In May, the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and John Eliot Gardiner should have been performing Beethoven’s complete symphonies at the Barbican Hall in London. This cycle was part of an international tour celebrating both Beethoven’s 250th anniversary and the 30th birthday of the ORR. We were lucky enough to be able to complete three cycles – in Barcelona, New York and Chicago – before the pandemic put a stop to all concerts.
To give you a flavour of this monumental project, we will be releasing a nine-part series of films where John Eliot Gardiner will give his thoughts on Beethoven’s musical mind, and the orchestra will be seen rehearsing the symphonies. The first in this series, ‘Symphony No. 1: Beethoven announces himself’, will be available to watch from Friday 15 May on our YouTube channel, with subsequent films on each of Beethoven’s symphonic works released every Friday.
Symphony No. 1: Beethoven announces himself - click here to watch
Symphony No. 2: Expanding the canvas - click here to watch
Symphony No. 3 ‘Eroica’: Heroism & shock tactics - click here to watch
Beethoven’s process of composition meant wrestling not just with beauty and emotion but also with political and humanitarian themes. During these uncertain times, perhaps more than any other composer, he gives us a feeling of triumph over adversity. The symphonies express Beethoven’s own bravery in the face of personal problems and these documentaries capture John Eliot Gardiner and the ORR tackling the music with a mixture of scholarship, energy, imagination and a complete devotion to Beethoven’s miraculous vision.
Beethoven’s skill was prodigious and Promethean. He was utterly single-minded - determined to make the most of his own talents and to overcome the obstacles and tragedies that blighted his personal life. His bravery was astonishing - as was his belief that man has it within himself to overcome his own debilitating faults, both as an individual and in society, and to aspire to a better life. We don’t have to look very far beyond the current political situation to see how urgently we need to emulate that bravery, that boldness of vision and the tenacity with which Beethoven defended such important values.
John Eliot Gardiner