Sunday, March 05, 2017

Beethoven's Fifth

On February 5, I went to an all-Beethoven program at Lincoln Center, with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, conducted by Iván Fischer.  

They did two symphonies and a piano concerto, ending with the Fifth Symphony.  

I've certainly heard it before (and have long loved the PDQ Bach version with sports-style commentary) -- but some reason, the Fifth really got into my brain this time.  

For nearly three weeks afterward, I kept remembering particular segments or phrases, especially the inflection points or transitions between keys and themes.  

Now that I've gone back to look at Lincoln Center's page about the concert, I see that the NYT called Fischer “A dynamic, idiosyncratic Beethoven conductor.”  That assessment may help explain my own experience.

In retrospect, I'm sorry I didn't go see them the following night too, for their second all-Beethoven program (featuring the 8th & 9th symphonies).  The NYT wrote up both concerts, as "An Orchestra Triumphs Over Trump’s Travel Ban" by Michael Cooper (2/8/2017):
The Budapest Festival Orchestra and its conductor, Ivan Fischer, gave two of the freshest, least conventional Beethoven performances of the season at Lincoln Center this week. Music students [from Julliard and Bard] unexpectedly rushed the stage to join them in a soaring section of the Fifth Symphony, and incognito choristers popped up among the audience members to sing the Ninth’s “Ode to Joy.”
But apparently, Trump's executive order threw the orchestra's planned five-city U.S. tour into doubt:
As the orchestra prepared to leave Hungary last week, it was informed that one of its cellists, a longtime Hungarian citizen, would not be allowed to enter the United States because he also held citizenship in Iraq [...] 
Mr. Fischer did not take this lying down.  Instead, he called a State Department official and 
argued that his cellist [...] was as Hungarian as anyone in the orchestra, and that he did not believe that the executive order, which he read, applied to dual-passport holders.  The next day, after pressure from diplomats in Britain, Canada and elsewhere, Trump administration officials announced that dual citizens would be allowed to enter the country.
My own sad secret is that the second Beethoven concert conflicted with the chocolate tasting event -- and I made the wrong choice.  Alas!  I'll definitely have to catch Mr. Fischer again at the Mostly Mozart Festival this summer.

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