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birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
of the Month
on Chopin Études 1
Konstantin Scherbakov (piano)
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Pierre HENRY (1927-2017)
La Dixième Symphonie – Hommage à Beethoven: version en 8 mouvements
(first sketch 1974)
Benoît Rameau (tenor)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Orchestre Du Conservatoire de Paris
Chœur de Radio France
Le Jeune Chœur de Paris/Marzena Diakun, Bruno Mantovani, Pascal Rophé
rec. 2019, La Cité de la Musique, Philharmonie de Paris Text and translation of Ode to Joy included.
Of all the oddities which Beethoven 250 year has thrown up, this must be
the oddest. It isn’t an original composition by Pierre Henry – not a single
note is his – but it isn’t Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony, either. That title
was assigned to Brahms’ First Symphony by his critics, prompting the reply
that any donkey could see the influence. There also was an attempt some
years ago to piece together material which Beethoven had been working on at
the time of his death as a fragment of a Tenth Symphony. There used to
be a CD single of Barry Cooper’s 1988 reconstruction, conducted, if memory
serves, by Wyn Morris. I may even have it somewhere, but it has never
appealed as much as Deryck Cooke’s reconstruction of Mahler’s Tenth or the
‘completion’ of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony.
Conceived originally in a shorter format in 1979 for three tape recorders,
expanded to an eight-movement version, as here, and even to ten movements,
all the music is by Beethoven, loosely strung together and given the
dignity here of a performance with real orchestras and performers. Henry
himself was dead by the time the performance was recorded, so ‘The score
has been put together using material left by [Henry] — especially the large
panels that strips of cut up scores had been literally pasted onto, but
also his notes and, of course, his tapes’.
The composer’s notes in the booklet describe it as ‘dreamlike’; for me,
it’s nearer to a nightmare, with Beethoven sometimes made to sound on
steroids. I’m sure there will be others who think it
brilliant. Henry was hoping that people would ask “Is it Beethoven?” “No,
it’s Pierre Henry.” His final description is that ‘It’s an original piece.
And a precedent. Or a crime which, perhaps, will set a precedent...’ I
hope that it doesn’t create any precedent.
Stephen Blackpool, the tragic hero of Dicken’s Hard Times,
frequently exclaims “‘Tis all a muddle”. Exactly, and it’s not the only
muddle that Henry has produced – I dread to think
what he has done to Monteverdi in Carnet de Venise, recorded by
Harmonia Mundi if you dare to investigate (HMM905324). We haven’t reviewed
that, and the ‘Beethoven Tenth’ doesn’t tempt me to try.
The pity is that time and energy were wasted on this project when so much
good music doesn’t get a look in – just reflect on what such large forces
could have been doing. They could, for example, have been recording one of
Paul Corfield Godfrey’s epic scenes from Tolkien’s Silmarillion –
of most recent here. Good as the ‘virtual orchestra’ is that’s used there,
a ‘real’ performance would be brilliant.
My tutors, long ago, always encouraged me to be even-handed in
judgement, and it’s very rare that I write something completely off. This is one of those
rare occasions; I just don’t see the point of this pseudo-Beethoven
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