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Nézet-Séguin's New Beethoven

By François Hudry |

The Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin has produced an impressive new symphonic sound integral to Beethoven based on brand new critical editions of his works...

As is the case with many famous composers, the scores of Beethoven's nine symphonies have constantly been under evaluation by conductors and musicologists alike. Together these masters of musical evaluation have published "original editions" to correct the masses of faulty editions that have accrued due to the inattention of early editors... although some slack must be cut as often the original manuscripts were indecipherable. These original editions take us right back to the root of the music and have been formed with the help of the scores used at the time of these works' creation.

In 1982, the conductor Igor Markevitch had already published a rigorous and well-documented edition led by a team of experienced musicologists; then it was Norman Del Mar's turn to conduct a new edition published by Bärenreiter in 1997. Immediately recorded by David Zinman with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, this complete work of great musical value unfortunately went almost unnoticed, due to the "historically informed" versions that were in vogue at the time.

Now it is Yannick Nézet-Seguin's turn to offer, on Deutsche Grammophon, another essential recording in the Beethoven discography, this time based on a new critical edition, the New Beethoven Complete Edition, in which updated details of articulation and expression can be found. What is the defining factor in this new version, performed during four concerts offered in July 2021 with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, is the historic aesthetic of a very gifted young conductor who has perfectly assimilated the manner of playing and style rediscovered by his elders, in particular Nikolaus Harnoncourt, whose complete works conducted by this same orchestra caused a sensation when they were published in 1990 (Teldec).

Less extreme than his predecessors, Harnoncourt, Brüggen or Norrington, the young Canadian conductor's main goal is to highlight "the way Beethoven's music can surprise us today". His tempos are often energetic, the articulations lively, but without excessive emphasis or ego. It is a playful, humble and lively approach that makes Beethoven sound as contemporary as ever, with a classicism from which all eccentricity is banished.

LISTEN TO 'BEETHOVEN: THE SYMPHONIES' CONDUCTED BY YANNICK NÉZET-SEGUIN NOW ON QOBUZ!

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