Under the baton of the talented Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra performs Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No.1 in C major, Op.21. Recorded at Gothenburg Concert Hall, on October 5, 2018.
The year 1800 marked a watershed in Beethoven's development. On April 2 in Vienna, he made his debut as a composer of symphonies during a concert he had arranged and financed himself. Beethoven began to work intensively on the symphony in 1799, completing the work the following year. The Symphony, though enthusiastically received at its premiere, already carried portents of the composer's coming radicalism. At the time, some observers commented upon the work's prominent use of wind instruments, but few noted the First Symphony's masterstroke; it opens with the "wrong" chord – a dominant seventh of the subdominant key of F major, and not the expected tonic chord of C major. The English musicologist Sir Donald Francis Tovey dubbed this work "a comedy of manners". It is, in some sense, a skit on the deeply engrained style and vocabulary of Classicism itself, though the humor is unquestionably Beethoven's own.
The opening movement begins with the celebrated discord mentioned above, which ushers in the slow introduction, questioning and insistent. It leads to the start of the exposition, again interrogatory in character. Fanfares add a martial flavor to the music, which is offset by the more lyrically inclined second subject group. The exposition is repeated, according to Classical convention, and the development that follows is terse and far more acerbic in manner, and does not allow the same contrast between songful and martial elements. Already extremely mature and "studied", this austere development is relieved only when the recapitulation arrives, now with great forcefulness. The imitative dialogues between wind and strings are predictably Classical in style, as is the jubilant coda.
The Andante seems more subdued and relaxed, but the manner in which it preserves the latent drama associated with symphonic form is particularly subtle and entertaining. It begins with a fugal motif, derived from the rising tonic triad heard at the start of the first movement's exposition, and used so emphatically in its coda. An ingenious piece of orchestration occurs at the close of the Andante's exposition. Triplet figures in the violins and flute and off-beat accompanying chords are supported by regular drum taps, perhaps pointing forward to the start of the Concerto for violin and orchestra, Op.61, and to the closing bars of the Concerto for piano and orchestra No.5, Op.73 "Emperor".
The third movement's marking raises the question of whether Beethoven could have intended this to be a stately Haydn minuet before he increased the tempo indication. The incisive rhythmic energy suggests something wholly new, and the movement already has the manner of Beethoven's later scherzi – it is one in all but name. While a more static episode in D flat follows the main material, and the central trio section is more reserved, it is significant, surely, that several Beethoven manuscripts (including that of his Symphony No.3 in E flat "Eroica") contain similar third-movement tempo markings. Tovey likened the explosive start of the finale to the release of "a cat from a bag". The whole orchestra plays a unison fortissimo chord of G, the dominant, an effect that recalls the slow introduction of the first movement. The main motif is derived from nothing more complex than a rising scale on the tonic, but throughout the movement, Beethoven's use of scalar figures becomes increasingly obsessive, as the theme is heard in a variety of keys, and is often heard in inversion when various instruments are in dialogue. The development features a daring harmonic treatment of the scale theme, and Beethoven employs much dense counterpoint before the work ends in a positive and triumphant reassertion of C major.
Source: Michael Jameson (allmusic.com)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
♪ Symphony No.1 in C major, Op.21 (1801)
i. Adagio molto – Allegro con brio
ii. Andante cantabile con moto
iii. Menuetto: Allegro molto e vivace
iv. Adagio – Allegro molto e vivace
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Santtu-Matias Rouvali
Gothenburg Concert Hall, October 5, 2018
Hailed by The Guardian as "the latest sit-up-and-listen talent to emerge from the great Finnish conducting tradition", the 2018-2019 season will see Santtu-Matias Rouvali (b. 1985) continuing his positions as Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, alongside his longstanding Chief Conductor-ship with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra close to his home in Finland.
Rouvali has regular relationships with several orchestras across Europe, including the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Bamberger Symphoniker and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. As well as making his debut with the Münchner Philharmoniker this season, he also returns to North America for concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Following a very successful Nordic tour with Hélène Grimaud last season, the Gothenburg Symphony is back on the road in February 2019 for a tour hitting major centres in Germany and Austria with pianist Alice Sara Ott, and percussionist Martin Grubinger who premieres a new percussion concert by Daníel Bjarnason. Rouvali looks forward to other ambitious touring projects with his orchestras in the future, including appearances in North America and Japan.
In addition to the extensive tour, Rouvali's season in Gothenburg opens with Strauss' Alpine Symphony accompanied by Víkingur Ólafsson Mozart Piano Concerto No.24, and he looks forward to collaborations with Janine Jansen, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Baiba Skride throughout the rest of the season.
As another cornerstone to his tenure in Gothenburg, he is adding his mark to the Orchestra's impressive recording legacy. In partnership with Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Baiba Skride, a recording featuring concertos from Bernstein, Korngold and Rozsa is released in autumn 2018. This continues his great collaboration with Baiba Skride following their hugely successful recording of Nielsen and Sibelius' violin concertos with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in summer 2015.
Rouvali has been Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra since 2013. Highlights of the tenure so far include a Sibelius symphony cycle in autumn 2015, and the Orchestra's first tour to Japan in spring 2017 where they were accompanied by an exhibition of original Moomin drawings by Tove Jansson to mark the opening of the new museum at the Tampere Hall. He opens the 2018-2019 season with a Beethoven programme with pianist Javier Perianes.
Alongside an extremely busy symphonic conducting career, as Chief Conductor in Tampere he has conducted Verdi's La forza del destino and most recently world premiere of Olli Kortekangas's My Brother's Keeper (Veljeni vartija) with Tampere Opera in spring 2018.
Santtu-Matias Rouvali – All the posts
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra – All the posts