Saturday, December 17, 2016

Beethoven - Symphony No. 3, The Eroica - Grosse Fugue - St. Petersburg Soloists - Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hiroshi Wakasugi - Arte Nova Classics 1996

I was joking yesterday about the "lack" of Beethoven shares around the blogosphere yet I really did plan on posting LvB. I have always loved Beethoven's string quartets, and especially the "Grosse Fugue" Op. 133, which was originally the final movement of the String Quartet No. 13 in B major Op. 130. It's one of Beethoven's greatest achievements I think, and one that fascinated, perplexed and turned-off audiences during Beethoven's lifetime. The fascination still remains today. It's understandable, this "great fugue" (double fugue) is unlike anything else from that period, and indeed it sounds fresh and uncannily contemporary (it was composed in 1825 after all..). Arnold Schoenberg heard it as a premonition of atonality, and Stravinsky commented that "the Grosse Fugue is an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever". 

One thing that I didn't know about was Beethoven's response to the largely unsuccessful premiere of the original String Quartet, Op. 130. The audience, in typical fashion, demanded an encore of two middle movements. A disgruntled Beethoven supposedly exclaimed: "And why didn't they encore the Fugue? That alone should have been repeated! Cattle! Asses!" 

-Ironically, I'm discovering only now as I'm listening that the Grosse Fugue as performed here is for chamber orchestra, not quartet! Obviously I haven't heard this disc in many many years. Still this is a lovely and in some ways illuminating way to experience it.

Thus I am going to now also upload the proper string quartet version as a separate link, as impeccably played by the Quartetto Italiano.

Oh the Eroica Symphony is played beautifully here - The Saarbrücken RSO is an impressive group as I'm sure many of you know! So this is all-around a great addition to your Beethoven collection if you don't own this.

And the actual Grosse Fugue for string quartet, in one of the finest performances around:

Arte Nova Disc:

1. Sym No.3 in E flat, Op.55 'Eroica': Allegro Con Brio
2. Sym No.3 in E flat, Op.55 'Eroica': Marcia Funebre. Adagio Assai
3. Sym No.3 in E flat, Op.55 'Eroica': Scherzo. Allegro Vivace
4. Sym No.3 in E flat, Op.55 'Eroica': Finale. Allegro Molto
5. Grosse Fuge in B flat, Op.133 - St. Petersburg Soloists/Michail Gantvarg


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