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    A Conductor Brings Nearly a Century of Experience to Beethoven


    That’s normal. I don’t have to apologize for that. My first ideals were what I heard Furtwängler do. I heard him many times, in rehearsal and in concerts. It shaped my musical world; it was magic. But, little by little, I discovered that there are other ways to interpret Beethoven’s music that are at least equally motivated in what he wrote.

    It’s not easy for a conductor, or any musician who has the task of interpreting this music, to get onto Beethoven’s wavelength, because you have so many memories, so many ideas about the music from what you have heard. You have to free yourself of that if you are looking forward. It requires that you change your mind, but I think that is what we must do. Once you are accustomed to that, you discover new expressions in the music that perhaps were not so evident a hundred years ago.

    What about the fermata over the last of the four notes in the motif?

    From a musicological standpoint, the fermata shows that the tempo does not exist anymore. What really says how long a fermata is, in this case, is how long the bow is. When the bow is at the end, you have to stop, unless you want to do two bows, which some people do. I think that misses the point, because to hold the fermata with a single down bow requires great control of muscles. If you do two, you don’t have to have that tension in your arm; it’s too easy.

    Why do you think Beethoven remains such an obsession for so many of us?

    One could write a whole book about that, but one thing to me is characteristic. We know that Beethoven was a sufferer, but he never expresses his suffering in his music, like Mahler does. You can hear it in every bar of Mahler — I’m suffering, I’m suffering, I’m suffering — and it’s wonderful, the way he does it.

    Beethoven was another type of person. He doesn’t put his emotions on display, and that makes it more objective. It can represent the suffering of everyone, not only his, but mine, the suffering of the whole society. The suffering of today, in Ukraine for instance. It could symbolize anything. That helps it to outlive the personal situation of the composer, or the personal situation of the interpreter. It’s something that we go through, as humans.

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