Beethoven (arr. Garrett Schumann; Yaniv Segal): Sonata for Orchestra in C minor, op. 30 No. 2b; Gabriel Prokofiev: BEETHOVEN9 Symphonic Remix
Gabriel Prokofiev (electronics); BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Yaniv Segal
Naxos 8.574020 81:57 mins
This year, the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, has seen a wave – nay, a tsunami – of celebratory releases. We’ve had extensive surveys, cycles, historical reissues and now here’s something completely different.
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) and conductor Yaniv Segal have selected three contrasting works that ‘reimagine’ Beethoven’s brilliance. ‘Reimagining’, also referred to as ‘recomposing’, is often associated with the post-classical movement, but none of the pieces featured here fit into that category. Instead, they comprise new arrangements and a set of electro-acoustic variations (all first recordings).
Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of Sergei) uses themes from Beethoven’s Ninth as the basis for Symphonic Remix (2011), a work that moves between fractious electronic sound (the presto sections) and pastoral melody (the allegro assai). The electronic part – performed by the composer – samples vocalisations provided by the Orchestre National de Pays de la Loire chorus; ‘Ode to Joy’ is a ghostly echo.
Yaniv Segal’s 2018 instrumental arrangement of Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio packs a lot of drama into half an hour. There is a long history of opera reductions – largely keyboard works – and this Fidelio ‘symphony’ follows in that vein, focusing on melodic highlights divided into three movements. Florestan’s yearning for Leonore is depicted by a gorgeous duet between oboe and cor anglais.
Segal’s orchestral arrangement of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 7, co-written with Garrett Schumann, demonstrates the potential scaling up of intimate chamber works. The work’s success lies in its simplicity: tutti sections aplenty and delicate use of orchestral colour to flourish rather than embellish.