Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, opus 61 – Fragment from Violin Concerto in C major, WoO 5
Veronika Eberle (violin), London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle (conductor)
Live Recording: Jerwood Hall, London Symphony Orchestra St. Luke’s, London, England (March 11 and 12, 2022) – 60’59
London Symphony Orchestra # LSO5094 (Distributed by [Integral]) – Booklet in English, French and German
A rising star in the violin firmament, Veronika Eberle, is featured in a new release from Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). It’s the Beethoven Violin Concerto, possibly never before performed so slowly and quietly. In a way, it’s a real treat to hear the sleepy side of Beethoven in a world of ever louder and more frenzied classical interpretations. But for my taste, while I appreciated the cool restraint of Eberle’s bowing and the languid, even moribund arc to her melodic lines, I felt as though I were observing an electrocardiogram of a patient dying of heart failure. The experience was more excruciating for me than for the patient, especially in the second movement which limped along for more than 14 minutes. For years, I have corrected colleagues who claim classical music is slow and boring. “You haven’t really listened to Beethoven!” I would rejoin. Now should I answer, “It depends”?
The reader will note that I am trying my best to find something praiseworthy in this album. Sir Simon and the LSO typically make beautiful music together, as they did last fall when I caught them playing Bruckner in Vienna. The relaxed pace informing this performance of the Beethoven concerto appears to have been dictated by three new cadenzas provided by Jörg Widmann. These are actually interesting interludes which have imaginative merit as they bandy about the five-beat timpani motif and pick up snatches of other melodies in the concerto. I’d like to hear more from this composer. However, in the final analysis, the cadenzas are not a good fit with any of the three movements. Eberle continues in a restrained mood in the final movement until and through the last cadenza, picking up as the work nears its conclusion. With a surge of energy from the conductor, the concerto ends with a snappy flourish.
The album itself has one more surprise: a fragment of a concerto composed by Beethoven as a young adult. Here Eberle offers a silky tone matched to the sinuous singing of her Stradivarius, the orchestra warm and illuminating. Very satisfying to hear this WoO 5 selection, cleanly performed at an agreeable pace by orchestra and soloist. If only we could have had some of this volume and excitement in the main attraction of this disappointing album.