Classical Music: The Radical, Revolutionary Romantic

GIORDANO BELLINCAMPI.
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Ludwig van Beethoven was baptised on 17 December 1770 and thought to have been born just a few days earlier. To honour his 250th Anniversary the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) will be performing all nine of his symphonies, plus his only opera – over five concerts! APO Music Director Giordano Bellincampi sits down with express to discuss why Beethoven’s legacy is still going strong.

Born in Italy and raised in Copenhagen, Giordano Bellincampi, began his career as a trombonist with the Royal Danish Orchestra before making his professional conducting debut in 1994.

Before joining the APO he led orchestras in Italy and all over Denmark, and made such an impact he was awarded a Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog (an award bestowed by the Danish Royal Family for services to Danish culture) and a Cavaliere from the President of Italy for his international promotion of Italian music.

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Though Bellincampi has taken on many challenging pieces of music in his 17 years of conducting, he tells us Beethoven’s symphonies are both the easiest and the most difficult to perform.

“Easy because the scores are so crystalline, so perfect, so absolutely right and without nonsense, a perfect realisation might be a perfect interpretation,” he explains with passionate gusto.

“But then they are also very difficult to conduct because of exactly the same reasons. Everything stands clear, even the slightest unnecessary hesitation, stupidity, or smallest incoherence. Personally, I can sometimes leave the podium almost thinking I did quite a decent job with one or the other score from several composers, but with Beethoven, I always, always think there is more to do, more striving for perfection, the unending quest of any performing artist.”

This precise perfectionism starts to explain why few composers have had the same impact on musical history as Beethoven.

Bellincampi believes that whether someone is a fan of classical music or not, all humans, “can sense the spiritual grandness of Beethoven’s music.”

“His outstanding skills as a pianist and his revolution of the expression of this particular instrument, his vision of the symphonic form and the chamber musical intensity speaks for itself,” he adds.

It was Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 ‘Eroica’ which premiered in 1804 that truly cemented his legacy.

“To witness his development from the young, optimistic, and rather ecstatic musician to the mature sufferings with the grand vision of brotherhood for humanity is in itself a privilege to experience,” muses Bellincampi.

Eroica is said to be influenced by Napoleon’s life and Beethoven’s personal battle with tinnitus. It is a stark contrast to his first two symphonies.

“The APO will perform the Eroica directly after the wonderful and youthful first and second symphonies. These works display all the optimism and conquering vision of the young and successful Beethoven, only to be abruptly disturbed by his increasing deafness, the anxiety, and depression of losing the most important tool for any musician, our hearing,” Bellincampi explains, concluding, “What a tragedy, but what a creative impulse!”

While his nine symphonies have garnered mainstream fame, Beethoven’s only opera is often forgotten. But the APO is looking forward to bringing it back to the Auckland Town Hall stage on Saturday 8 May.

“Beethoven was an extremely self-critical composer and musician, as most of us actually are too,” says Bellincampi, examining why Fidelio sits alone as Beethoven’s sole opera.

“He certainly knew of the difficulties of the various genres and he had huge respect for the great opera composers. With Fidelio, he worked very hard to make his ‘freedom-opera’ Fidelio, a score he would ultimately be happy with. Its creation was a painful birth, but those births can often lead to beautiful children with an eternal life, and that is the case for this extremely personal score.”

For tickets or more information on all five of APO’s Beethoven Anniversary concerts visit apo.co.nz

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