We were fortunate to have tickets to the opening weekend of the New York Philharmonic's "Modern Beethoven" festival. The first series of concerts featured Beethoven's Second and Seventh Symphonies with Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra in between.
The program notes described guest conductor David Zinman's efforts to bring a fresh approach to Beethoven's symphonies, with research into different editions of the scores and consultations with a variety of musicologists and other experts. As a result, the Beethoven symphonies sparkled and excited me in ways I'd never thought possible from works I've heard so many times. A simple emphasis on a harmony or a change in dynamics brought out parts of the works I'd never heard before. And there were a few new additions: an brief oboe cadenza in the first movement of the Seventh and a tweaked French horn line in the third movement, among others. The Second Symphony had a few subtle changes as well. None of them made a major difference in any of the works, but as a whole they made the entire experience more exhilarating. I listened as actively as ever, waiting to see what other tweaks Zinman might have brought to the music. I've seldom been as involved with a performance of an orchestra warhorse like the Seventh. Audiences for the next two weekends are in for a real treat, if this first series of concerts is any indication of what Zinman has in mind.
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