Coriolan Overture; Symphony No. 3 ‘Eroica’
Ensemble Cristofori/Arthur Schoonderwoerd
CAvi-music AVI 8553487 59:42 mins
Between 2004 and 2008, the fortepiano specialist and conductor Arthur Schoonderwoerd recorded a set of Beethoven piano concertos variously regarded by pundits as a most refreshing ear-opener and the worst performances of the music ever issued. Why the divergence? Well, Schoonderwoerd is a ‘historical performance’ extremist, who strips down forces to one to a part in an effort to duplicate the numbers physically possible at Beethoven’s first performances.
A decade and more later, he’s at the same game, offering an Eroica dispatched by 20 players and a Coriolan by 19, drawn as before from his own Ensemble Cristofori. The results are ‘different’, certainly, but with novelty gone from ‘authentic’ performances, Schoonderwoerd’s are only refreshing if you like your masterpieces in X-ray form: the bone structure clear, flesh and personality missing. Nothing done by these doughty musician runs contrary to the scores’ markings, but even when they muster a staccato attack the effect has all the frightening power of a chihuahua barking.
Three horns are allowed in the Eroica Symphony, luckily for the scherzo’s trio; but time and again on this album the thin, bald sonorities struggle to convey any of the muscle and grandeur written into Beethoven’s notes.
Beethoven may have had to suffer modest forces at the Symphony’s premiere at Prince Lobkowitz’s private concert hall. But did he really want it squeezed into something like chamber music? Listeners will, I’m sure, have their own answer to this question, one which Schoonderwoerd, plodding and myopic, never seems to have asked.