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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Healing Power of Beethoven: The Fourth of The Fifth

This afternoon, around 1:30pm, my girlfriend and I are in our 1999 Honda Civic ("Archie") often seen parked in the Lincoln Center Garage, getting to know the other Hondas, civic and otherwise. (He's a bit of a ladies' man, our Archie.)
Ludwig van Beethoven and some other people
Anyway, there we are driving down Sixth Avenue in Brooklyn when I flip the radio over to WQXR, and catch the last two movements of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, as played by Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen.

This is proves to be a well-balanced, invigorating performance of one of my favorite Beethoven works, with exceptionally clear orchestral textures and a conductor with original, yet sensible ideas about tempos. It almost sounds like a period recording, but not quite at egg-timer speed.

The most thrilling moment comes at the start of the fourth movement of the Fifth. Having played the dour little march on flutes and pizzicato strings strings, the orchestra seems to take in a deep breath and expel it in a series of radiant notes for trumpets and horns. They are answered by a surging theme played by the horns with the violins in full flight right behind. But don't take my words for granted. Here's a clip:

It is one of the most unique moments in Beethoven, as the angst and worry is banished, replaced by a triumphant, and very human statement. In fact, it points the way forward for the Ninth, and that great finale that also begins with a blast of sound on the way to a blaze of sunlight.

On a grey, rainy day in Brooklyn, with tasks to perform, errands to run and no time until just now to write Superconductor, Beethoven was truly the best medicine. We stayed in the car (OK, I kind of begged) and left the radio on so we could listen to all of that starry final movement, and we had strength to go on with the labors of our day.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.