Beethoven 9

We had two rehearsals yesterday for the upcoming Columbus Symphony Orchestra concerts this weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 9, 10 and 11.

Gunther Herbig is his usual refined and somewhat austere self. It's hard to believe he's in his 70's. His mind is sharp and his conducting precise. I look forward to his Beethoven 9, which I'm sure he's done dozens of times, if not more, over his long conducting career.

He brings his own parts with him. This is not an uncommon practice, for it allows the conductor to put his own expressive and bowing markings in the parts so he/she doesn't have to explain and add them with each new orchestra they work with.

He has made several changes to the original clarinet parts, mostly requesting that some notes be played an octave higher. He also inserted some notes where there were rests. I meant to ask him if these are updated from recent research into Beethoven's parts, or if he has made changes to help balance the orchestration. (George Szell did this, most notably with Schumann Symphonies)

As we rehearsed the beginning of the last movement yesterday, which begins with a famously dissonant chord, into an agitated Presto in 3/4 time, but marked for the whole bar to be extremely fast, 96 to the minute. Most conductors do this section in 3 to keep control of the tempo.

He mentioned the well known confusion about Beethoven's tempo markings often being unreasonably fast, explained by some by attributing it to his metronome, a new invention at the time, being wrongly calibrated.

Then he said, "Someday, when I get old, I would like to do this section in 1". Some in the orchestra jokingly suggested, "Go for it. Do it now". He responded "By suggesting this, do mean that I am already old!?" We all laughed. But then we DID try it in 1, rather than 3, and it went quite well.

So, this weekend, look for the beginning of the last movement to be in 1!!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

1 comment for “Beethoven 9

  1. Glenn Kantor
    October 8, 2009 at

    Many people (and especially conductors) feel that Schumann's orchestrations were faulty and need to be improved. The problem is not so much that his scoring was bad, but rather that the Leipzig orchestra which he wrote it for was much smaller than today's symphony. If modern conductors would simply follow the size of the original Leipzig orchestra (strings: 9-8-5-5-4) the resulting sound would not be as thick and muddy. You might even be able to hear the clarinets !

Comments are closed.