Brief Note on Original Performances

I’m presently finishing a book, and am otherwise busy with going through a student’s thesis. However, I’ve been listening in whatever breaks I can get to Beethoven S3, Hogwood/AAM. I don’t like their BS8 – brutal tempi, even if the metronome markings may call for them. BS3, though, is done very well. The tempi are much closer to what you get from Bohm/Klemperer/Karajan. The performance is generally civilised and well-balanced, and also exciting. What I particularly like is that I can hear the scoring, which is something you often don’t get with c20 mainstream performances.

John Kersey – to whom I defer in the main for his greater learning and his practical experience and distinction as a performer – assures me that authenticity is a mirage. We cannot hear LvB free of the context that has grown about him in the past 200 years. We don’t and cannot have early c19 ears. There is also the fact that he was creating a sound world that it took the rest of the c19 to explore and begin to understand, and that recreating an early performance, even if it is technically correct, is like prefering an early draft to a finished work. John speaks of a “thin, parsimonious sound,” and tells me to go back to Karajan if I want to hear the composer’s intentions had they been fully informed.

I take these points. I also agree that the moralistic tone of some original performance people is often irritating. Even so, LvB did write for a few dozen players raised on Haydn. It is interesting to hear what he may have been expecting and what he may have got. And I do like this performance. I may not like it so much after another dozen hearings. For the moment, though, I strongly recommend it. On Friday, I will make time to listen to the Hogwood/AAM BS7.

6 responses to “Brief Note on Original Performances

  1. Well on metronome readings, BS9 is nearly always played like a dirge – truly awful – so there is no reason to deliberately veer away from the original. It is often an hour and a half, whereas the best recording, Sir Charles Mackerras, is 45 minutes.

    BS3 – truly wonderful – as you say Klemperer’s mono recording is highly regarded, otherwise Gunter Wands NDRO recording is one of the best – and the entire thing can be heard at

  2. I’m told he had a defective metronome. Otherwise, deafness must bring about a certain eccentricity.

    I’ve paid little attention to Gunter Wand – though I do have an excellent recording he made of Bruckner 9. Thanks for the link. I will listen when I have some peace.

  3. I skived off work to hear the Wand BS3. I prefer Hogwood, but like this one as well.

    I haven’t heard the mono Klemperer BS3. The only recording I have is in rather muddy stereo from the 60s – though his stereo BS7 from 1955 is still my favourite.

  4. I can’t find the BS9 by Charles Mackerras and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic as a single youtube recording, but the one I am referring to is this CD:

    I think the separate movements are on Youtube:
    1. (13mins 48s)
    2. (13mins 40s)
    3. (11mins 54s)
    4. (21mins 30s)

    As you can see it is an hour long, not the 45mins I said, but still much quicker than other versions.

  5. I’ve now listened to the Mackerras/RLP BS9. Very fine – particularly the 1st mvt. But I will certainly pay more attention to Gunter Wand. I dug out his Bruckner 9 late last night. The only other recording I know is by Bruno Walter, and Wand is much better.