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Beethoven lite in an epic masterpiece; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Symphony Hall.

It would be difficult to argue against Beethoven's Eroica Symphony's status as the most influential orchestral work of all time. In its expansion of emotional content it also expanded form and orchestration; without it it is impossible to imagine the history of music progressing in the way it has.

In the latest instalment of Symphony Hall's "Beethoven 2000" series the splendid Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment responded wholeheartedly to Frans Bruggen's eminently sane direction of this epic masterpiece. Key moments found the players emerging naturally from the energetic textures to bring Beethoven's imagination to life: well-shaped conversational woodwind phrases; implacable trumpets emphasising the first movement's monumental discords; muttering basses launching the sturdy Funeral March; rollicking horns in the hyperactive scherzo.

One problematical aspect raises itself, however, in these otherwise liberating period-instrument performances. Balances are frequently bass-light, mainly from thin-sounding cellos. What should be a roof-raising recapitulation in the Eighth Symphony's first movement cut very little mustard, and it was pitiful to see the cellists working so hard in the Minuet's Trio with very little aural result.

We also heard a rarity, an early concert-aria -Primo Amore . Soprano Lynne Dawson projected strongly, but this tediously gauche, awkwardly-written piece proved a test even of her technique.

Christopher Morley
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Title Annotation:National
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 22, 1999
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