The piano quartet adaptation of Beethoven’s Third Symphony provides the opportunity to listen to the piece as if it were a new composition. A significant share of this experience is due to the excellent performers.
Adaptations of orchestral pieces for chamber instrumentation were popular before the invention of recording techniques, even more so, as the make-up of an orchestra was not yet defined by binding norms. Adapting symphonic pieces for chamber instrumentation was being forgotten at the same rate as the music scene developed towards the fact that even outside the metropolitan area, symphonies by great composers like Beethoven could be performed in their full orchestral form. During the 20th century, when the influence of ideals which are true to the original on one hand and technology for recorded media on the other hand became more important, such transcriptions were banished to the attic of music history.
In the series ‘Beethoven Explored’ the label Metiér recently published an arrangement of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony for chamber instrumentation, which was initially printed in 1807. This is exciting because it originated during Beethoven’s lifetime, in contrast to several other arrangements of ‘Eroica‘. Some scholars conjecture that Beethoven supervised this version himself, because he commissioned it.
Whoever expected a dry, bloodless Beethoven, will be pleasantly surprised. The orchestral sound is not missing at any moment. Aaron Shorr (piano), Peter Sheppard Skaerved (violine), Dov Scheindlin (viola) and Neil Heyde (cello) succeed with a thoroughly convincing interpretation – convincing not only through the elegant dynamic proportions, but also through the central expressiveness which is totally true to the work.
The evolution of the motifs is comprehensible, with extraordinary clarity and sharp attack, especially at the ‘focal points‘ as for example the transition from exposition to development in the first movement or the Coda in the last movement. The second movement is suspenseful and lively, moved as much by contrasts as by the inner logic of the performance.
This recording allows a fantastic insight into Beethoven’s composition workshop and allows us to experience the Third Symphony in a way as a new masterpiece. The conductor and musicologist Peter Gülke mentioned, related to the Third Symphony, that this music is at “the fringe of being able to be integrated” and that it is exactly this element, which causes this music to still appear exceedingly modern. Exactly this is reflected in the recording and makes it stimulating, raises it to exemplary ranks. Not because we are presented with a recording which claims to be the ultimate, but exactly because it negates this. Conclusion: a splendid recording, characterized by technical meticulousness, historic-style sensitivity and post-creation sensibility.