I also have Nicolaus Harnoncourt doing the Schubert symphonies and I enjoy that in a way that I don't quite enjoy similar performances by Herbert von Karajan and others of his generation. I find them too thick and too rhythmically soggy. So I am looking forward to Norrington et al delivering a "new sound" for Beethoven that I am probably going to like a lot and it will be one that is not too much like the kinds of performances of fifty years ago, nor, likely, much like the performances of two hundred years ago either when new orchestral works were lucky to get ONE rehearsal and standards of tuning and precision of ensemble were a far cry from what they are today.
I have heard one of the Norrington Beethoven symphonies before, years ago, but I don't recall which at this point. Now I am listening to the whole box, Symphony No. 4 at the moment. The performances are a delight. What is especially outstanding are the winds, brass and kettledrums. For the latter we have a crisp thud instead of the boom of the modern instrument. The winds and brass are more nasal with a bit of a bite instead of the smooth mellifluousness of the modern winds and brass. And much as the marketing advertises the antiquarian aspect, it is really the modern sensibility that informs the performance: taut, crisp, transparent and oh so defined. Sure, this is likely related to how the music might have been played in the 18th century, not that we have any way of really knowing, but what it mostly is, is the 20th century's reaction to the thick, rubatoed blanket of 19th century performance practice.
Here is the Norrington performance of the Symphony No. 4 by Beethoven:
UPDATE: One of the shocking things that Richard Taruskin proposed in his paper on "The Presence of the Past..." was that the 20th century taste for crisp, clean textures and rhythmic regularity originated with, among others, Stravinsky. So when we listen to an "historically informed" Baroque performance we are hearing something that may be played on original instruments by folks that have read some treatises on early music performance practice, but the performance itself is not nearly as "historic" as we might believe. What it really is, is a performance informed by modern tastes--as it should be given that the listeners are modern. All this stuff about "original" and "authentic" is mostly marketing. I just recalled seeing on the Salzburg Festival programs a concert on August 11 that I wanted to attend, but didn't get to. The conductor, Sir Roger Norrington, with the Salzburg Camerata. The program? Mozart, Haydn and Stravinsky!
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