Conductor's Notes

Beethoven Symphony No. 8

I love conducting Beethoven. As soon as one starts performing Beethoven, it becomes clear that there is a power in the edges of the notes, and power in the rhythm (and how it is used to create layers of rhythm or a sense of tension and release). When I talk about the edges of the notes I mean that there is a hard, distinct "front" to the notes, or a distinct way that we all need to release the notes together, with energy and precision. This particular Symphony is full of grace and joy.

The greatest challenge is in the first movement tempo of three beats to a bar with the feeling that it is in a slow '"one" beat to the bar. To feel this, to execute this, and to create the phrases around this structure is the challenge (and the joy). The finale of this Symphony is fiendish to perform. Beethoven writes extraordinary repeating groups of six notes that need to sound fast but not so fast that they are impossible to play.

This fine line between keeping the energy and the excitement tight in the music and keeping the tempo at a humanly playable tempo is a challenge. My preference was for a tempo that was encroaching upon unplayable and I had to find the perfect marriage between energy, a forward sense of phrasing and human ability to perform what Beethoven had in mind. I hope you enjoy our performance.