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2015年11月13日 星期五

The Immortal Beethoven lives on (不朽的貝多芬再出台了)

In a thunderstorm on 26th March, 1827, Ludwig von Beethoven died, aged 56. He died according to history. Yet, he never died for me. He is still very much alive and kicking, in his music. He was resurrected, twice last night, first in his Symphony No. 8 and then again in his Symphony. No.3 under the baton of Jaap van Zweden.

By all accounts, Symphony No. 8 in F, Op 93 in Allegro vivace e con brio, Allegretto schezando, Tempo di Menuetto, Allegro vivace, is a light hearted symphony, written very quickly by him immediately after he finished the 7th at a time when he had just succeeded in forcing his brother to marry the girl with whom he had been fooling around in bed for a long time and putting an end to the family scandal which had infuriated the fiery composer  for quite some time. Some even say that certain passages in the symphony were meant to be deliberately humorous. As usual, Beethoven started the symphony with great force before moving into a lyrical passage by the winds, repeated by the strings, interrupted without warning by huge thumping notes which remind one of the opening theme, again and again in waves after waves. One cannot but be amazed at the force of Beethoven's indomitable will and the respite from its action from time to time in the lighter passages. I really like the delightfully short second movement, moving around in a sort of almost classical mechanical rhythms led by the woodwinds, followed by the strings which alternated between light and heavy sound. This was followed by the courtly elegance of the menuet in the third with its constant repetition of the its main motifs without forgetting the flowing theme of the first. The constant comical imitation of each others' phrases by different sections of the orchestra and the sudden explosion into loudness and the unexpected abrupt dropping back into soft notes in the middle of such loudness in the 4th movement before it continues its energetic course to the finale makes it a truly memorable experience. I don't know how it is for the others. For me, perhaps it's such romantic reversal which is the secret of its endless fascination which keeps me coming back again and again for another listening.





After the intermission, we had the second offering in van Zweden's Beethoven Cycle: the famous "Eroica", Beethoven's No. 3  in Eb Major. O. 55, which he originally intended to dedicate to Napoleon Bonaparte as the son of the Revolution upon whom Beethoven had pinned such great hopes for the amelioration of the lot of the common folks but he angrily tore up the the title page upon which he wrote the name of his former hero upon hearing that he had declared himself emperor, just like the former kings of the ancien regime. Nonetheless the symphony has been written and the theme of the hero Prometheus could not be removed. Prometheus is the titan in Greek mythology who helped Zeus to win his battle against the Kronos and who later tricked Zeus into claiming the inedible parts of the cow for use in godly rituals so that he could give its nourishing parts to humanity as food and who loved humanity so much that he risked punishment by stealing fire from the Greek heaven to give to man. The symphony's magnificent first movement in Allegro con brio is thought to reflect the struggles of the protagonist Prometheus: brave, strong, resolute yet faced with huge obstacles which he had to fight against and surmount time and time again whilst the second : Marcia funèbre in Adagio Assai, with its slow and heavy funeral march rhythm is supposed to reflect the death of Prometheus as the passion of the first movement turned into sad meditation of the common folks as they mourn their hero's death without. however forgetting to recall from time to time the audacious exploits of their hero, from which they could take heart again. The third movement Scherzo in Allegro vivace and Trio is thought to portrait the resurrection of Prometheus by Pan, the god of forests, fields, wine and music, represented by the woodwinds as if it happened during a hunt, signaled the sound of the horns. In the final movement: Finale in Allegro molto, the theme of Prometheus is taken up again, represented by the woodwinds and then elaborated and amplified by the strings and then by the whole orchestra culminating in the celebration of the final triumph of the hero. It's a rousing symphony full of strong rhythms and force and with lots of tension as we hear the hero fighting his way through against apparently impossible odds with occasional sad and lyrical passages which however would quickly be overshadowed by the heroic theme which continues unabated in its determined struggle for the final triumph.  




The concert is fine start of the Beethoven cycle. Van Zweden and the HKPO are good as usual but somehow I could not resist the thought that it would have been even better if in certain passages in Symphony No. 3, the bass section had produced a tighter, crispier and more decisive sound so as to deliver the oompth and power of the hero along with the other sections of the orchestra which should have been there but....Another very good concert indeed. The very long applause at the end has truly been earned.