Beethovenkill: Carnegie Hall will have 2 symphonic cycles

Beethovenkill: Carnegie Hall will have 2 symphonic cycles


norman lebrecht

January 30, 2019

From the upcoming Beethoven 250th anniversary, Carnegie Hall’s Clive Gillinson has just announced two cycles of the nine symphonies – by John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra – the complete string quartets by Quatuor Ébène and the 32 piano sonatas by various hands.

Oh, and more chamber music by the likes of Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, Yo-Yo Ma and Anne-Sophie Mutter.

A trifle too much?



  • The View from America says:

    I usually say that “one cannot have too much Beethoven” — certainly during a red-letter anniversary year. But this does seem to be a tad over the top.

  • NYMike says:

    Should Philly record this cycle, it’d be for the third time with Ormandy and Muti preceding YNS.

    • Robin Mitchell-Boyask says:

      If he records a cycle, I predict it will be with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, which this Philadelphian will find annoying!

  • Scott says:

    Doesn’t anybody realize that Beethoven’s 250th is next season. Dec. 17, 2020

    • Bruce says:

      Oh goody! Let’s see, what can we come up with to celebrate….

      Oh, I know! How about a cycle of all his symphonies?

      • Harrumph says:

        And completist recitals of all 32 sonatas by umpteen pianists.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Yes, I think we all ‘celebrate’ Beethoven every day by listening to all of his works – or most of the time. No need for us to attend formal ‘celebrations’ or commemorations. He’s a part of my daily or weekly life, that’s for sure.

  • Petros LInardos says:

    I have no conception of too much Beethoven, and am particularly happy they are juxtaposing a period and a modern orchestra. If I were to criticize Carnegie Hall, I’d say better share the two cycles between more orchestras, period and modern.

    Beethoven aside, I’d ask whether we need two Mahler 5th symphonies during the same season. Or why we need that much Mahler anyway. People routinely complain about too much Brahms; less so about Mahler. I don’t understand why.

    But armchair criticism is easier than delivering. Overall, Carnegie Hall has announced yet another appetizing season. More power to them.

  • Bruckner says:

    Frankly, sounds quite boring. Beethoven deserves more innovative programming. Perhaps pairing his symphonies with contemporary music or music of lesser known composers of his period. But another cycle?

    • Thomasina says:

      I have heard Beethoven cycle in Paris, they combined his symphonies with contemporary music. I thought they were sympa or not so bad, but l didn’t go further and about 7 years since then I don’t remember their mame…I remember just Beethoven…

    • Roberto says:


      Beethoven’s music is so dominant that it pairing with other composers is a quite delicate matter. Pairing with contemporary music or music of lesser known composers is no fair to anyone: To Beethoven, the other composers and the public.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    Eh, what did Beethoven ever do for us anyway? Never understood the hype.

  • Caravaggio says:

    There is never enough LvB. However, that is one symphony cycle too many for one season. And one HIP band too many too.

    • Luigi Nonono says:

      There is always too much Beethoven, way too much. He would be the first to object. There is not nearly enough Hindemith, or even Henze.

  • Steve says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if all these nauseating complete Beethoven symphony cycles (at LVB’s 250th) could actually mark a final farewell to this tedious practice?.. if only…

  • Amos says:

    Sorry but to my tastes anything conducted by JEG is too much to bear. No doubt the program notes will contain his usual condescending but historically informed reasons why only he knows how the music should be presented. The results will likely be the same unlistenable dreck as his Brahms, Berlioz …

  • Bruce says:

    It’s not so much a question of too much Beethoven, but rather a question of too much bad Beethoven.

    Or to put it another way, a question of too many pedestrian/ forgettable/ rote performances. Much of Beethoven’s music is miraculous; too often, it receives performances that are rote and uninspired, or at best polished but soulless. I don’t demand that all performances attain sublimity; but it’s depressing when the performers don’t seem to aspire to more than competence.

  • Schoenberglover says:

    If a Beethoven cycle is really necessary, what about juxtaposing it with a cycle of contemporary works? For example a cycle of Beethoven + Boulez works that Barenboim did so wonderfully in 2012 at the Proms?

  • And they’ll be missing the 197th anniversary of the day that Schubert’s dog wandered off, was out all night, and came back the next morning.

  • anon says:

    And if the NY Phil does a Beethoven cycle with Jaap van Zweden, they’ll have 3 Beethoven cycles in New York.

    As Beethoven wrote: “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York”

  • Bruckner says:

    Putting aside these unnecessary cycles, I do not recall when I genuinely enjoyed a Beethoven live concert performance which were mostly routine and caused significant boredom. The only real Beethoven experience I recall is with Klaus Tensdedt at the LPO almost 30 yrs ago.

    • Amos says:

      One relatively recent exception to a routine Beethoven performance was conducted by RM with the PO in the Academy of Music. The occasion was the first concert the PO gave to honor MLK Jr. As I recall the program was the overture from Nabucco, Lincoln Portraits and the Beethoven 5th. My impression watching on TV was that all concerned were both emotionally and intellectually involved and the performance was reminiscent of Toscanini during WWII.

  • Never too much! But we’ll need a rest in 2021…

  • Richard Bloesch says:

    One conductor who makes the Beethoven symphonies come alive today is Manfred Honeck. Listen to the Beethoven symphonies he has already recorded with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. One hopes he will do them all for the Beethoven year.

  • SoCal Dan says:

    The 2019-2020 season at Carnegie Hall features many other composers as well.

    I personally am most interested in the concert performance of Act 3 of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, with Mr. Jonas Kaufmann, Ms. Emily Magee and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which will take place on April 15, 2020. Of course, two years earlier, in April 2018, Mr. Kaufmann and Ms. Camilla Nylund performed in Act 2 of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde on that same stage, with the same orchestra.

    Let us hope that Mr. Kaufmann can incorporate the full Tristan role into his repertoire without damaging his voice, so that we may enjoy his future performances in this role at the opera house.

  • MacroV says:

    I’m not generally one for Beethoven; I recognize his genius but just want to hear other music. But Carnegie Hall is a really busy place, and can probably handle two Beethoven cycles in a season by very different interpreters.

  • debusschubertussy says:

    Well, at least an all-Beethoven cycles will get folks to realize just how good his music is…unlike the Bernstein tributes last year where we realized that 99% of music is subpar.

  • Yi Peng Li says:

    I don’t mean to be selfish if I post my comment on these prospective cycles. I am keen to know whether the Gardiner cycle will be recorded. I’m hoping he has a complete Soli Deo Gloria cycle of the symphonies in the discography. I see that he has got four out of nine symphonies and I’m hoping he goes the whole hog to include re-recordings of all nine.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    One can have too much of anything, even the greatest and the best.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    Considering that Beethoven is probably already 50 percent of the programming, I’d say, absolutely! And the Orchestra of the Revolution or whatever is a ghastly choice. I wonder how long it has been since an orchestra performed Faure in Carnegie Hall, or any number of great composers who are systemically left out?