Throughout February there will be something of a focus on Beethoven which is worth pointing out.
It's not a series, but a sequence of concerts, entirely coincidental, but wholly serendipitous for those of us who can't get enough Beethoven. It's all big stuff and all three major Scottish orchestras are involved. The sequence is already up and running. It began last week when Donald Runnicles and the BBC SSO gave performances of the emblematic and near-anthemic Fifth Symphony in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness.
It continues on Wednesday as the Michelangelo Quartet resume their six-concert survey of all of the composer's string quartets in Perth Concert Hall (they're at the halfway point in the cycle). Then, in a run of concerts beginning on February 20 at the Younger Hall in St Andrews and continuing on subsequent nights at Edinburgh's Queen's Hall, Glasgow's City Hall and Aberdeen Music Hall, the SCO, directed by violinist Alexander Janiczeck, will play Beethoven's Olympian Grosse Fuge, the Great Fugue, attached originally to the opus 130 String Quartet, then detached by Beethoven at the request of his publisher because of its superhuman difficulty and inaccessibility. There is a separate history of this quartet, for which Beethoven provided an alternative, accessible finale, which the Michelangelo Quartet will play in Perth this month.
Loading article content
Muscling in on the Beethoven sequence, with the juggernaut and unstoppable Seventh Symphony, "the apotheosis of the dance", will be the BBC SSO and conductor Matthias Pintscher in a performance at the City Halls on February 28. And on that same night, at Perth Concert Hall, the RSNO launches a three-night blockbuster climax to the sequence with an all-Beethoven programme that will be repeated at the Usher Hall on the Friday (now we're at March 1) and at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday March 2. Conductor for the RSNO concerts will be Dima Slobodeniouk, and the soloist will be Rudolf Buchbinder. The programme will open with the Leonora No 3 Overture, continue with the Third Piano Concerto and climax with the epochal Third Symphony, the Eroica.
So there we are: a big Beethoven bash. A word of caution: there will be more Beethoven performances in Scotland this month, I feel, than are represented here. Somewhere in Scotland in February, some institution, organisation, individuals or one or more of the vast number of music clubs and societies that are part of a network throughout the country will be staging, performing, promoting or hosting an event with some Beethoven in it that is not mentioned here. This is simply a personal selection by a lifetime member of the Beethoven Addiction Memorial Society, or BAMS, as we are known colloquially.
It's unlikely that all members will be able to attend all the events. There will be clashes. I've already lost out in the first concert with Runnicles and the BBC SSO playing the Fifth Symphony. The night they played it in Glasgow, which was the only occasion on which I could have heard it, I was in Edinburgh for the one-off appearance at the Usher Hall of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, an outfit I was absolutely determined to hear. Even addicts have to bite the bullet sometimes.
And the one night Matthias Pintscher and the BBC SSO will play the Seventh Symphony (in Glasgow) is the night the RSNO opens its run of Eroica performances in Perth, so if you are in the right place at the wrong time, you will miss something. Still, Beethoven addicts who have a bit of flexibility in their budgets, and preference in their tastes, can work chronological and logistical miracles with their timetables. I stand in awe of the public, especially members of BAMS, who have the Beethoven bit between their teeth.