is this really what the composer wanted?

Beethoven painted by Stieler - Getty Images
Beethoven painted by Stieler – Getty Images

The 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth has somewhat fallen off the cultural radar owing to the pandemic, though a few of the musicians streaming online concerts from their music rooms have focused on Beethoven, notably pianist Igor Levit. And the record industry is continuing to release recordings of Beethoven made before the lockdown kicked in.

The latest comes from the crack “period instrument” orchestra the Akademie für Alte Musik. It’s just released a recording of the First and Second symphonies, which are weighty and amazingly bold works in their own right, and far from being mere curtain-raisers for the more famous later symphonies. True to its calling as a group which tries to recreate “what the composer might have heard”, to use that well worn phrase of the period performance movement, the Akadamie offers a lean and interestingly coloured Beethoven. The number of

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