Beethoven and Eberl, BSO at Poole Lighthouse

Eberl Symphony No.3
Beethoven Violin Romance No 2
Beethoven Violin Concerto in C (fragment)
Beethoven Symphony No 2

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, leader Amyn Merchant
Conductor Reinhard Goebel
Tobias Feldmann, violin

THE big names in the music scene in Vienna around 1800: Haydn, Beethoven and Eberl, right?  If you’re anything like me, you’ll have been asking yourself who on earth the last named was.  A little research reveals that Anton Eberl (1765-1807) enjoyed equal esteem with his now more highly-rated contemporaries, and in fact when his Third Symphony, played at this concert, shared the bill with the first performance of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony, it was Eberl who won the critical plaudits and Beethoven who had the audience scratching their heads.

So did our ancestors get it wrong, or might Eberl’s music still be worth a hearing?  Conductor Reinhard Goebel certainly thinks it is, and he led the BSO in a passionate and persuasive performance of this dramatic half-hour symphony.  The music proved to be full of energy and originality, with very prominent parts for the woodwind and plenty of dramatic interventions from trumpets and drums.  The music is somewhat reminiscent of Haydn or early Beethoven, but has a character and individuality that is all of its own.  Goebel, wearing his trademark red bow tie and cummerbund, is clearly on something of a mission with it, and he will conduct it with a number of different orchestras over the next year.

Two Beethoven rarities completed the first half of the concert, both probably fragments of an uncompleted violin concerto of the 1790s, early in Beethoven’s career.  First, we had the slow movement, now known as the Romance No.2, and then the incomplete first movement, which ends somewhere in the development section.  While not approaching the sublimity of the completed concerto of 1806, both movements are well worth hearing, especially the more familiar beautifully tuneful Romance.  They were played with winning affection by the young soloist Tobias Feldmann.

After the interval Goebel led the orchestra through a terrific performance of the Second Symphony, bursting with energy.  The slow introduction was taken quicker than usual and therefore blended more persuasively with the rest of the first movement.  The symphony was written at a time when Beethoven was seriously contemplating suicide because of his increasing and incurable deafness but, especially in the final movement, this music has a defiant boisterous good-humour that is utterly irresistible and I was quite incapable of hearing it without a broad smile on my face.


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