Fancy four hours of Beethoven? Or the whole lot…

Both of London’s South Bank orchestras has rolled out their new seasons.

The Philharmonia’s highlight is
Beethoven Day an immersive day of performances, talks and free events marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth (15 Mar 2020). At its centre, a reconstruction, of one of the most extraordinary events in music history, Beethoven’s four-hour ‘Akademie’ concert of 1808, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen; part of Southbank Centre’s Beethoven 250 Series.

The London Philharmonic present
Beethoven’s 250th anniversary is celebrated with a complete symphony cycle, a starry Triple Concerto and rarely-heard choral and orchestral works, as part of the Southbank Centre’s Beethoven 250 series.

The creative imagination involved is breath-taking.




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  • …don’t think somebody covets laurels of signor Riccardo ( you told about that before) and they just want to commemorate the Composer’s contribution to music.
    PS I’m wondering how many commentators here are going to say that this way of paying tribute is too boring ( or similarly) 😉

    • ==Muti has never conducted Missa Solemnis.

      I don’t think Simon Rattle has done it yet. Didn’t he once say it was just ‘too hard’

  • Jeez, Norm. If you’re not whinging that Southbank Centre are no longer doing ‘proper classical music’, then you’re complaining that they’re only doing Beethoven. Make your mind up!

    • I do think that your comments are rather one sided. As an evaluation of the overall concert season it is misleading, especially of the LPO. A major series highlighting works of different centuries, each concert including a 21st century work – including major works by Eotvos, Knussen, Widmann, Saariaho and Dutilleux – amongst others – shows no lack of imagination to me. It would be good if you could give a more nuanced overview.

      • It would have been much better and much more interesting if the programme would show Beethoven in combination with later works inspired by him, showing a tradition of symphonic writing differently interpreted, something like ‘Dealing with the Shadow’. Of the mentioned composers, only Dutilleux would possibly be suited to be included in such scheme, that is: only his first 2 symphonies.

      • The people let you know what they want by showing up. For example were you to take the comments on this site seriously then not only should Teodor Currentzis never be allowed work again he should be sent to a gulag. Yet it has been impossible to get tickets to his concerts in Salzburg for example.

        Good money says these concerts will be vastly oversubscribed next year.

        That’s the people letting you know what they want. You don’t necessarily have to ask them.

        • That’s a fallacy. People let you know what they want. But people also like Coca Cola.

          We already had the “what people want” moment in music decades ago. It’s called pop music these days. It’s neither good or bad. It only is what it is.

          So why are we still talking about this? Who cares what people want in quantities?
          Yes, accountants do. But should it be artists primary concern?

      • Believe me: anyone who sells concert tickets in large quantities rapidly acquires a very sharp sense of what people want and don’t want. And it’s not a static thing, in any case. Promote a full Mahler cycle and you pretty soon find out which are his least popular works (Sym 4, Sym 10, Das Lied). But play no other Mahler that season except Das Lied, and you’ll sell it out.

        But to answer your basic question: yes, every time a Beethoven programme is put on sale, the public is effectively being asked whether or not they want it. And the good news is – from your perspective – that if they turn out not to want what’s on offer here, Beethoven will vanish from future programmes in fairly short order. Might be fun to open a book on the probability of that…

        • In my experience, over a very long life, Mahler’s 4th Symphony has been one of his most popular works among all the people I have met, have known, have taught, have studied with, etc.

          • He probably meant the 7th, which is really not that popular (yet it is my personal favourite, FWIW).

  • As much as I love Beethoven’s works I feel like we can shelve them for life after the 2019-20 season at this rate.

  • It’s the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. How much creative imagination is needed? They could mark it by doing all 9 Schnittke symphonies, but it would be probably be more sensible to do the Beethoven ones.

  • Reflecting on Beethoven, creative imagination, and taking risks, this brings me back to Chicago’s Beethoven symphony cycle under Muti:

    He has never conducted Missa Solemnis. Muti could’ve challenged himself, and treated the Chicago audience to a Muti first, by studying and giving his reading of this difficult and elusive masterpiece on the 250th anniversary of the composer.

    No, instead Muti is once again coasting by, replaying his greatest hits from his golden years at the Philadelphia and the London Philharmonia.

    Chicago is paying Muti $2 million to reproduce in Chicago what people can get for free from youtube of his recordings.

    Hire someone young and willing to take risks (like the young Muti!), for a fraction of his salary, and invest in the orchestra’s pension plan with the rest of that money.

    • If you genuinely can’t perceive any difference between attending a live performance and watching something on YouTube, then fair enough: I can see why you’d be jaded.

      • It’s a live performance of what he did 30 years ago, and 30 years since. Does Chicago have no pride?

        What next, Chicago will hire Dudamel in his 60s to redo his LA programs of his 30s?

        Is Chicago committed to always being 30 years behind, and reheating leftovers?

        • A live performance by, definition, is never an exact replica of what was done yesterday, let alone 30 years ago with a different orchestra. This is why people are still going to live concerts rather than saving money and watching YouTube. It is called living in the moment and witnessing music making as it happens, not as it happened previously.
          And, as an aside, I will take reheated Beethoven leftovers over most of the contemporary offerings .

        • Muti’s Beethoven has always been unremarkable. His Philadelphia CD set of the symphonies produced no critical raves. His Chicago performances have offered clarity and a generalized energy, nothing more.

    • “Chicago is paying Muti $2 million to reproduce in Chicago what people can get for free from youtube of his recordings.”


      “It’s a live performance of what he did 30 years ago”

      Even watching a recording of a live performance, no matter how fabulous it was it’s going to be exactly the same every single time. IMHO it would be nice if people cold be taught to see that as a but, not a feature.

    • You seem to suffer from the delusion, that engagements like Muti’s in Chicago are about music. No, it’s about the donors having a good time in the rich people’s club, buying some perceived class and a big name and such. Music? Haha, which world are you living in?
      Muti is an entertainer for them. Entertaining their narcissistic needs, stimulating perceptions of greatness. Made possible by private funding.
      Still, it’s on of the nicer ways of spending the bloody money.

      • I can tell you 100% for sure that Muti does not simply cater only to rich donors…that is just not a true statement. Of course, in a large city such as Chicago, there are a number of private donors/board members/trustees who need to be satisfied, but to say that that is the extent of Muti’s concerts is false. There have been a large number of concerts throughout his tenure that have been musically revealing, from Bruckner Symphony #4 to Rossini’s Stabat Mater to Verdi’s Requiem…the list goes on. And, he genuinely loves the city and all of its people, which is made wholly evident through his positive, humorous interactions with seniors, students, veterans, etc. I’ve seen this with my very own eyes, and therefore have to respectfully disagree with you.

    • Exactly, Beethoven’s birthday is 15-16 December. But it’s fair enough to kick off the festivities 9 months earlier.

  • Even if the other orchestras around the world played Beethoven, it’s nothing for me if my local orchestras don’t do it because I can not afford to travel to go to the concerts…

  • There are certain to be many concerts to mark the Beethoven 250th anniversary.

    However, I would have thought that the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death could be marked as well this year and that seems to be receiving little attention.

    Is anyone else surprised by this?

  • Beethoven was born on 16 or 17 December, 1770. He died on 26th March, 1827. Ergo “Beethoven Day” should be just before Christmas next year.

  • Please can the SBC concentrate on rarely heard pieces like the Mandolin Sonata and the exhilarating Namensfeier Overture op.115?

    If the latter had a more catchy title (any suggestions?) it would surely get played more. Melody is low on the agenda but who cares: After the weighty introduction It’s more about rhythmical energy and exhausting the potential of tiny motivic cells. A life affirming piece by any stretch of the imagination.

  • When they recreate the “Akademie”, hopefully they don’t replicate this incident in the Choral Fantasy:

    “When the master brought out his orchestral Fantasia with choruses, he arranged with me at the somewhat hurried rehearsal, with wet voice-parts as usual, that the second variation should be played without repeat. In the evening, however, absorbed in his creation, he forgot all about the instructions which he had given, repeated the first part while the orchestra accompanied the second, which sounded not altogether edifying. A trifle too late, the Concertmaster, Unrath, noticed the mistake, looked in surprise at his lost companions, stopped playing and called out dryly: ‘Again!’ A little displeased, the violinist Anton Wranitzky asked ‘With repeats?’ ‘Yes,’ came the answer, and now the thing went straight as a string.”

  • Personally I find the LPO schedule rather bizarre. They are playing absolutely no Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms or Bruckner during the season. They aren’t playing any Dvorak either.

    The Philharmonia doesn’t seem to like Bruckner either. In fact Festival Hall seems to have banned this composer completely.

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