passionate account of his relationship with the composer of Bonn. Widmann treats him, like Bernstein, from composer to composer, although he also abounded in his role as an interpreter who became familiar with his music playing the Trio for piano, clarinet and cello, op. eleven. And both agree to underline Beethoven's ability to surprise us and go against what one expects, which Widmann illustrated with eloquent piano examples.

That unusual modernity of Beethoven also appeared in the inaugural concert. It was held, exceptionally, in the auditorium of the Bundeskunsthalle, the federal museum that hosts the main exhibition related to the 250th anniversary of Beethoven, with an acoustics little suitable for chamber music. Three works with three different formations, but also three Beethovenian beginnings. It was opened, after the protocol speeches, with the work that inaugurates the catalog with number of opus Beethoven: the Trio with piano op. 1, no. one, from 1785. And the start of Faust, Queyras and Melnikov sounded like a fire in the "Mannheim rocket" that opens the work, despite the curious appeal of some improvised ornaments in the repetitions. And the interpretation rose a lot in the adagio cantabile, with that episode where Beethoven surprises us by taking his speech to the darkness of a minor fa; It was the first of the many magical moments heard these days in Bonn.

In the second part the first of the “Razumovsky” quartets, from 1806. A work that inaugurates that Beethovenian desire to start a slow demolition of the classical style, although the members of the Belcea Quartet failed the plans to build a truly personal and interesting version of the work. The best of the first day was undoubtedly the String trio op. 9 no. one, where Beethoven is already running as a great quacker. Queyras unfolded here to share the work with two former companions of the Arcanto Quartet: the violinist Daniel Sepec and the aforementioned artistic director of the festival, the violist Tabea Zimmermann. And all three were right with the ideal dose of gunpowder to keep the spark of this music alive, without excesses or deficiencies.

The violinist Daniel Sepec, the violist Tabea Zimmermann and the cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras during the inaugural concert at the Bundeskunsthalle, last Friday in Bonn.

The violinist Daniel Sepec, the violist Tabea Zimmermann and the cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras during the inaugural concert at the Bundeskunsthalle, last Friday in Bonn.

The second concert returned to the venue of the festival, the Chamber Music Hall of the Beethoven-Haus located in the same Bonngasse street. A modern semi-oval amphitheater of classical tradition that has about two hundred seats and admirable acoustics. He opened fire, on Saturday, January 18, the young Novus Quartet with another admirably conceived program. Three consecutive compositions in his opus number, written between 1810 and 1812 and dedicated to friends and patrons: the Quartet "Serious" op. 95, the Sonata for violin no. 10 op. 96 and the Trio with piano "Archduke" op. 97. A program where Beethoven continues to innovate, although where his hearing difficulties to play the piano, invited him to close his catalogs of violinistic sonatas and trios in favor of the string quartet. The Koreans of the Novus played a technically admirable and intense version of that journey from F minor to F major, which is the opus 95, but without getting the fire to crackle behind the notes. Everything changed with Faust and Melnikov looking for extremes in dynamic fluidity and the management of tempo of the Tenth violin sonata. And it improved with the incorporation of Queyras in the Trio "Archduke" which ideally leveled the balance.

But the two best concerts of this first block of the Beethoven-Woche were the last two. On Sunday 19 we attended a hand by hand sonatas for violin and for cello by Faust and Queyras with Melnikov omnipresent to the piano. Under the common denominator of the beginnings, the sonatas that open two catalogs for violin and cello of the composer sounded: opus 12 no. one Y op. 5 no. one. But the coming path was also pointed out. The latter was more evident in the Cello Sonata op. 69, thanks to the exquisite naturalness of Queyras and with Melnikov tensing the music and illuminating all the recesses. But the flexibility of Faust, whose chemistry with the pianist raised the Sonata op. 30 no. one. Interestingly, the three together provided the only possible tip for not getting out of the script of the cycle: the larghetto of the arrangement for piano trio that Beethoven himself made of his Second symphony and, more specifically, the larghetto.

Finally, the fourth concert went to the ends to close the first block of the festival. Very present already in the "Kakadu" Variations, for a piano trio, with that dramatic introduction in lesser sun than followed by a theme that, in the hands of Faust, Queyras and Melnikov almost sounded like a nod from Beethoven to the Monty Python. But, after an impressive Trio with piano op. 70 no. two, which was the best of the four days of this group of three distinguished soloists, returned on Belcea Quartet. They left in the second part to take off the thorn of the first concert and offered a dazzling version of the Foursome op. 130 with the Great escape As final move. An interpretation that ideally responded to what Chris Walton wrote in the fundamental book-program of the whole cycle. And we could experience how Beethoven moved forward, movement by movement, to the next 150 years of music with echoes of Schumann, Shostakovich, Cage and even the Nimrod of Elgar in the beautiful cavatina. But the Great escape it was again the most impressive and even disconcerting; a composition that catches you and persecutes you on sleepless nights.

There is still a lot to hear at this Bonn festival. With a second part focused on the dimension of sonatas and duo quartets, the third linked to vintage instruments and the fourth to wind instruments. But the extraordinary level of this first stage confirms that we are facing one of the main musical events this year of Beethoven's 250th anniversary. And that will echo from today within the Beethoven cycle: the permanent change of the Juan March Foundation, which shares its first three concerts with the Beethoven-Haus festival. For its part, the German cultural institution will also find a place to honor Leonard Bernstein as a Beethovenian. An exhibition, between June and October, with a title that reproduces Bernstein's funny anecdote in Bonn, when he signed as “L. B., although unfortunately without going ”.


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