02_beethoven_naganoBeethoven - Gods, Heroes and Men (Symphony 3; Creatures of Prometheus)

Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal; Kent Nagano

Analekta AN 2 9838

My love affair with the Eroica symphony started at the age of 10 when I first heard it at a concert conducted by the legendary Otto Klemperer at the Music Academy in Budapest. It didn’t dawn on me as anything special until much later when I found out that Herbert von Karajan travelled all the way to London just to hear Klemperer do the Eroica. Speaking of Karajan, Kent Nagano was a student and associate of Seiji Ozawa who in turn was a student and associate of Karajan. The “bloodline” having been established, now we can rest assured that my beloved Eroica is in good hands here. And indeed it is…

Nagano takes a refreshing look at the symphony. At a brisk tempo it pulsates with life and excitement. The wonderful secondary theme (1st movement) really sings and the complex architectonics of the 1st movement are made crystal clear. The great fugue of the 2nd movement, always a challenge for the conductor, has a shattering, extraordinary power. The Montreal horns delight us with their joie de vivre and uncanny precision in the 3rd movement Trio. The Finale crowns the Symphony with its ubiquitous Prometheus theme and variations and stampedes along with breathtaking virtuoso bravura. Here Beethoven is caught in his lighter side with the unexpected, devil may care Hungarian gypsy episode.

In the liner notes, Nagano shows scholarly insight in drawing parallels between the budding Romanticism, the cult of the Hero, the Greek myth of Prometheus and Napoleon, a single man who could bring empires to their knees. There is more to it than that in view of the bloodbath that followed which left the French male population decimated for decades to come. But even without his personal views and literary interpretations, Nagano establishes himself as a great conductor for our time and this recording with full bodied sound is a treasure.

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