9 Mar 2020

“This is how to do a Beethoven Symphony Cycle”

Beethoven Symphony No.9 at Carnegie Hall - image credit Chris Lee

John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique brought the first leg of their landmark tour celebrating Beethoven 250 at Chicago’s Harris Theater on 3 March. Gardiner and the ORR performed complete cycles of Beethoven’s symphonies at Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Carnegie Hall and finally the Harris Theater, giving fifteen concerts in all over four consecutive weeks. The tour is just the first part of the ORR’s celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, with two more complete symphony cycles to come in the early summer as well as a tour of his Missa solemnis in September.

The tour began in February in Barcelona at the modernista Palau de la Música before continuing on to Carnegie Hall, where Gardiner is one of this season’s Perspectives artists. The final concert in New York was also broadcast live on WQXR - click here to listen to the performance. Finally, Gardiner and the ORR arrived in Chicago to bring the tour to a close after 15 concerts in just 24 days. Across the tour, performances were met with a rousing reception from the press and public alike:

“This is how to do a Beethoven Symphony Cycle”
Joshua Barone, New York Times

“The unrestrained exhilaration of the Fifth Symphony’s conclusion was so vividly portrayed that the audience roared its approval…”
Barbara Jepson, Wall Street Journal

“This was Beethoven in his most direct expression, unencumbered by sonic overload.”
Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

“A cycle that has made history”
Pablo Meléndez-Haddad, El Periódico

“Gardiner moves in another dimension… with a stylistic purity and an interpretative freshness that is pure musical joy… Transparent and well-balanced sound; beautiful sonority in the woodwind, shining brass, incisive timpani and agile, clean and transparent strings.”
Javier Pérez Senz, El País

Read full reviews from the tour so far below:

New York

The tour continues in May as Gardiner and the ORR bring the cycle to London’s Barbican Centre between 11 and 16 May, followed by the final cycle at the Athens in Epidaurus Festival in June - click here to read more about the tour.

ORR Leader Peter Hanson and MCO Assistant Conductor Dinis Sousa with musicians of the National Youth Orchestra of the USA

Alongside the main symphonic performances, the MCO’s Assistant Conductor Dinis Sousa led an international music education project with leading youth and conservatoire orchestras in Barcelona, New York and Chicago. Together with principals from the ORR, Sousa joined musicians of the Conservatori Liceu, National Youth Orchestra of the USA and Music Institute of Chicago to share insights into the ORR’s and John Eliot Gardiner’s visionary interpretation of the symphonies. Rehearsing one symphony in depth with each orchestra, Sousa challenged the young musicians to explore the symphonies with the ORR’s trademark stylistic fidelity and intensity of expression. Click here for more information about the project.