Prom 66: 9th September 2001 – Beethoven 9

Concerto in C for violin, cello, piano and orchestra, Op.56
Symphony No.9 in D minor (Choral)

Elisabeth Batiashvili (violin)
Alban Gerhardt (cello)
Steven Osborne (piano)
Amanda Roocroft (soprano)
Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano)
Kurt Streit (tenor)
Peter Rose (bass)

London Philharmonic Choir

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä

Reviewed by: Jason Boyd

Reviewed: 9 September, 2001
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

This concert devoted to Beethoven was always going to be something of a ’feel-good’ Prom. Beethoven’s ability to speak to the soul, and his overcoming of insurmountable obstacles – his own heroic grappling with deafness – can give the most desperate person hope.

Of Beethoven’s seven recognized concertos his ’Triple’ is the most neglected – partly for practical reasons (three soloists are more expensive than one), and three soloists do not fit the Romantic ideal of the individual against the mass; a shame as it’s a delightful work. I did feel a potential problem was each soloist grappling for the limelight; however, all three worked well as a team, especially the interaction between Elizabeth Batiashvili and Alban Gerhardt. They were always looking at one another so as to communicate their phrases physically. Importantly, they seemed to enjoy playing, exchanging smiles and nods of approval. Steven Osborne seemed rather isolated in the far-right corner, sometimes straining to see what the other two were doing. Maybe he should have been on the left of the stage, thereby having a fuller view. This is not to criticize his performance, but he was more accompanist than soloist, which, perhaps, was Beethoven’s intention. Gerhardt was a little fierce, producing a rather non-sweet, aggressive tone. Batiashvili gave a mature rendition for somebody only twenty-two – a star of the future.

The epic Ninth is a celebration of life. Beethoven was completely deaf when he wrote it, and at the first performance had to be tapped on the shoulder to bring to his attention the applauding audience. Rather than be bitter, Beethoven produced a work in which good overcomes evil, major overcomes minor; in the finale he sets Schiller’s ’Ode to Joy’. Osmo Vänskä’s conducting was impressive – nothing flamboyant; everything was precise, particularly with regard to dynamics. I must mention the excellent playing of timpanist Goran Rigby whose rhythmic accuracy in the scherzo was pleasing. The solo singers worked well as an ensemble; Peter Rose’s opening declamation was strong, clear and well articulated, giving the others a good benchmark. Amanda Roocroft sang with particular vigour and beauty. A great Prom well performed – I left the Albert Hall believing that anything is possible with a little Beethoven to back you up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content