Beethoven's 1808 Concert Recreated at the Royal Festival Hall, 15/03/2020

A marathon recreation of Beethoven's concert in Vienna on 22 December 1808, courtesy of Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra and Singers together with various soloists, and extracts from reviews and correspondence of the day read by Stephen Fry.

You can't really go wrong with Beethoven, although listening to one or two 'lesser' works alongside great masterpieces like the Fifth Symphony and the Fourth Piano Concerto you do come to realise that maybe not everything he wrote is right out of the top drawer.

The Sixth Symphony ('Pastoral') is an interesting one - for me, it's one of those 'very famous pieces' which is actually a bit overrated. But here, Salonen employed brisk tempi and didn't lay on the string tone too thick, creating a light, fresh feel to the work which I enjoyed very much.

From amongst the soloists, a worthy mention for Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who stepped in at the last minute for the corona'd Andreas Haefliger to deliver a masterly performance of the Fourth Piano Concerto. He didn't seem quite so assured in the closing Choral Fantasia, but he was probably sight-reading it just as the musicians were at the original concert.

As Fry prophetically remarked at the beginning, this may be the last time for a while that we get to attend a gathering such as this, and there could be no better way to sign off - just for now.

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