Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Ancient Marriner

My dad's birthday isn't too far off, and so, at his suggestion, I got tickets for tonight's all Beethoven programme in the National Concert Hall. Sir Neville Marriner and the Orchestra of St Cecilia, were over as part of the NCH's International Guest Series and made a very tempting prospect.

When faced with a choice between Beethoven's 6th symphony and his 7th, I have traditionally opted for the 6th, the Pastoral. However, after a blistering performance of the 7th tonight, and a 6th heard under the influence of tonnes of sushi, I think I have been converted to the later symphony. Really Marriner (who turned 83 this year) did something special with it tonight.

The Pastoral took up the first half of the evening and was played refreshingly more classically than I am used to. This is often played with more than a touch of romanticism, and to be honest, I can't really see it any other way (the pictures fairly jump out of the music). Having said that though, Marriner's approach was very persuasive and brought a lot to the music I haven't noticed in a long time. The 7th though, taking up the second half of the performance, was electric from the word go. The repetition that characterises much of the earlier symphony is not so much in evidence here, with Beethoven being in a highly experimental mode. The first movement really worked for me, with several strong themes playing well against and with each other. It is hard to think of the second movement without that shot of Connery and Rampling from the end of 'Zardoz' coming to mind, but thankfully the music speaks eloquently for itself. I personally can't hear it without a slight manic cackle echoing in the background, but again Marriner did it justice and took my mind up a level. The third movement is more repetitious, but capped by a slightly insane fourth movement, this was all wonderful stuff. Marriner, who as my mother put it is 'bad on the old pins', got a standing ovation from the audience, and rightfully so.


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