Review: Cincinnati Symphony re-creates Beethoven’s legendary 1808 concert

Posted on: March 4, 2020

Louis Langrée leads the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, pianist Inon Barnatan, and the May Festival Chorus in Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy” at Cincinnati’s Music Hall. Photo by AJ Waltz

“If you’re a fan of classical music, chances are you’ve fantasized about what you would do with a time machine,” writes Joshua Barone in Monday’s (3/2) New York Times. “The most popular destination … might be Vienna, for Beethoven’s Akademie concert of 1808…. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra offered [a] lavish re-creation at Music Hall here over the weekend of that night in Vienna, [when] Beethoven unveiled the Fifth Symphony and the ‘Pastoral’ Sixth. And the Fourth Piano Concerto and ‘Choral Fantasy,’ in his last public appearance as a pianist…. It was Dec. 22…. Inside the Theater an der Wien … the audience was made to shiver through several hours of music. The orchestra was under-rehearsed…. Conditions were much more favorable at Music Hall on Saturday. For one, there was heat. And the able Cincinnatians … were far from amateurs…. You had to admire the earnestness … of Saturday’s performance: pianist Inon Barnatan milking what integrity he could from the melodramatic opening chords [of the ‘Choral Fantasy’]…. Louis Langrée brought [the May Festival Chorus] and the orchestra to a swell at the text’s mentions of art, love and power.” Several U.S. orchestras will re-create the 1808 concert during the Beethoven 250 season.