Archive for the ‘Beethoven’ Category

Definitive Beethoven by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

March 19, 2009
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony (Barbican, last Saturday) was definitive – one of those rare gigs which leave you feeling “it just doesn’t get any better than this”.

The band, 70-odd players led by octogenarian maestro Bernard Haitink, was richly melodic, feverishly paced. They did justice to Beethoven’s great piece. The strings were manic, the horns deeply moving. You just didn’t want the teasing final movement to end – just one more tease, please…

In a recent critics’ poll for Gramophone magazine, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra topped the list – “Best orchestra in the world” – out-ranking the Berlin Phil, the Vienna Phil and the Chicago SO, among others. At the Barbican, you could see why: power, pace, subtlety. They were all into the music, performing as one.

But the first half of the concert had been a drag. Mozart’s Symphony 35 (“Haffner”) was missable, unengaging. Debussy’s La Mer was mediocre, meandering. A dispiriting experience all round.

At the interval, tempted to make a quick exit to miss the second half, I mused on my general indifference to orchestral music – my classical tastes veer strongly towards vocal, notably opera. Orchestral concerts I’ve attended have been, too often, Dullsville-on-Stilts: it’s easy to see why classical audiences can be mistaken for a WW2 vets convention.

Saturday’s Beethoven performance challenged these silly prejudices. Orchestral music this good is as life enhancing as any other genre. Like any gig for grown-ups, it just depends on the set list. And the band.

Gerry Smith

Morrissey, Dylan, Beethoven

February 6, 2009
FREE! Music for grown-ups on the BBC in the next 7 days

Hidden among its vast TV and radio output, the BBC broadcasts some magnificent music for grown-ups every week of the year. And it’s all free – well, sort of….

Nearly all of these musicians are profiled in my new book, Music For Grown-Ups. For full details, please click on the book cover at the top left of the Home Page of the master website:

Sat 7 Feb
2200 Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour – BBC Radio 2

Sun 8 Feb
2100 Folk America (3/3) – Blowin’ In The Wind – BBC4
2400 Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour – BBC 6Music

Mon 9 Feb
1200 & 2200 Beethoven (last 12 years), Composer Of The Week
– BBC Radio 3 (1/5, continues Tues-Fri)

Wed 11 Feb
2000 Morrissey (interview/live gig) – BBC Radio 2

Thurs 12 Feb
1400 Handel’s opera Teseo – BBC Radio 3
2300 Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour – BBC Radio 2

Fri 13 Feb
2000 Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Sound Of The Sixties – BBC4
2010 Festival (Newport Folk, 1963—6) – BBC4
2140 Sings Dylan (cover versions) – BBC4
2230 Roger McGuinn et al, Folk America At The Barbican – BBC4

Online access: many BBC radio programmes are broadcast live online – please see the channels’ web sites for details. Some BBC radio and TV programmes are also accessible online via iPlayer for a short period after transmission:

Gerry Smith