Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

Beethoven’s '9th Symphony' to be celebrated at Abu Dhabi Classics

The famed piece of classical music is hailed for its complexity and humanity

French maestro Sylvain Cambreling will conduct the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra in their performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in Abu Dhabi. Photo by Daniel Dittus
French maestro Sylvain Cambreling will conduct the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra in their performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in Abu Dhabi. Photo by Daniel Dittus

The centre piece of this year’s Abu Dhabi Classics is the much anticipated performance of Beethoven's celebrated 9th Symphony by the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday, February 5. Leading the acclaimed ensemble at Emirates Palace is the lauded French conductor Sylvain Cambreling. No matter how many times he performed the piece, the maestro says, the music still has the power to move him and audiences. He tells us why.

2020 is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, does conducting the 9th Symphony take on extra meaning for you?

It is important but then again, I don’t need to wait until such an occasion to have this realisation. There are select few pieces of art that I can say is essential, and for me Beethoven’s music is just that. There is something special in the music that it can touch anyone and this is why I feel this is the year that many people will hear his music for the first time and be moved. I am sure this will be the case in Abu Dhabi.

Does the Symphony’s power also comes from the fact that Beethoven composed it while being close to total deafness?

When someone is deaf and he can create a strong piece of work within the medium of music, well, that is nothing short of inspiring. The 9th Symphony is a reminder of what we can achieve under tough conditions. It gives people the courage to go forward. No matter what you are facing, it doesn’t mean that you surrender to it. You move forward and fight against it.

How forward thinking was the 9th Symphony in terms of its composition?

For his time, it was a radical piece of work. Beethoven himself said that "I am not composing music for the people of today, but for those of tomorrow." The 9th Symphony is a perfect example of that. While of course, it touched people of that era, the piece remains accessible today as well.

Was the biggest surprise of the symphony was the inclusion of a chorus and soloists?

While the chorus and soloists did exist at that time, of course, what made the work special was that these features were included in a symphony. At that time the symphony was a very definite form and it was purely instrumental. Beethoven wrote eight symphonies in that way but with the ninth he went above and beyond: it was longer, more complex, had the chorus and featured the important text of the German poet Friedrich Schiller, which spoke about how we are all brothers and we need to make the world better. This was very radical.

What do you view as your chief role when conducting such an important piece of work?

With each attempt I try to convince the musicians that they are performing it for the first time or last time. I am trying to get that same level of emotion out of them to play this piece. At the same time, the 9th Symphony is so strong and powerful, that it is always emotional to play. My job is not just to let everyone play well together, but to bring the energy and instil a faith within the musicians that what we are all doing is something very important.

Beethoven's 9th Symphony by the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra will be performed on Wednesday, February 5, at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi. 8pm to 10pm. Tickets begin from Dh295 from www.ticketmaster.ae

Updated: February 4, 2020 03:54 PM

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