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The fun side of Beethoven

Koerner Hall
09/19/2013 -  & September 20, 22, 2013
Ludwig van Beethoven: Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus Op. 43: Overture – Symphonies No. 1, Op. 21, & No. 2, Op. 36

The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Bruno Weil (conductor)

B. Weil (Courtesy of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra)

This was certainly a breath of fresh air!

The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra opened its 35th season with a further installment of what seems to becoming a Beethoven cycle, performing the first two symphonies (composed in 1800 and 1802) and the overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, a work composed in 1801. Since these concerts take place in the 1100-seat Koerner Hall (as opposed to their usual 770-seat home) the orchestra appeared in its augmented, 36-member configuration. The result is a perfect match between venue and ensemble - and I feel the Toronto audience is enjoying being spoiled by this.

Bruno Weil brought notably precise definition to the to the opening chords of the Prometheus music and this precision carried through the scurrying section that followed. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more of the music from this work, notably the final number which contains his first use of the theme to be used in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 and the Eroica Variations. As it was, the abrupt ending of the overture took the audience by surprise.

The symphonies gave further evidence of the wonderful combination of precision and fleet-footedness demonstrated in the overture. The music was never rushed, however. The second movement of Symphony No. 1, marked andante cantabile, simply melted out of the air like a pleasant dream. The following menuetto gave us muscular sections contrasted with extreme lightness.

The symphonies are so full of the composer’s surprises that the one movement marked scherzo (the third movement of Symphony No. 2) came across as a bit strait-laced - perhaps another of Beethoven’s little jokes. The whole evening demonstrated that profundity can be fun - no dreariness allowed!

The performance was recorded for future release on the group’s house label, Tafelmusik Media. Opening night wasn’t completely sold out, although it deserved to be. The audience departed with a spring in their step.

Michael Johnson



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