Beethoven
Egmont, Op.84 – Overture
Symphony No.1 in C, Op.21
Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 (Pastoral)

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin
Leonard Slatkin. ©Steve J. Sherman I refer you to my previous review (linked to below) should any background be needed. Suffice to say that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin here continued their Beethoven symphony cycle – a gift to the world via the Internet. In Detroit itself, perhaps unusually, it was a morning appointment, at 10.45, yet Orchestra Hall seemed buzzing. Five hours later on the clock, your London-based correspondent took pleasure from a further live webcast.
There’s a lot of good stuff in the incidental music that Beethoven composed for Egmont (as George Szell proved in his Vienna Philharmonic recording for Decca), the Overture long being a favourite concert opener. Slatkin sees it as weighty and expressive, trenchantly and lyrically played by the DSO (with the clarity of hard-stick timpani a boon), something extra saved for the victorious coda. In the C major Symphony, Beethoven hanging on to Haydn’s coat-tails while also establishing himself as an individual soon-to-be-visionary composer, Slatkin proposed a sprightly and shapely traversal that was a joy, crisply and gracefully executed by the musicians. The second movement, even allowing that it is marked Andante cantabile con moto, although songful was rather nifty and not all corners were elegantly turned. The finale bristled and bounced with positivity.
Repeats were also fully observed in the ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, the first movement, quite swift in tempo but not forced or mechanical, certainly expressed those “happy feelings” that Beethoven diarised and notated. ‘Scene by the brook’ was beautifully done; with just the right current it lilted and snored contentedly, and the birdsong – nightingale (flute), quail (oboe) and a cuckooing clarinet – was a magical moment, such idyll danced away by the peasants in the next movement, bucolic and capricious, before a spirited ‘Storm’, wind and rain lashing, put an end to such frivolity, temporarily though for the clouds cleared, the sun returned and the rustics’ ‘Hymn of Thanksgiving’ looked heavenwards with eloquent praise. This was a poised and picturesque performance.

 

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