Today's Classical Music Video

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thielemann and the VPO Play Beethoven

Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic have recently recorded all the Beethoven symphonies. Here is the last movement from the Symphony No. 2. As a Beethoven interpreter Thielemann is a traditionalist. Simon Rattle recorded a Beethoven cycle with the same orchestra in 2002 and the differences are striking. The orchestra is the same but Rattle, while not a authentic performance specialist, reflects a serious study of period performance. Rattle tries to approximate Beethoven's metronome markings and asks his players to use vibrato sparingly. Much of the phrasing is modelled after the period practice used by conductors such as Gardiner, Norrington and Harnoncourt. The timpanist uses hard sticks.
Thielemann does not appear to have learned anything from the period performance research of the past 30 years. Perhaps he has no interest in it. Rattle is music director of an orchestra playing on modern instruments - the Berlin Philharmonic - but he has an abiding curiosity about Eighteenth Century performance practice. He also has a genuine interest in all kinds of contemporary music. Thielemann, by comparison, seems a man of the past rather a man of the present or future.
On the other hand, one must admit that Thielemann is nonetheless a first-rate conductor who gets compelling performances especially in the music of Wagner, Bruckner and Richard Strauss. Please note that my companion video features Thielemann in conversation about his experiences as Karajan's assistant.
Paul E. Robinson



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