Beloved master conductor Herbert Blomstedt returns to Oslo, presenting two brilliant compositions which arguably stand in the shadow of more famous works.
Beloved master conductor Herbert Blomstedt returns to Oslo, presenting two brilliant compositions which arguably stand in the shadow of more famous works. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 represents a stylistic break with tradition; it “smiles through and through”, and points boldly towards a new era. Dvořák’s most complex and internationally recognised masterpiece was not destined to become his most popular, but those who listen closely will discover that Symphony No. 7 is at least as dramatic, gripping and persuasive as any symphony by Brahms, Bruckner or, actually, Beethoven.
The composer Hector Berlioz once problaimed Ludwig van Beethoven’s (1770−1827) Symphony No. 2 to be one which “smiles through and through”. The work has a life-affirming energy, drive, and infectious optimism. At times the smile appears playful, cheerful and full of joie de vivre, such as in the energetic first movement, and at other times, sweetly sentimental, such as in the luminous second movement. At yet other times, it appears devious and volatile, such as in the chuckling and comically capricious finale.
The work shouldn’t be overlooked for not being as well-known as Eroica (Symphony No. 3), The Fate Symphony (No. 5), Pastorale (No. 6) or Symphony No. 9. The second symphony contains more than mere traces of Haydn and Mozart, but you can still expect a number of “Beethovenian” effects in the form of sudden changes in volume and unexpected turns. The cheerfulness of the piece stands in stark contrast to Beethoven’s life situation when he composed the work and conducted the world premiere in Vienna in 1803: he had only just realised that he was to become completely deaf.
It was the symphonic tradition starting with Beethoven which Antonín Dvořák (1841−1904) dreamed of writing himself into with his nine symphonies. Also Dvořák is more known for works other than that on tonight’s programme − namely his Cello Concerto and Symphony No. 9 “From the New World”. Nevertheless, there is widespread agreement that his seventh symphony is his most serious and successful attempt to compose a great symphony which stands in direct relation to, and engages in dialogue with, the German tradition.
Rather uncharacteristically for Dvořák, the melodies don’t bear many traits of Slavic folk music. This might have hindered Symphony No. 7 from becoming as popular as No. 9, but it was what made it possible for the composer to create a powerful and convincing symphonic drama without it being confined to the category of National Romanticism. Symphony No. 7 was performed for the first time in London in 1885.
(In photo: Herbert Blomstedt, Photo: Martin U.K. Lengemann)
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