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Australian Haydn Ensemble | Beethoven’s Eroica – Southern Highlands
7 August 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm AEST$40 – $70
THREE REVOLUTIONARY SYMPHONIES IN CHAMBER FORM
Australian Haydn Ensemble
Symphony in C minor Op. 31
La Paix (arr. Wranitzky) 1st movement
Symphony No. 40 K. 550 in G minor (arr. Cimador)
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major
Op. 55 Eroica (arr. Masi & Lim)
The great G minor ‘middle panel’ of Mozart’s final symphonic triptych was completed in July 1788. A month earlier, in Grenoble, troops opened fire on several hundred bread rioters in what some view as the beginning of the French Revolution. Ten days later in Paris an even bigger mob ransacked mansions and factories and was mercilessly gunned down.
It may be fanciful to attribute the 40th’s ominous agitation to Europe’s approaching boiling point, but there’s no doubting it’s a ‘revolutionary’ work. The famous “atonal” passage in the finale and the deliberate jolts and unbalanced phrasing in the first movement attest to that. But its affecting and honest melancholy puts it in that small subset of Mozart’s works that seem to expose the composer’s soul.
Fellow Austrian Paul Wranitzky’s compositions were far from sniffed at by either of the bigger names on this program. The first movement of his strangely titled Grande sinfonie caractéristique pour la paix avec la République françoise (La Paix), a musical depiction of the Revolution proper, premiered in 1797 when the blood was scarcely dry on the reign of terror’s guillotine. It’s a stormy rip-roaring piece, oddly peppered with heroic English, Prussian and Austrian marches to keep his aristocratic patrons happy.
Which was something Beethoven, of course, steadfastly avoided doing. His 3rd symphony of 1804 is not only a white-hot paeon to Napoleon, but its dedication was famously withdrawn when the general fell short of the composer’s radical liberal ideals. This miraculous piece, which smashes symphonic conventions with joyful abandon, will be performed in Masi’s passionate reinvention for septet.
Such arrangements of big new works for smaller forces helped music-lovers of the pre-recording era to experience them ‘up close’ and musicians learn them from the ‘inside’. Modern respect for orchestration as a key element of composition has led to a view that they shrink the music’s impact, but when you hear these familiar symphonies played by only seven musicians, you’ll find that the opposite can be true. Just as the mass of a giant star increases as it grows smaller, these intimate renditions of familiar major works will surprise you with their intensity.