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Music

Concert Hour: Beethovenfest opening (Pt. 1 of 2)

Bonn is home to Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven and the scene of probably the world’s premiere Beethoven festival. We'll take you there this hour.

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Porträt

Felix Mendelssohn

For four weeks Bonn is on a par with New York, Berlin, London and Vienna - musically speaking. The Munich Philharmonic, Rotterdam's Philharmonisch Orkest, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and in-demand conductors like Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the brothers Paavo and Kristjan Järvi were on the lineup of the most recent Beethovenfest in Bonn. An indication of other programs to come. As for this one: on a summery evening in September 2014, the London Symphony orchestra under guest conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner served up a program of - not Beethoven, but Mendelssohn and Schumann. You'll hear it this week and next.

The first piece has an evocative title nicely fitting a festival downbeat: "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage." It's a full-fledged symphonic poem penned by the nineteen year old Felix Mendelssohn long before the term "symphonic poem" had been coined. As such, it's a stroke of genius by the young composer, who by age fourteen had written a body of work that some composers might achieve in a lifetime.

John Eliot Gardiner

Sir John Eliot Gardiner



"I can't stand the Reformation Symphony any more, I would rather burn it than any other of my works. It should never be published or performed." That outburst by an exasperated Felix Mendelssohn came after failed attempts to get the symphony performed. The first publication, in fact, came in 1868, after the composer’s death. This rendition by Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the London Symphony strips off the aura of preachiness; in their hands, the Reformation Symphony is slender, multilayered, almost weightless, joyful and swift. Here the string players stand on the stage of the Beethoven Hall - all but the cellists of course, creating noticeable aural difference.


Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
- Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage), op. 27
- Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, op. 107 (Reformation)
London Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner

Recorded by West German Radio, Cologne, in the Cologne Philharmonie on September 6, 2014

Rebroadcasting rights: one broadcast before December 21, 2015

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