Impractical, of course. But what a wonderful thing it might have been to go straight from John Adams’ Beethoven-riddled Absolute Jest into Beethoven’s exuberant, joyful Symphony No 7. The effect would have been remarkable. Especially given the quality of these performances.
As it was, West Australian Symphony Orchestra guest conductor Ludovic Morlot and the Australian String Quartet gave us something akin to the intensity of – to borrow the title of another Adams piece – a Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Yes, the overture-concerto-symphony concert format might have been bog-standard. The playing? Anything but.
Ludovic Morlot. Photograph © Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
When William Hazlitt writes in his essay on Shakespeare’s Coriolanusthat poetry is “everything by excess. It rises above the ordinary standard of sufferings and crimes,” he could have been talking about Beethoven’s music.
And maybe that’s also the difference between this concert and the previous week’s (magnificent) WASO performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio, furnished with specially-commissioned narration by Australian writer Alison Croggon.
Where that was freighted and weighted with political import; Absolute Beethoven was Absolute Music.
Shorn of its original context, Beethoven’s CoriolanOverture Op.62 (1807) only gained in power, Morlot – currently Conductor Emeritus...