There’s one more thing I’d like to add to this little discussion of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and the slender Irish folk tune he went on to arrange with its finale seemingly very much in mind.
As you may remember, I ended the previous posting with a video clip of the symphony’s entire finale — but, although I dropped a pretty clear hint, I didn’t make any kind of meal out of the extent to which I personally think the violin-playing in that performance falls short of the required standard in terms of accuracy and clarity. Nevertheless, I think it must have been apparent to many readers that too much of the important detail within that whirling first theme sounded smudgy and unclear — the kind of situation that means the performance only really makes sense if you already know what the notes are meant to be, and thus can hear them even when you can’t.
If you want another chance to hear the first few pages of the finale in that performance, then here are the opening forty seconds or so, once again…
See? It’s not quite good enough, is it…?
Now, after uploading that previous posting, I went off to get some sleep; but as I lay there, the thought rattled around my head that, years and years ago, someone or other showed me a video clip in which — for just a few precious minutes! — we saw Andre Previn (b. 1929) coaching a once-prominent UK youth orchestra in segments of this very finale. Suddenly realising that my long-vanished acquaintance might actually have found that video on YouTube, I jumped out of bed and ran down to see if it was there…
And it was.
So here, to round off the present topic, is that very clip.
I don’t want to say too much about it in advance of you seeing it, but let me make four quick points. First, note that Previn succeeds magnificently at the task of improvising in real time a succession of observations which are not only relevant to the players in the orchestra but also make uncomplicated sense to the music loving eavesdropper. Secondly, while he is plainly aware of the need to maintain an appropriately gentle tone when speaking to these young players, his musical observations are unfailingly honest and detailed — and do indeed succeed in moving the performance in the direction he wants it to go. Thirdly, I’m sure I cannot be the only person to feel that, in addition to his famously powerful musical mind, Previn here shows himself to be highly capable and articulate on a sheerly verbal, conceptual level. And, fourthly, while today we need broadcasting like this more than we have ever needed it before, there is no way we are going to get it: even if you succeeded in finding someone who could do it as well as Previn in his prime could do it — and good luck with that one! — there isn’t anyone who would show it.
What’s that? You think the BBC would? You think our generously funded national broadcaster could make and show such a thing? Nowadays…?!? Do you mean the same BBC which decided that tonight’s entire Prom — you remember The Proms: ‘The world’s greatest festival of classical [sic] music! — should be wasted on a performance of the popular Rodgers and Hammerstein musical ‘Oklahoma!’ — a work that the BBC could put on any number of its other stations or channels, any day of the year…? That BBC…?
Look, you’re talking base metals. I’m talking gold dust…
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