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Eloq uence

BEETHOVEN
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6 Pastoral
Symphony No. 7
Symphony No. 8
Egmont Overture

LOrchestre de la Suisse Romande


Ernest Ansermet
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
CD 1 7142
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67
1 I Allegro con brio 735
2 II Andante con moto 948
3 III Allegro 511
4 IV Allegro 831
Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 Pastoral
5 I Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande 952
(Allegro ma non troppo)
6 II Szene am Bach (Andante molto mosso) 1239
7 III Lustiges Zusammensein der landleute (Allegro) 549
8 IV Gewitter, Sturm (Allegro) 342
9 V Hirtengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefhle nach dem Sturm (Allegretto) 832

CD 2 7508
Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
1 I Poco sostenuto Vivace 1145
2 II Allegretto 853
3 III Presto Assai meno presto 925
4 IV Allegro con brio 847
Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93
5 I Allegro vivace e con brio 1003
6 II Allegretto scherzando 358
7 III Tempo di menuetto 527
8 IV Allegro vivace 802
9 Egmont Overture, Op. 84 827
LOrchestre de la Suisse Romande
Ernest Ansermet

Total timing: 14650


Beethovens Fifth Symphony, so familiar today December 1808 in Viennas Theater an der the fourth movement proper arrives, it arrives in cadenza itself is a lesson on how much can be
that one risks taking it for granted, sounds Wien, Beethoven made many changes to the a blaze of glory a darkness into light effect, done with so few notes.) The contrast between
almost as if it were composed in one sitting. score, including cutting repeated material in the patterned, perhaps, after a passage in Haydns the two main themes also enlivens the second
Appearances are deceiving, though. Sketches third movement. oratorio The Creation. Haydn (specifically, his movement, and Ansermets martial colouring of
for the new symphony appeared as early as Symphony No. 46) might also have been a the second theme, at its climax, is brilliant
The composer is supposed to have described
1804, four years before the works completion. model for the movements middle section, which indeed. Again, tempo changes in the coda keep
the famous four notes that open the symphony
Beethoven set the as yet incomplete symphony unexpectedly returns to a quiet reminiscence of listeners on their feet. The conductor treats the
as fate knocking at the door. Even though
aside, however, to work on the opera that the theme originally shouted out by the horns Scherzo more genially even humorously than
they have been endlessly appropriated and
eventually became known as Fidelio, and to in the third movement. The brilliant sonorities of most conductors, although the trio is
parodied by popular culture, their power and
compose a different symphony the Fourth Beethovens finale depend, in part, on the refreshingly matter-of-fact. The incipient mystery
fascination remain undiminished after more
commissioned by Count Franz von composers use of a piccolo and three in the transition to the final movement is
than two centuries. The second movement,
Oppersdorff. (Beethoven could have chosen to trombones. Although Beethoven was not the downplayed, but the movement itself is very
both serene and noble, is a set of double
complete the Fifth Symphony for Oppersdorff, first composer to introduce these instruments successful, with inner voices emphasized to
variations that is to say, in this movement,
but perhaps he thought it would have been too into the Classical symphony, his use of them had create more nuance. The orchestras lower
two themes are varied in alternation. The third
revolutionary for the Counts tastes, or perhaps a nearly revolutionary effect appropriate for strings and brass buzz excitingly.
movement opens with a theme played by cellos
the Counts private orchestra would not have and double basses. This theme corresponds such a revolutionary work. Even twenty years The aforementioned concert at which the Fifth
been able do it justice.) Several other major almost exactly (albeit in a different key) to the after its premiere, when the symphony was Symphony was premiered included several other
works also were composed between 1804 and opening of the last movement of Mozarts performed in Paris, French composer Jean- works by Beethoven: the Fourth Piano Concerto,
1808, including the Violin Concerto and the Symphony No. 40. Beethoven appears to have Franois Le Sueur claimed to be so disoriented the Choral Fantasia, the concert aria Ah!
Fourth Piano Concerto. been well aware of this, because he copied out that he could not find his head, when he tried to perfido, an improvised piano fantasia and two
Mozarts theme in a contemporary sketchbook. put on his hat! movements from the Mass in C major. The Sixth
Beethovens sketchbooks demonstrate the
In any case, although the notes are the same, Symphony (Pastoral) also was premiered at this
evolution of the symphonys themes and overall Ansermets 1958 recording of this symphony
the emotional terrains that they describe are marathon concert, which was made even more
structure. These sketchbooks are proof that also keeps one guessing. In the first movement,
divergent context is everything. challenging for listeners by the cold
perfection doesnt always come in a flash of he expertly balances tension and relaxation, and
temperatures inside the hall and out.
lightning, but is just as likely to be the result of Instead of pausing between the third and fourth treats tempos flexibly, but not self-indulgently
painstaking work. One is reminded of Thomas movements, Beethoven links them together except, perhaps in the coda. The orchestral Beethoven once claimed, No one loves the
Edisons comment that genius is one percent with a suspenseful passage derived from earlier textures are transparent almost in the manner country as much as I do, and he had made a
inspiration and 99 percent perspiration! Even material, including the rhythm of the fate of a performance on period instruments and habit of spending his summers there. For him,
after the symphonys first performance, on 22 motif, quietly tapped out by the timpani. When solos are handled with sensitivity. (The little oboe nature was a spiritual experience. His Pastoral
Symphony, composed in 1807-08, is a alarm but he also paints the storm in realistic was trying to express in the Pastoral. With the The occasion was a concert to benefit Austrian
recollection of country life and, in Beethovens detail. The rain arrives, first in individual drops Seventh Symphony, however, again we have a soldiers wounded at the Battle of Hanau two
words, more an expression of feeling than and then in torrents, the winds howl, lightning work that has been subjected to a number of months earlier. Napoleons earlier occupations
musical painting. As if to illustrate that splits the sky and thunder shakes the earth. The fanciful explanations and interpretations. Richard of Vienna had traumatized its citizens and no
distinction, the first movement is titled, storm then departs as quickly as it came, and the Wagner called it an expression of almighty doubt the Viennese were eager to celebrate his
Awakening of happy feelings upon arrival in the fifth movement (Shepherds Song. Happy and Bacchanalian joy and the Apotheosis of Dance. declining fortunes. This new symphony was a
country. Indeed, the music seems to be grateful feelings after the storm) immediately Others have heard in it a festival of chivalry, a fitting receptacle for their hopes that the worst
reflecting a state of mind, rather than mimicking follows, again without a pause. village wedding and a drunken orgy. One was over. It was warmly welcomed by the
or illustrating, in a literal manner, the sights and common factor emerges, though: this is a public and by the press. The Allgemeine
Ansermets Pastoral seems to depict the
sounds of the countryside around Vienna. symphony in which the usual rules of decorum musikalische Zeitung, a publication not always
feelings of a sympathetic visitor to the country,
are waived. sympathetic to Beethovens music, praised the
Still, the Pastoral has plenty of tone-painting as not the experiences of an actual country-dweller.
well. The second movement (Scene by the The first movement is luxuriously warm and Despite the symphonys unbuttoned mood, abundance of the new works melodies, and
brook) flows along in a watery 12/8 meter, and hazy, with orchestral textures thicker and tempos Beethoven composed it during a time of called it the most satisfying and
concludes with the song of the nightingale more regular than in the Fifth Symphony. In the increasing stress. He was becoming increasingly understandable of Beethovens symphonies.
(flute), quail (oboe) and cuckoo (clarinet). The second movement, we hear not just the brook, frustrated with published scores of his music; the Rhythm and repetition play a critical role in the
third movement (Merry gathering of country but also the rocks that it skips over, and its little scores frequently contained unauthorized Seventh Symphony. The famous second
folk) is a rustic dance, and, at one point in the rapids, so sensitive is the conductors shaping of changes or additions, or outright errors. (In his movement is almost obsessive in its treatment of
dance, Beethoven has a little fun at the expense rhythms. The woodwind solos throughout have publishers defense, Beethovens penmanship the rhythm that opens it, but the symphony
of one of the country musicians: the poor plenty of character. Although the peasants was challenging, to say the least.) Furthermore, contains many examples of repeated rhythmic
bassoonist is allotted only three notes a dance in the third movement sways its hips his deafness was steadily worsening, and he was patterns, creating not monotony but virile
descending phrase of F-C-F, which he dutifully alluringly, it otherwise displays the best of experiencing other health problems as well,
excitement. Even in modern times, the
pipes out at the end of a phrase, or whenever he manners. Ansermets depiction of the fourth including fevers and persistent headaches. On
symphonys rhythmic idiosyncrasies have caused
thinks he can make it fit! movements storm is relatively classical, with its the advice of his doctor, he took the healing
comment. During a recording session, conductor
pictorial elements played down. Best of all is the waters of the spa at Teplitz during the summer
With a shiver, the rustic dance comes to an Sir Thomas Beecham, always ready with a bon
final movement. Here, Ansermet frees the of 1811, and his health improved somewhat. It
abrupt end; the wind has come up and, in the mot, remarked about the third movement,
opening melody from obvious religiosity were was following his visit to that Bohemian spa
fourth movement (which follows without pause), What can you do with it? Its like a lot of yaks
still in the country, after all! and lets it soar, when he began the Seventh Symphony.
a thunderstorm with tempest winds breaks out. jumping about. Although Beethoven would not
freely and lightly, into the evening sky.
Here as in the other movements, Beethoven The symphony was completed in April 1812, compose a setting of Schillers Ode to Joy until
creates a feeling half of exhilaration and half of It is relatively easy to discern what Beethoven but it was not performed until December 1813. his Ninth Symphony, there is hardly anything
more joyful than the last movement of the Eighth. The summer of 1812, again spent his friend and former pupil Carl Czerny that he Ansermet returns to the serious, almost gruff
Beethovens Seventh, a whirlpool of sound partly in Teplitz because of gastric ailments, was thought that the Eighth was a much better work. tone of the first.
swallowing everything in its path, and converting the summer of the so-called Immortal Beloved,
an unnamed woman to whom Beethoven wrote Again, if Beethoven was feeling unusually Count Lamoral of Egmont was a historical figure
it into radiant, pulsating energy.
a passionate but ultimately fruitless (or so it stressed during the summer and fall of 1812, he a Catholic who governed The Netherlands in
Ansermet conducts the Seventh Symphony as if seems) declaration of love over the course of did not express it in the Eighth Symphony. the 1500s. He was executed by the Spanish
it were an extension of the Pastoral. In the first several days. Because this letter was found Indeed, Sir George Grove writes about authorities who had placed him there for
movement, relaxation dominates, with no among Beethovens effects after his death, it Beethovens love of fun and practical joking supporting oppressed Dutch Protestants. In
gigantism or exaggerated gestures. The either was never sent, or was sent and returned. during this period of his life, and, hearing it 1788, Goethe used Egmonts story as the basis
orchestral sonorities are given mass, but inner Several candidates have been named, the most manifested in this work, suggests that it be for a drama by the same name. When the
voices are not obscured. Although the likely of these being Antonie Brentano, the wife called the Humorous Symphony. The entire drama was revived 22 years later, Beethoven was
movement progresses straightforwardly, the little of one of Beethovens friends. second movement, with its relentless tick- commissioned to compose incidental music
smiling rallentando at 8:42 is pure Ansermet! tocking, might be interpreted as a joke at the ten numbers in all, of which the overture is the
Having had his own romantic world rocked by
With its smoothly articulated rhythms, the expense of Johann Nepomuk Maelzel, or, more most famous. Beethoven must have appreciated
the Immortal Beloved, Beethoven turned his
second movement is less the procession it usually specifically, at the expense of the metronome, the title characters independence and idealism,
attention to his younger brother Johanns
is, and more a deliberate study in repetition and which Maelzel recently had refined. because the overture is one of his finest short
personal life. Johann, a pharmacist residing in
terraced changes in dynamic levels. The climax at Linz, had been living with a woman, nominally works. It ends with what Beethoven called a
Ansermet seems determined that we not
6:41 is proportional to what has come before, his housekeeper, to whom he was not married. Victory Symphony the triumph of the human
underestimate the Eighth Symphony. He
and is not overdone. Even at his moderate Beethoven, apparently seeing himself as a spirit and freedom over tyranny.
conducts it with weight and seriousness, and his
tempo, Ansermet preserves the third movements guardian of family morality, travelled from Teplitz reading of the first movement seems like a Ansermet highlights the human qualities of
infectious bounce. In contrast, the trios are made to Linz in the fall of 1812. His intention had been
continuation of his reading of the Sevenths Beethovens hero, and also Egmonts melancholy
to sound almost stately. The symphony ends not to separate Johann from the woman. The result
finale. As a result, no exaggeration is necessary for example, in the cello phrase at 1:52. This
with rough humour, but with a surprisingly was that Johann married her instead.
to make the second movement sound charming reading is less implacable than most, although
serious fourth movement even the shocking
Beethoven completed the Eighth Symphony in and droll. Instead of playing up the third the massive string chords at 3:06 and again at
harmonic twist at 5:57 is presented with a
October 1812, while staying with Johann. Right movements incipient roughness, Ansermet 5:46 leave no doubt as to the seriousness of
straight face. In this movement, Ansermet
from its public premiere in February 1814, the makes it smooth and courtly. A moment of Ansermets interpretation. The victory music that
emphasizes the timpani, which play an important
modestly proportioned, even Haydnesque humour is provided, though, by the bassoons
role not just rhythmically but harmonically. ends the overture is given its exhilarating due.
symphony was criticized for being different from comically plaintive tone. In the trio, the horns are
Once he completed the Seventh Symphony, (i.e. not as good as) the Seventh. Beethoven a model of smoothness which is imitated by the Raymond Tuttle
Beethoven almost immediately began work on rightly shrugged off such criticism, and even told rest of the orchestra. In the last movement,
: DECCA The great Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet Marescotti and Wibl; in all, a sum of more
was a significant figure in the world of music than eighty first performances.
from 1915 until 1968. A contemporary and
PHOTO

After World War II, the record industry began


friend of the greatest composers of the
to take a close interest in Ansermet and he
twentieth century, he founded the Orchestre
was one of the first conductors to have the
de la Suisse Romande in Geneva in 1918. He
chance to record practically his entire
then moulded his orchestra in his own image,
obliging the players, sometimes inflexibly, to repertoire. With the Orchestre de la Suisse
tackle his favourite repertoire. Romande a whole series of Stravinsky pieces
were recorded for the first time, and many of
For the fifty years of his almost despotic reign, the records he made still count as classics of
Ansermet featured those composers whom he the gramophone.
believed in, paying no attention to those who,
in his opinion, had abandoned the true path Ansermets readings of many twentieth-
of tonality. Most of his illustrious century classics have historical value, since he
contemporaries did much the same, without discussed these works and their problems of
however publicising their beliefs in print, as performance with the composers concerned:
Ansermet did so spectacularly. It is no Debussy, Ravel, Roussel, Stravinsky, Prokofiev,
exaggeration to say that his influence was Bartk, Honegger and Martin to mention only
almost universal we should not forget that those he recorded for Decca. Around 1956,
he conducted orchestras all over the world. with the arrival of stereo, he re-recorded a
large part of his repertoire in considerably
Few other conductors have given so many better sound.
world premieres: Parade, The Soldiers Tale,
The Three-Cornered Hat, Pulcinella, Renard, The 1960s saw a new departure for Ansermet
Les Noces, the Symphony of Psalms, The Rape when he began to record the classic
of Lucretia, La Tempte, Le Mystre de la symphonic repertoire: Haydn (his was the first
Nativit, Chout works whose composers recording of the Paris symphonies),
names spring immediately to mind. Then there Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn and
are the many Swiss composers whose works Brahms. His readings split the musical world
Ernest Ansermet he premiered: Honegger, Martin, Roy, down the middle: the French (and the Latin
countries in general) found him cold and what strikes us is the extraordinary feeling he music speak, without recourse to the sort of
lacking in poetry, while in German and English- shows for tempo, his rhythmic energy, his effects that one can always produce, but at
speaking countries he was praised for his precise sense of orchestral colour and his acute the expense of truth. Balance, precision, a
warmth and his sense of line and tempo. At ear for musical form. Without excessive rubato beautiful style and a warm interpretation:
this time the musical world was still under the or exaggerated effects he gets right to the these are the hallmarks of Ansermets
influence of the tradition handed down from heart of the music, using the simplest of performances, and the reasons why his art will
Mahler through Furtwngler and Mengelberg means. Ansermets art has been described as always be unaffected by fashion and false
to Karajan. Ansermet, unformed by this the poetry of precision (Posie de traditions, and continue to have the power to
tradition, was able to return to the written lexactitude), and indeed his interpretations are move the listener.
score, following the example of Toscanini or all marked by great precision and the search
Ren Leibowitz. Franois Hudry
for the correct feeling as he himself wrote.
Translation DECCA 1992
For example, the new vision he brought to the It is easy for a conductor to fill a musical
Beethoven symphonies was astonishing. phrase with feeling, because one can do more
Perhaps he was too early in what he did, in his or less what one wants with a musical phrase.
respect for the text and in his weeding out of In any case, it is easier to do than to find the
all the Romantic touches and subjectivity correct feeling, the one that puts the phrase in
which held sway at the time. Without recourse its context and takes account of its
to so-called authentic instruments, Ansermet contribution to the piece as a whole. [] It is
was trying to return to the composers the interpreters job to assimilate as much as
intentions, as given in the score, avoiding the possible the feeling which the composer
imposition of any responses of his own on the
turned into music, and to express it in such a
audience. His supposed coldness in the
way that the listener can hear it in terms of
classical repertoire was in fact nothing less
melody, harmony, rhythm and tempo. I have
than perfect respect for the text. His recordings
made my choice. First I imagine the musically
of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies are,
sensitive listener. Thus I have faith in the
in this respect, quite remarkable, in spite of an
listener, just as I have faith in the music, and
orchestra with little experience in the
the two things hang together. My idea is that
repertoire.
the listener is able to understand and so all I
When we listen nowadays to his recordings, need to do, insofar as I am able, is to let the
Ernest Ansermets Beethoven recordings on Decca Eloquence

Symphonies Nos. 1-4 Symphonies Nos. 5-8 Symphony No. 9


Coriolan Overture Egmont Overture Overtures Prometheus, Fidelio,
480 0391 (2CD) 480 0394 (2CD) Leonore 2 & 3; Grosse Fuge
480 0397 (2CD))

Recording producers: James Walker (Symphony No. 5, Egmont Overture); Ray Minshull (Symphonies
Nos. 6, 7); Michael Bremner (Symphony No. 8)
Recording engineers: Roy Wallace (Symphonies Nos. 5-7, Egmont Overture); James Lock (Symphony
No. 8)
Recording location: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, May 1958 (Symphony No. 5, Egmont
Overture), October 1959 (Symphony No. 6), January 1960 (Symphony No. 7), November 1963
(Symphony No. 8)
Eloquence series manager: Cyrus Meher-Homji
Art direction: Chilu Tong www.chilu.com
Booklet editor: Bruce Raggatt