On Sunday, November 14, 2011, John Eliot Gardiner brought his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique to Chapel Hill, NC for an all-Beethoven concert. The bottom line: it was wonderful!
Gardiner’s concept of sound is to perform music on the instruments that a composer would have originally written for. His orchestra is full of specialists who are incredibly skilled in these period instruments. The sound is not what we are used to with modern instruments there days, but is nevertheless very effective, especially when led by such a knowledgeable and musical conductor.
Two popular Beethoven symphonies – the 5th and 7th – were heard, as was the Egmont Overture. Gardiner had a great connection to those in attendance and spoke at length to the audience about the historical background of the three works, and also had the orchestra demonstrate some of the “authentic” instrumental timbres. He drew the crowd into him, and this only led a warmer reaction to his performance.
I have been fortunate to have heard many great performances of Beethoven; those by the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics come first to mind. Still, Gardiner’s concert was special. Somehow I felt closer to Beethoven, to his joy, to his power, to his roughness, to his majesty, to his tenderness.
For those of you who like your performances clean and perfect as can be approached on modern instruments, I encourage you to hear the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique if you have the chance. I loved it and look forward to hearing them again.