ANDRIS NELSONS AND WIENER PHILHARMONIKER RECORD ALL NINE BEETHOVEN SYMPHONIES FOR DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON TO MARK 250TH ANNIVERSARY OF COMPOSER’S BIRTH
YELLOW LABEL LAUNCHES ITS BEETHOVEN 2020 CELEBRATIONS WITH THIS NEW COMPLETE CYCLE
30 AUGUST 2019 (TORONTO, ON) - Andris Nelsons has joined forces with the Wiener Philharmoniker to record Ludwig van Beethoven’s nine symphonies for Deutsche Grammophon. The release of their new album on 4 October 2019 will mark the start of the Yellow Label’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth next year. The Nelsons Beethoven cycle is presented in a specially commissioned deluxe box featuring the nine works on five CDs and a single Blu-ray Audio disc in TrueHD sound quality.
Beethoven has been central to Andris Nelsons’ work since he began his career in the early 2000s. The Latvian conductor garnered rave reviews for his 2013-14 Beethoven cycle with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and scored critical acclaim for more recent Beethoven performances as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Leipzig Gewandhausorchester. In March and April this year he joined the Wiener Philharmoniker, the world’s supreme Beethoven orchestra, for a series of concerts including works by the composer in Vienna, Hamburg and Hanover, and for the final recording sessions at the Vienna Musikverein of their complete symphony cycle for Deutsche Grammophon.
“The journey of interpreting Beethoven’s symphonies signifies a great opportunity, responsibility and challenge, but in the end, it’s not about me, it’s purely about the genius and universal quality of Beethoven’s music, which speaks to each and every individual,” comments Andris Nelsons. “Of course, I need to have a vision, and our task as musicians is to find a fulfilling way of presenting Beethoven’s ideas to listeners, but this will always be very subjective and deeply personal.”
The Wiener Philharmoniker’s roots reach back to Beethoven’s lifetime. Its immediate predecessor began life with performances of four of his symphonies a few years after his death, and Beethoven was on the bill for the orchestra’s first concert in March 1842. He has been central to its repertoire ever since. To be invited to perform and record the symphonies with the Wiener Philharmoniker, says Nelsons, was an honour and a privilege.
“The opportunity for me to perform these symphonies and record them for Deutsche Grammophon with the Wiener Philharmoniker has been a great gift, not least because we know how important Vienna was to Beethoven,” notes the conductor. “He spent most of his life in the city and his symphonies were first performed there. When the Wiener Philharmoniker play Beethoven, the style is immediately there. This means they can focus on the essence of the music.”
Beethoven’s nine symphonies reveal the unique qualities of his compositional art, which astonished his contemporaries. They also reflect the turbulent age in which he lived and demonstrate the remarkable changes he wrought in the genre itself. Each work marks a new step from the one before: from the more conventional First, still reminiscent of Haydn and Mozart, via the revolutionary “Eroica”, with its incredible expressive range, the Fifth and Sixth, both radical in their different ways, and the dancelike vitality of the Seventh, to the wholly original, dramatic and life-affirming Ninth, whose message for humanity has long transcended the concert hall.
Over the past century the symphonies have been recorded as a complete cycle more than 160 times by an array of legendary conductors, whose ranks Andris Nelsons now joins. The Wiener Philharmoniker itself has recorded all nine works six times as well as participating in multi-orchestra cycles. Nelsons is adamant, however, that no matter how many times they are performed or recorded, these works retain their freshness.
“There are so many amazing recordings of the Beethoven symphonies from the past, but I believe his music always has something to say about the present day,” he observes. “Being able to perform and record these works of genius again and again allows musicians to emphasise just how real they are for their own generation and for future generations. It’s music for our time and all time.”
Nelsons and the Wiener Philharmoniker are set to take all nine symphonies on tour as part of the Beethoven 2020 programme. They begin in Paris with four concerts at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (25, 26, 28 & 29 February 2020) before repeating the cycle at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie (3, 4, 6 & 7 March) and the Philharmonie am Gasteig in Munich (9, 10, 11 & 12 March). They will also visit the Cologne Philharmonie (1 March) and Festspielhaus Baden-Baden (14 March) for single concerts, and complete their Beethoven odyssey with two complete cycles of the symphonies at the Musikverein (23 May-7 June).