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Claudio Abbado conducts Beethoven Symphony No.

1
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21
1. Adagio molto Allegro con brio
2. Andante cantabile con moto
3. Menuetto : Allegro molto e vicace Trio
4. Adagio Allegro molto e vivace
The exquisite sketch or the First Symphony
Symphony No. 1 in C Major Op. 21 was premiered in Vienna in 1800 under the direc
tion of Beethoven, then aged thirty-one. To the orchestra of Mozart of Haydn, wh
ose influence was never far, (the piece was composed five years after the last o
ne of that type composed by Haydn and twelve years after Mozart's Jupiter), Beet
hoven added clarinets. The public warmly acclaimed the symphony, but indignant c
ritics reproached the composer for having written "military music" (the clarinet
s). To our ears today, it sounds like an "exquisite sketch" (in the words of the
French singer and songwriter Gainsbourg, "exquise esquisse") of what his future
works would be.
"With Beethoven, you never stop learning"...
...states Claudio Abbado who has constantly reworked the symphonies of the maste
r from Bonn (1770-1827). Although he was the director of the Scala in Milan for
fifteen years, which earned him a reputation as an outstanding opera conductor,
he has also been familiar with the German and Viennese repertoires since he stud
ied with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna. In the Austrian capital, another essential ex
perience for him was singing in choruses, which meant rehearsals with the great
conductors of the time, Bruno Walter, George Szell and Herbert von Karajan.
He made his debut as a conductor at the Scala of Milan at the age of twenty-seve
n, on the occasion of the tri-centennial of Alessandro Scarlatti. He then won Fi
rst Prize at the Mitropoulos Competition in New York, was invited by Karajan to
conduct in Salzburg; he then made his conducting debut with the Philharmonic Orc
hestra of Vienna and Mahler's Symphony No. 2. With the same orchestra he recorde
d from 1985 to 1988 his first complete Beethoven symphonies. But his relations w
ith the Viennese formation experienced ups and downs, contrary to those he devel
oped with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1966. Thirty years later, in 1989
, he succeeded Karajan at the head of the prestigious formation, a position he h
eld until 2002. With the musicians from Berlin he made a second recording of the
complete Beethoven symphonies (Deutsche Grammophon, 2000) then performed them a
t the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome from January 5th to February 15t
h 2001. It is this memorable series, performed before an enthusiastic audience t
hat was filmed in Rome, except for the Ninth Symphony filmed in Berlin.
This monument in the history of Western music to which Claudio Abbado is so atta
ched, was composed by Beethoven in less than a quarter of a century, from 1799 t
o 1823. A monument which covers the greater part of the composer's life he wrote
the First Symphony at thirty-one and the Ninth Symphonyat fifty-four. With Beet
hoven ended the era of symphonists who composed, like Haydn, up to a hundred sym
phonies. From then on musicians composed approximately ten symphonies, each stam
ped with its own personality.
Although this monument is imposing it is familiar. Beethoven's symphonies are an
example in Western music of what appeals to the widest possible audience. That
is why, they have been widely used for political (the Ode to Joy of the Ninth Sy
mphony is the official European anthem) and commercial purposes (advertising) as
well as in films (Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick, among others).
As symbols of freedom and acts of independence Beethoven's symphonies are the ex
pression of a fantastic belief in the dignity of man, who in return, recognises
himself in each of them. That is how Abbado conducts these pieces, with a majest
y that places the sublime before the gratification of the emotions. And thanks t
o the incredible sounds that the conductor obtains from the Berlin Philharmonic
Orchestra, beauty becomes a human victory.
Berliner Philharmoniker
Claudio Abbado conductor
Movie director : Bob Coles
Collection : Claudio Abbado: the complete Beethoven symphonies
Playlist : Your favourite videos
Musical period : Classical music
Music genre : Orchestral music
Musical form : Symphony
Duration : 31 min
Location : Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Rome, Italy)
Recording date : 2001
Production date : 2001
Production : EuroArts Music International