John Eliot Gardiner's Historical Beethoven At Carnegie Hall

fromWQXR

  • Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique performing Beethoven's Egmont Overture, the opening piece at an all Beethoven concert at Carnegie Hall.
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    Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique performing Beethoven's Egmont Overture, the opening piece at an all Beethoven concert at Carnegie Hall.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Gardiner's Revolutionary and Romanic Orchestra performs on original instruments. The string players use gut strings, for a softer yet richer sound.
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    Gardiner's Revolutionary and Romanic Orchestra performs on original instruments. The string players use gut strings, for a softer yet richer sound.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Gardiner and his orchestra will spend two nights at Carnegie Hall, playing only Beethoven's music.
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    Gardiner and his orchestra will spend two nights at Carnegie Hall, playing only Beethoven's music.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Gardiner is a tall man, and does not stand on a podium to conduct his his orchestra, which is smaller in number than your standard 100-piece ensemble.
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    Gardiner is a tall man, and does not stand on a podium to conduct his his orchestra, which is smaller in number than your standard 100-piece ensemble.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Brass plays an important role in Beethoven's symphonies. The Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra uses valveless horns and the kinds of trumpets and trombones found in Beethoven's day.
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    Brass plays an important role in Beethoven's symphonies. The Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra uses valveless horns and the kinds of trumpets and trombones found in Beethoven's day.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Gardiner conducts the dramatic Egmont Overture by Beethoven.
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    Gardiner conducts the dramatic Egmont Overture by Beethoven.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Gardiner's smaller 40-some piece orchestra gathers close around him to play Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.
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    Gardiner's smaller 40-some piece orchestra gathers close around him to play Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Gardiner conducts Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 at Carnegie Hall.
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    Gardiner conducts Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 at Carnegie Hall.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Gardiner's Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra, which he founded, plays in almost a circle formation on the stage of Carnegie Hall.
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    Gardiner's Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra, which he founded, plays in almost a circle formation on the stage of Carnegie Hall.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • When he's not conducting, Gardiner runs his own 500-acre farm, with 130 head of cattle, in the south east of England.
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    When he's not conducting, Gardiner runs his own 500-acre farm, with 130 head of cattle, in the south east of England.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • The full Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra on stage, playing Beethoven at Carnegie Hall.
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    The full Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra on stage, playing Beethoven at Carnegie Hall.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Gardiner and his orchestra's visit to Carnegie Hall is one stop on a short North American Beethoven tour, ending in Washington, D.C.
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    Gardiner and his orchestra's visit to Carnegie Hall is one stop on a short North American Beethoven tour, ending in Washington, D.C.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • A full house at Carnegie Hall gives Gardiner and his Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique a standing ovation after hearing an all Beethoven concert that included the symphonies 5 and 7.
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    A full house at Carnegie Hall gives Gardiner and his Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique a standing ovation after hearing an all Beethoven concert that included the symphonies 5 and 7.
    Melanie Burford for NPR

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Program

All Beethoven:

Egmont Overture

Symphony No. 5

Symphony No. 7

Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique,

John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

When British early music conductor John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique storm Carnegie Hall tonight at 8 p.m. ET, they'll be equipped with the musical equivalent of muskets and pitchforks — valveless horns, wooden flutes and gut-stringed violins — to present three works by Beethoven.

The grandly named orchestra, based in London, was founded in 1989 to push the boundaries of "authentic" performance practice closer to the present. Historical performance practice began in the 1950s as an effort to perform music of the pre-Baroque era closer to the way it was originally heard. Gardiner expanded his activities in the movement by recognizing that instruments from the Romantic era were distinctly different from the ones that are standard today. What's more, he has said his aim is nothing more than textual purity through consultation with the composers' manuscripts — in this case, Beethoven.

In some quarters, a divide opened up between the traditionalists and the period-instrument school. The latter's members were somewhat condescendingly referred to as sandal-wearing "vegetarians" for their stripped-down approach. Their sound was criticized as being bloodless and dry. Musicologist Richard Taruskin argued, with insight and bile, that it's impossible to recreate what concerts actually sounded like 200 years ago, and period-instrument practitioners merely reflect modernist assumptions about how all music should sound.

Gardiner may not have been the first to record Beethoven's symphonies on original instruments, but when his complete set came out in 1994, listeners could hear an immediate difference. Instead of the clunky pace and weighty sonorities found in modern, 100-member-plus symphony orchestras, Gardiner delivered brisk tempos, light textures and a sharper, vibrato-free sound.

Gradually, the old divisions between modern and authentic styles have increasingly blurred as both camps drew from each other's innovations. Gardiner continues to lead his period-instrument groups (which include the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists), but he has also conducted traditional orchestras. As Martin Kettle wrote in The Guardian recently, "Gardiner is part of the establishment now. The traditional orchestras have embraced his nouvelle cuisine approach." Kettle noted that Gardiner was himself in the audience during conductor Riccardo Chailly's recent Beethoven cycle with the (modern) Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra "to hear how the old iconoclasm is becoming the new normal."

Modern vs. Original

Hear two distictly different approaches the finale from Beethoven's 7th Symphony.

Audio is not available

APM

Yes, some audiences will take sides — whether for the massive string sections and beefed-up choruses of the modern orchestra, or the gutsy sound and unsentimental interpretation of the "vegetarians." Which do you prefer? Listen to these two examples on this page — by John Eliot Gardiner and Otto Klemperer — and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

You can hear the archived concert at WQXR's website.

Purchase Featured Music

Beethoven: 9 Symphonies

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Purchase Featured Music

Album
Beethoven: 9 Symphonies
Artist
John Eliot Gardiner
Label
Archiv
Released
1994

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Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 7

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Purchase Featured Music

Album
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 7
Artist
Otto Klemperer
Label
EMI
Released
1998

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Comments

 

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