Thomas Adès and Britten Sinfonia launch three-year Beethoven Symphony Cycle in Norwich
- Credit: Brian Voce
A three-year project to perform all of Beethoven's symphonies by Britten Sinfonia and renowned composer and conductor Thomas Adès begins with a concert in the region this weekend.
This weekend sees the region host the start of what promises to be a major event in classical music calendar as the Britten Sinfonia teams up with much acclaimed composer, director and conductor Thomas Adès to launch a new three-year Beethoven Symphony Cycle.
Over the course of three years they will perform all nine Beethoven symphonies, partnering these masterworks with the audacious and sometimes explosive music of the idiosyncratic Irish composer, Gerald Barry.
The opening concert of this three-year project, which is set to run until 2019, takes place at St Andrew's Hall in Norwich and is part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.
It will see Beethoven's witty first symphony paired with the virtuosic second and aims to shed new light on these monuments of orchestral repertoire.
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These will be complemented by Gerald Barry's new piece, actually entitled Beethoven – a powerful setting of the 'Immortal Beloved' letter, which will be sung by acclaimed baritone Mark Stone.
The idea for this mammoth project came when Britten Sinfonia and Thomas Adès performed together at the BBC Proms last year.
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David Butcher, Britten Sinfonia chief executive, explained: 'When we worked with Tom at the Proms, performing a blistering Symphony No. 8, we knew we'd found something quite special. Initially a handful of Beethoven overtures was mooted. A couple of emails later however, Tom was somewhat coyly admitting that he really had his heart set on was more Beethoven Symphonies.'
It was the idea of Thomas to include fellow composer Barry, whose deft, explosive and wonderfully idiosyncratic music will be paired alongside Beethoven.
'Perhaps naively, we assumed that Tom would want to complement Beethoven's first two symphonies with some of his own compositions,' added Butcher. 'But he had a clear vision of exactly what to pair them with: works by Gerald Barry, who regards Beethoven as a god.'
'I've been wanting to do Beethoven Symphonies for a long time,' said Thomas Adès.
'Gerald was considering writing an opera about him for many years and has written many pieces that are explicitly about him and others that are secretly about him. He once described Beethoven to me as the greatest man who ever lived. I see a lot of parallels between the two.'
Barry says that he was a bit taken aback when approached by Adès. 'He didn't want to do the typical Beethoven cycle that many people do, he wanted to do something strong and different,' he explains.
'This first concert is my setting of the famous love letter, the 'Immortal Beloved'. It is the only surviving love letter from him and my setting is an introduction to an event in his life which had a profound and traumatic effect on him. It goes to the heart of him, so I thought that was a good place to begin.'
After the Norwich launch the project will continue with concerts in London and Saffron Walden in 2017 and 2018 and further dates, yet to be announced, in 2019.
• Britten Sinfonia: Beethoven with Thomas Adès, St Andrew's Hall, Norwich, May 26, 7.30pm, £30-£8, 01603 766400, www.nnfestival.org.uk
• More about the project at www.brittensinfonia.com/whats-on/beethoven-symphony-cycle/