Beethoven's symphonies – the complete guide

Gramophone Wed 21st October 2015

The symphonies explored by nine leading conductors: Norrington, Zinman, Jansons, Vänskä, Gardiner, Iván Fischer, Tilson Thomas, Paavo Järvi and Chailly

Symphony No 1

By Sir Roger Norrington

'Harmonically, it’s a bit more stable than Haydn, a bit more Romantic, and in some ways more mischievous even, but it’s still a lot "safer" than what Mahler or Elgar did in their first symphonies.' Go to full article

Symphony No 2

By David Zinman

'This is a fabulous, Classical symphony and, I think, a brilliant, virtuoso piece – the kind of piece he had to write in order to move on. The use of development is quite extraordinary.' Go to full article

Symphony No 3

By Mariss Jansons

'Although you can already hear the special Beethoven spirit in the Second, it was the Third that brought a revolutionary change. It marked a complete change of direction for the symphonic repertoire.' Go to full article

Symphony No 4

By Osmo Vänskä

'This is a great piece of music, and even if it had not been written by Beethoven as part of the cycle, I am sure it would have its place in programmes – without help from the other symphonies.' Go to full article

Symphony No 5

By Sir John Eliot Gardiner

'The challenge is to make sure that those three notes sound off the beat, so there’s quite a technique involved in establishing the motto of the symphony.' Go to full article

Symphony No 6

By Iván Fischer

'I have had the opportunity to perform full cycles of the Beethoven symphonies several times and it’s the Sixth Symphony that stands out as an exception' Go to full article

Symphony No 7

By Michael Tilson Thomas

'Beethoven is not programmatic, but his music is always distinctive and recognisable; and always, somehow, he succeeds in examining some different part of us and our nature.' Go to full article

Symphony No 8

By Paavo Järvi

'It is completely wrong to try and play this piece in the style of the Ninth. I have realised that to apologise in any way for the sudden change of character and quirkiness of this piece would diminish it.' Go to full article

Symphony No 9

By Riccardo Chailly

'I still remember like it was yesterday the feeling almost of being guilty, to have had the courage to get close to such a piece as the Ninth Symphony' Go to full article

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