“I have never seen the Barbican so packed, buzzy and full of buggies and babies, as well as those of us able to stagger round by ourselves. Quite apart from the music-making, the centre’s Beethoven Weekender must be deemed a triumphant social event.” Richard Morrison for The Times
Featuring each of the composer’s nine symphonies performed by five regional UK orchestras, plus quartets with the Carducci Quartet and Simon Callow, Beethoven’s violin music performed on his very own instrument, and a panel event on music & deafness, the Barbican Centre’s Beethoven Weekender was a 360 degree event that excelled both musically and socially.
On Saturday, Ukrainian conductor Kirill Karabits led his Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3, while German conductor and pianist Lars Vogt took to the stage on Sunday, conducting Nos. 7 and 8 with his Royal Northern Sinfonia. Symphonies 2 and 4 were performed by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Ninth by Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé, and the Fifth and Sixth by Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.
Praising both conductors and their respective orchestras, Mark Pullinger of bachtrack “adored” Kirill and the BSO’s performance of Symphony No. 1: “The Allegro con brio of the opening movement had real zing – clean, lean and urgent – and the Haydnesque wit of the finale was a joy, Karabits, conducting without a baton but with a huge smile.” Pullinger went on to say Lars and the RNS “bristled [with] infectious energy”, with “spiky accenting and boisterous spirits prevailing in both the Eight and the Seventh”.
Writing for the arts desk, Peter Quantrill singled the two conductors out: “In fact throughout the weekend, the best of the music-making resisted, with Beethovenian truculence, any narrative attempts to romanticize and update him. The Seventh and Eighth with Vogt, and the First and Third with Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth SO, always kept Haydn and Mozart in the rear-view mirror.” He closed his review musing on the impact of hearing all nine symphonies in close succession, “thanks at least to Karabits’ attentive but incandescent account: the “Eroica” really did sound like the symphony that changed music for ever.”
Both Lars and the RNS, and Kirill and the BSO have enduring connections with Beethoven. Between 2017 and 2018, the former released a series of fresh interpretations of Beethoven concertos on Ondine Records; all of which have been widely applauded. The latter, who has been Music Director of the Bournemouth Symphony since 2009, recently told the Bournemouth Echo that a Beethoven symphony cycle was the first project he suggested to the orchestra: “It was a bit banal I suppose because everyone does Beethoven,” Kirill said. “But I felt if we could convince each other in that music, then it would be a great start to our relationship and put a huge piece of my future in place. And that is exactly what happened.”
The Arts Desk