Beethoven has undoubtedly been the composer I have spent the most time discussing. He championed a titanic task: to save the existing formal canon from its gradual loss of value as a new era progressed. His unwavering challenge was to deduce it again from the subjectivity, which that very same formal and objective canon released. That is precisely what distinguishes Beethoven from the Romantic composers who succeeded him and what makes his work unique in the history of music.
It is natural that Beethoven’s music would incite a wide variety of interpretations. What invariably surprises me is that some of them are executed with complete disregard to his aesthetic principles. One of them, fundamental to the ultimate effect of the work, is certainly the tempo. Beethoven always felt, and repeatedly noted in various letters, that there was an insuperable barrier between the old Italian tempo markers and the new characters that his music represented. He was the first and foremost advocate of the metronome, which he considered a minor evil, as it helped objectively to define the tempo of his new musical constructions. Conventional categories of tempo, the “tempi ordinari”, ceased to be functional for the new spirit of his music.
The quiet and introspective pastoral symphony with its dialectic between calm and movement, echoing a “recollection of the life in the countryside”, seemed an appropriate context for me to work on articulation and phrasing and to adjust its tempi to the precise metronome markings of the score. I have not conducted the pastoral symphony since then, but now, reading the reviews of the concert, its recollection is that of a personal research that was conveyed and understood successfully as such.
Conductor: Pedro Alcalde
Orchestra: Orquesta Sinfónica de Radiotelevisión Española (OSRTVE)
Soprano: María José Montiel
Event: Verano Musical de Segovia
Venue: Catedral de Segovia
Date: 13th of July 1997
Juan C. Arriaga: Los esclavos felices. Obertura pastoral
Hector Berlioz: Les Nuits d’Été, op.7
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Ludwig van Beethoven: Pastoral Symphony, op.68