The excitement was palpable in the audience for The Romantic, the next Beethoven concert, presenting his fourth and fifth symphonies. As expected for music of this magnitude, the crowd was jam packed. For Beethoven’s fourth symphony we had the brilliant Liu-Yi Retallick leading the concert, for the fifth symphony Andrew Beer returned to lead, with both symphonies conducted by chief conductor of the APO, Giordano Bellincampi.
The Fourth symphony had the bad luck to be composed in the same time period as Beethoven’s revelatory 3rd symphony, his legendary 5th symphony, and his opera Fidelio/Leonore, so it has been sadly neglected, both since it first premiered, all the way to the present.
The first movement begins pianissimo, slowly building up to this softly joyous climax, with some particularly brilliant moments for the flute. Fascinatingly, in the second movement, there is a part of it which immediately reminded me of the leitmotif of the giants in Wagner’s Das Rheingold; as this was written decades before that opera, I’m thinking that Wagner was greatly inspired by this piece, which is a wonderfully developed and richer evolution from the first movement, who wouldn’t be inspired by it!
The third movement revisits the undulating moments that were such a stunning section in his Second symphony with the fourth and final movement giving the strings a tremendous power and strength, leading to a flourishing finale.
Beethoven’s Fifth symphony is arguably one of the greatest and most famous pieces of music ever written. Beethoven himself described the symphony as ‘the sound of fate knocking on the door’. Indeed, when the first few seconds of the first movement began playing there was a little flutter of giggling or more like a wave of satisfaction, of understanding from the crowd, of everyone having heard this piece countless times throughout our lives and here we get to just enjoy it. Whilst the most recognisable part of the symphony is the beginning of the first movement, the symphony most definitely gets stronger and much more beautiful and exciting as it continues. Indeed, the last movement ends with basically ten minutes of countless teases that it is ending until that final glorious note finally does end it. The first part of the first movement was slightly fast but after that it was just glorious perfection by the APO. The joy of Bellincampi conducting these works is evident with every flourish of his hands and the wide beam of his smile, the enjoyment from him and his orchestra at performing these pieces just adds an extra layer of enjoyment.
Seeing symphonies four and five so soon after the first three really gives the opportunity to watch and be enthralled by the development of Beethoven as a composer throughout his lifetime, it is stunning to watch and hear. The odyssey of his symphonies continues in July with numbers 6 and 7.