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Elim Chan’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with the RSNO is without doubt one of the finest – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United Kingdom Numerous: Jörg Widmann (clarinet), Dunedin Consort, Royal Scottish Nationwide Orchestra / Elim Chan (conductor). Usher Corridor, Edinburgh, 28.10.2022. (BBS)

Elim Chan and the Royal Scottish Nationwide Orchestra

Haydn – Symphony No.39
Jörg Widmann – Echo-Fragmente
Beethoven – Symphony No.5

We’re fortunate in Scotland to have one of many best symphony orchestras in Britain, the Royal Scottish Nationwide Orchestra, and likewise among the best interval instrument ensembles, the Dunedin Consort. This live performance featured each of them, individually and collectively. The 2 particular person segments have been really beautiful, however I discovered the mixture pressured and unsatisfying. I’ll clarify the considering behind the collaboration in the end however allow us to begin firstly.

A big and unexpectedly youthful viewers had turned up for the live performance. It has been a supply of concern through the years I’ve been writing these opinions that the viewers was getting older, even because the gamers have been getting youthful! There had clearly been a concerted effort on the a part of the RSNO to succeed in out to the youthful era, presumably with the lure of among the best identified and certainly finest symphonies within the repertoire, Beethoven’s Fifth, and there have been massive teams of schoolchildren, in addition to households in attendance. It was a heart-warming sight, and I hope these younger individuals have been thrilled by the fantastic music-making.

What greeted them in the beginning was not the RSNO, however a bunch of gamers from the Dunedin Consort, the early music group based by Susan Hamilton and Ben Parry in 1995, and now underneath the musical course of John Butt. I need to declare an curiosity right here, as I’ve sung a number of instances with the Dunedins, and certainly recorded Bach’s St Matthew Ardour with them in 2008 (a recording which has been a lot praised). There was no singing tonight, they usually have been taking part in Haydn, so I reckon there could be no battle of curiosity.

The Haydn they performed was the Symphony No.39 in G Minor, nicknamed Tempesta di Mare (Storm at Sea), courting from 1765, when the composer was 33. It’s the first of his minor key symphonies (a rarity as much as then), and launched the Esterhazy courtroom, after which the world, to the musical illustration of Sturm und Drang (storm and stress), a proto-Romantic German motion of the mid to late-eighteenth century in literature and music, which gave free expression to emotions and feelings felt to have been repressed by the prevailing rationalism of the Enlightenment. Whether or not Haydn was consciously reacting to this motion is unsure, however this symphony is kind of dramatic in its depth, particularly within the outer actions, and hints of what was to return, each from Haydn himself and, significantly, Beethoven a couple of years later, are manifold.

The Dunedin Consort, on this event with out a conductor, however led from the entrance desk by the chief, Matthew Truscott, performed the symphony as if their lives relied on it, with nice verve and expression. The fabulous sound of 4 pure horns, performed pointing up in looking method, added an exciting further dimension to the sound, as did the visceral sound of intestine strings, a particular characteristic of interval bands. Enjoying at 430Hz, in all probability the tuning of orchestras on the time of Haydn, it provides a barely extra mellow sound than the extra regular trendy pitch of 440Hz.

Haydn symphonies can usually be thrown in by an orchestra as a innocent approach of beginning a live performance, moderately quick actions with good tunes and no nice emotional involvement, a kind of heat up for the primary attraction after the interval. That was actually not the case right here, and I used to be as soon as once more reminded what an outstanding composer Haydn was. His place in historical past is confirmed, however the accident of his being contemporaneous to Mozart and Beethoven, two of the all-time greats of music, was unlucky. Listening to this symphony performed because it in all probability sounded on the time it was written, and with such verve and dedication by the Dunedin Consort, jogged my memory of Haydn’s actual high quality as a composer, and the ovation which greeted the gamers on the thrilling climax of the symphony was actual and merited.

However why, you ask, was the Dunedin Consort there in any respect, in a live performance by the RSNO? Thereby hangs a story, as Shakespeare mentioned! Apparently, it was a dialogue concerning the second piece within the programme, Echo-Fragmente by Jőrg Widmann, that set the powers that be alongside the trail to the three-year partnership established between the RSNO and the Dunedin Consort which started tonight. Numerous future initiatives are envisaged and programmed, once more taking part in each as separate entities and collectively on the identical time. The essential concept appears to be that every orchestra can be taught from the opposite when it comes to appropriate interval observe and understanding of efficiency kinds. If it really works, it’s a laudable purpose, and I believe, particularly, the RSNO can profit from studying interval type after they play something earlier than Schubert or Berlioz.

The piece in query was written by the clarinettist, composer and conductor, Jőrg Widmann in 2006, for 2 orchestras in Freiburg im Breisgau in southern Germany, the place he was instructing on the time. In honour of Mozart’s 250th anniversary. The 2 orchestras approached Widmann to put in writing a brand new piece for each collectively, and he wrote Echo-Fragmente for the event. The place to begin was the truth that they performed at totally different pitches of their concert events, 430Hz and 440Hz respectively, and Widmann appeared to discover two teams taking part in concurrently at totally different pitches in a single piece.

I’ve to confess my coronary heart sank on the prospect of whole cacophony, however the outcome was much less terrible than I feared. He has produced a soundscape of fascinating colors, utilizing varied further devices, like celeste, guitar and accordion and his personal solo clarinet offers a hyperlink between the 2 temperaments, using new strategies of taking part in to twist his personal tonality. Widmann is actually a grasp of his personal instrument, cajoling extraordinary sounds out of his clarinet, together with percussive results and respiration noises.

The issue for me with soundscapes is that, invariably, by their very nature, they don’t are inclined to go wherever structurally, and for me, that results in a sure sense of boredom. With no actual melody or line, the piece meanders, not unpleasantly, for twenty odd minutes in two sections, one gradual and one just a little quicker. There was additionally no sense wherein the composer sought to utilise the totally different music kinds of the 2 orchestras, aside from the variations in pitch, which to my ears solely actually manifested themselves when the 2 string sections performed block chords across the identical time. In different phrases, what I believe I’m saying is that this was a misplaced alternative actually to discover the contrasts and similarities of the 2 ensembles, forsaking solely a modernistic soundscape of restricted curiosity. I did, nonetheless, meet a pal on the interval who declared herself mesmerised and delighted by the piece, so chacun à son goût, as they are saying!

After the interval, we have been handled to a merely scintillating efficiency of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, performed by the drive of nature that’s Elim Chan, the RSNO’s Principal Visitor Conductor. Taking over board lots of the advances in interval taking part in that ensembles just like the Dunedin Consort have revealed, Chan led us by means of a whirlwind of spectacular sounds which made me, for one, hear this excellent symphony with new ears. It wasn’t simply that it was quick, it was quick for a goal, a revelatory studying that confirmed as soon as once more the outstanding genius of Beethoven, writing on the cusp of the Romantic interval, and summing up the baroque and classical durations which had preceded it.

Most individuals know the story of the symphony’s first efficiency, the interminable charity live performance which featured the Sixth Symphony (the Pastoral), the Fourth Piano Concerto and the Choral Fantasy, ending with the Fifth, however retelling the story doesn’t make it any much less extraordinary! Moreover, Beethoven’s irritation with Napoleon’s usurpation of the Revolutionary fervour in France, and certainly the horrible excesses of ‘the Terror’ within the aftermath of the Revolution, doesn’t diminish the deep longing the composer felt in the direction of the concept of revolution and the brotherhood of man, manifested within the struggles of the Fifth Symphony, and gloriously resolved within the Ninth.

Chan, eschewing the baton and utilizing her arms, her arms and her entire physique to convey to the orchestra what she needed from it, produced a efficiency of true magic. Have these first notes ever thundered extra dramatically? Have the large brass chorales later within the piece ever sounded extra magnificent? Have the scurrying cello passages ever created such pleasure? Have the sometimes over-extended remaining chords ever sounded righter and extra logical?

The reply might be sure, however solely sometimes, and this was one hell of an event! I solely hope that every one the kids on the efficiency may realise that that they had not solely heard one of many nice works of all time, but in addition among the best interpretations anybody has heard!

The Hong Kong born conductor is a phenomenon, and we’re fortunate to have her right here as our Principal Visitor Conductor. Haste ye again, Elim!

Brian Bannatyne-Scott

This evaluation will all seem on Edinburgh Music Evaluation.

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