Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

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Belle
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Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by Belle » Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:48 am

Last week at music appreciation one of my colleagues played this Beethoven 7th symphony, recorded in 1955 with Klemperer. I thought the performance much too slow, but my 'beef' was those double appoggiaturas from Bar 29. Klemperer is playing them as triplets, but they are not triplets. They are 'grace notes'. Now, you can hear the difference with these versions. Firstly, the Klemperer: it could be argued that in slowing down the movement to a dirge the conductor was left with no alternative but to use the slower triplets!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uehXF5wVGbg

Then a favourite, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Harnoncourt. These are most definitely not triplets in Harnoncourt's version but are played correctly as rapid notes leading up to the note itself. Now, those double appoggiaturas can and are interpreted differently if they're leaning on notes of longer value; clearly Klemperer thought a dotted crotchet was a longer note in his lugubrious version! Here's Harnoncourt - faster and more convincing IMO!! (Klemperer sucks the life and energy out of his Beethoven #7 by making it ponderous.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vRztSxYEdg

Then there's Carlos Kleiber (who else??!). He favours the 'grace note' approach, as you can hear. Kleiber's version is a little faster, more febrile and dramatic IMO:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqtPVEuAbzM

Here's the Allegretto with accompanying score so you can see what I mean by the notation - orchestra unknown:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKXFdT14DIE

My friends at Music Appreciation were bemused about my "excellent detective work" until I explained to them that it's simply a matter of playing what's written in the score. (Only, it's not really all that 'simple' is it??).

John F
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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by John F » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:08 am

This is a really interesting topic, and while I disagree with you (what else is new? :) ), I understand you and don't think you're wrong.

First about the tempo, which can have two bases: the verbal instruction at the head of the movement, and the character of the music. The movement is often described as a funeral march, though Beethoven didn't explicitly call it that as he did the 2nd movement of the Eroica. For this view, Klemperer's tempo is appropriate, while Harnoncourt's is a quick march such as would never be taken in a procession bearing a coffin; he ignores the tradition and takes the instruction "allegretto" literally. Kleiber's pace doesn't feel as rushed as Harnoncourt's but it's similarly "objective," that is, an allegretto with no association with a funeral procession.

Personally, I'm with Klemperer on this - at his tempo the emotional expression is deeper and I find it more moving. This may be partly because the recording I grew up with and from which I learned the music, Toscanini's with the New York Philharmonic, though generally fast, adopts a tempo for the slow movement very close to Klemperer's.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB71neDLBeM

Beethoven's tempos especially for his slow movements can be a vexed question. Allegretto is generally considered to be slower than allegro but faster than andante. Beethoven marked the slow movement of the 7th allegretto, but according to Tovey, he "afterwards thought he should have called it andante." Later still, Beethoven provided his publisher with metronome marks for the movements of all the symphonies, and that for the 7th's slow movement is 76, in effect a slow andante though not adagio. Harnoncourt's tempo is slightly slower than Beethoven's metronome mark, which is slower than allegretto. I like this music slower still.

By the way, there's a handy online metronome here:

http://www.online-stopwatch.com/online-metronome/

Beethoven said a metronome mark applies only to the beginning of a movement, as "feeling has its own tempo." In this movement the feeling changes when the music turns from the minor to the major for the second theme; Beethoven provided no tempo instruction for this change, but he rarely did within a movement, leaving such matters to the performers. I've heard only one recording in which such a tempo change is made, typically by Willem Mengelberg, who slows down:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JFLIjAILuc

About those grace notes, that too can sometimes be ambiguous, as grace notes (short and on the beat) and appoggiaturas (long and before the beat) are often notated the same way. This is an interpretive crux at the opening of the Eroica's marcia funebre; one can hear it played both ways. The consensus used to be that the three grace notes should be played before the beat, cf. Toscanini, but Harnoncourt has them on the beat, and the score leaves it open. As it happens, all three conductors interpret the grace notes in the 7th as such.

I don't hear triplets in the Klemperer recording. His slower basic tempo makes the grace notes longer, of course, but to my ears they have essentially the same relationship to the main note as in the other recordings, in which the grace notes are shorter because of the faster basic tempo. With Harnoncourt, the grace notes are played so fast that the first sometimes can't be heard; not a problem with Kleiber, who doesn't clip the grace notes, and certainly not with performances at the traditional broader tempo as with Klemperer and Toscanini.

Different sensibilities, different tastes, different ears. Thanks for starting this topic.
John Francis

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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by Belle » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:47 am

As usual, a thoughtful response - even though I don't necessarily agree :o . I like the more rapid treatment of the double appoggiatura because it creates a sense of urgency along with a generally quicker tempo. As I told some audience members last Thursday, Beethoven appears to imbue an external calm in this piece but a conductor like Kleiber is able to bring tension and drama into its superstructure and this appeals to me. Rather like the calm swan with the vigorous legs unseen beneath the water line. Kleiber was adamant about those appoggiaturas and I'll try and turn up the section in Charles Barber's correspondence with Kleiber where he discusses these.

Meantime, it's late and I can continue this tomorrow. How grateful I am to enjoy the intelligent, informed comments here!! I can risk disagreement because I'm not being bored!!

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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by jserraglio » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:30 pm

If the YT timings are accurate, Furtwangler's '43 wartime recording, my favorite of this work, takes mvt. 2 even a bit slower than OK in '55, although OK's performance takes about 1.5" longer overall. I like them both.

Belle
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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by Belle » Wed Mar 22, 2017 6:27 am

I've dug out Charles Barber's "Corresponding with Carlos" to see what he says about Kleiber's Beethoven #7:

"The second movement, Allegretto, is all eyes! Kleiber takes the tempo marking seriously, and rejects the morbid funeral march it can so easily become. He takes the ornament (double appoggiatura) on the downbeat He sternly corrected me for doing otherwise and asserts a perfect unification of the *dactylic rhythm that governs the whole movement.... When the movement transits from A minor to A major Kleiber moves the tempo ahead, very slightly, but with such ease and grace as can scarcely be imagined....He omits the conventional arco in the last four bars and continues with an austere and unsettling pizzicato, thus reinforcing the essentially severe and unstable quality of the 6/4 chord by which the movement is concluded. He once told me that Richard Strauss, Otto Klemperer and his father did this."(115).

(* Carlos Kleiber had a great affinity with language, particularly the English language and its rhythms and beauty.)

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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by John F » Wed Mar 22, 2017 7:00 am

So Charles Barber, Carlos Kleiber's correspondent and biographer, is a true believer. No surprise there. Of course Kleiber had his own reasons for the interpretive choices he made, which incidentally are the same as his father's in the Decca recording; I understand that Carlos even used Erich's scores. But just because he rejects how many great conductors have performed this music for many decades in favor of the Kleiber way, doesn't require us to reject it too, and I don't. Obviously.

The Kleibers père and fils and also Klemperer have the last notes of the slow movement played pizzicato by the violins. There's no warrant for this in the score I have or any other I've seen, where the passage is marked arco (bowed), and it's almost always played that way. Where did this ineffective idea come from? Not from the first edition, published under Beethoven's supervision. (It's at http://imslp.org/wiki/Symphony_No.7,_Op ... udwig_van).) Very odd.
Last edited by John F on Fri Mar 24, 2017 3:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
John Francis

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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by Belle » Wed Mar 22, 2017 3:48 pm

Naturally there is more than one way to interpret music; from three bars to a whole movement or a whole work. There are wonderful 'tutorials' available on all this on the internet provided by musicians in masterclasses, interviews and one-off lectures/discussions. But in the Beethoven #7 section in question an ornamented note is called for; the question then becomes 'how is that ornament to be interpreted' which is consistent with what Beethoven would have wanted?

Kleiber's Beethoven performances of #5 and #7 were widely praised and still remain beloved and valued versions in the pantheon of recordings.

The fact that you are not an acolyte of HIP is noted!! :D

John F
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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by John F » Wed Mar 22, 2017 4:34 pm

I don't want to suggest for a moment that I don't appreciate Kleiber's recordings, those I've heard, as well as those of his performances I attended in Stuttgart, London, and New York, all of them operas. I just hear them in a different context than you do, the context being other recordings and performances of more decades than I care to count. :) And of course we have different personalities which connect in different ways even with the same recordings.

Wanting to settle the question about the closing bars of this movement, arco or pizzicato, I looked in the recent critical edition of the symphony edited by Jonathan Del Mar and published by Bärenreiter. (They call it an Urtext but it isn't.) The strings are marked arco for the last four bars, with staccatissimo wedges over the 8th notes. No alternative is offered. The critical commentary on this edition is in a separate volume which the library stores off-site; when they bring it in, I'll read it for what Del Mar has to say about this question, if anything.

His father, the conductor Norman Del Mar, wrote a series of books that are guides for inexperienced conductors and students of conducting, covering many often-performed works. In the volume devoted to Beethoven's symphonies, he has this to say:
Norman Del Mar wrote:It is believed to be Erich Kleiber who started the hare running of a possible reading of sempre pizzicato in the 1st and 2nd violins in this closing passage. The argument is based on the suggestion that the mark "arco" against the violin lines in the autograph does not look too much like Beethoven's handwriting. [Kleiber] was in the event mistaken, the hand being indeed that of Beethoven, but in any case it would have proved nothing as the composer could have given the direction to a copyist. Certainly musically speaking the arco is far more satisfactory, the more sustained quality of the quarter-notes, especially of the 1st violins' entry at the half-bar, giving a feeling of finality as it dies away leaving behind the same woodwind chord which opened the movement.
This might be worth discussing in your second program about Carlos Kleiber. If Erich Kleiber was the first to substitute pizzicato for Beethoven's arco, why did Klemperer do likewise? Both conductors were active in Berlin in the 1920s and Klemperer might have discussed it with Kleiber, or perhaps been persuaded by a Kleiber performance. To me it creates an anti-Romantic, anti-sentimental sound, which is consistent with both conductors' musical personalities and with what was happening in European music and the other arts at the time. As for Carlos Kleiber, whether he was following the markings in his father's conducting score from filial piety or had come to know the music from his father's performances, I couldn't say, though maybe Barber's book has something to say about it.

Choosing the tempo for the movement is also problematic, as our discussion reveals. "Sir George Grove quotes Nottebohm (in his 'Beethoveniana') as having documented Beethoven's anxiety in later years that the movement should not be taken too fast and that he even wished that the marking could be changed to 'Andante quasi Allegretto.'" Del Mar continues:
Norman Del Mar wrote:Already in 1906 Felix Weingartner had written,.. "The time-signature tells us that this movement is not to be taken like the customary adagio or andante. The metronome mark of quarter note = 76, however, nearly gives us a quick-march, which cannot have been the composer's intention here. I have therefore adopted quarter note = 66." There is much wisdom in this... [But] when all is said and done, quarter note = 66 is still a shade too jaunty although the pace should not be slower than quarter note = 60, while the bowing style can also prevent the quality of sound from becoming glutinous if the semi-staccato 8th-notes are taken off the string.
Elsewhere in this book, Del Mar observes that most of Beethoven's metronome marks are too fast - too fast for the music, too fast for the audience to take it in, too fast sometimes for the performers. (Artur Schnabel doggedly tried for Beethoven's metronome marks for the Hammerklavier Sonata, resulting in one of the messiest recordings ever approved for release by a major musician.) This was conventional wisdom until the HIP movement insisted on the literal observance of everything in the score; previously only Toscanini had conducted this allegretto at a tempo approaching Beethoven's metronome mark, but despite his enormous influence, few others did likewise.

I've seen various theories about this, including the possibility that Beethoven's metronome was defective. See this article, for example:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-new ... g-9140958/

But even if it was working properly, there are other possible reasons. Beethoven provided metronome marks for his symphonies long after he had composed most of them; only the 9th was still to come. By then he was deaf and could "hear" his symphonies only in his imagination; I've seen it suggested that when one "listens" to music in that way, it's always faster than when the music has to be made to sound, and that's certainly my experience. Whatever, the HIP brigade aside, there are good reasons to mistrust Beethoven's metronome marks, and I do mistrust them.
Last edited by John F on Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
John Francis

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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by Belle » Thu Mar 23, 2017 2:57 am

Thank you for this wonderful and erudite contribution. I'll have to look further into this before I can contribute further as you have raised so many issues. And I think your suggestion about my second Kleiber lecture is an excellent one. Will have to research books, scores etc. You keep me en pointe! More later.

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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by John F » Thu Mar 23, 2017 8:21 am

I'm sure you have already brought up Carlos Kleiber's artistic and personal relationship to his father, but this detail of the 7th symphony's allegretto might make it worth returning to that subject. (As for Klemperer, Peter Heyworth's biography says he was an "assiduous attender of other men's concerts," adding however that "he rarely stayed the course." I should think, then, that he went to hear Kleiber's concerts with the Staatskapelle, the orchestra of the Berlin State Opera of which Kleiber was the music director.)

Am I wrong in suspecting that Carlos's repertoire was entirely drawn from Erich's (some Johann Strauss numbers aside), or did he conduct any operas or concert music for which he didn't have his father's scores? This isn't a putdown, in the comparisons I've made I think Carlos's achievement surpassed his father's, for example in their recordings of "Der Rosenkavalier." (Erich's supreme achievement, the Vienna "Nozze di Figaro," faces no competition from Carlos.) And since Erich Kleiber's repertoire hasn't been documented in detail, as have those of Toscanini and Furtwängler in book-length studies, the question may be impossible to answer. But some comparisons of the two Kleibers' recordings of the same music would be apropos, and might include some surprises.

I said at the beginning that this is an interesting topic, and it gets more interesting every day - for you and me if for nobody else. :) And I don't think it's exhausted quite yet.
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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:10 pm

Thank you both for an erudite and fascinating discussion!

As for Beethoven's metronome markings, the only one I have an issue with in his symphonies is the marking for the last movement of VIII, which is entirely too fast because the notes cannot be fully articulated when played as marked. At any rate, I share your suspicions overall, but find the symphonies when played as marked very effective. I recently went through Klemperer's set and found the tempi lethargic and much too slow for my taste, as they have been all my life, since I was introduced to Toscanini's set at age 11.

George Szell and HVK 1963 are my preferred stereo sets pre-HIP. Carlos Kleiber suits me just fine as well.

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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by John F » Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:20 pm

Well, if you really want to hear your Beethoven played too fast, faster even than Beethoven wanted if indeed his metronome was broken, nobody can stop you. :mrgreen:

Toscanini's recordings of the 4th and 7th symphonies on 78s, and Koussevitzky's of the 8th which doesn't dawdle, were my initiation into Beethoven's music at a very early age. Yet when I first heard Klemperer's Eroica - the 1955 monaural recording, not the stereo remake - it amplified my appreciation of the music and the possibilities of musical interpretation. Similarly and even more so when I first heard Furtwängler's Eroica and 9th. I still think Toscanini's 7th with the New York Philharmonic is one of the great recordings of anything, but it doesn't close the book on Beethoven. As for Norrington, Hogwood, and that crowd, feh.

P.S. Looking back I see that Carlos Kleiber told Charles Barber that not only Erich Kleiber and Otto Klemperer but Richard Strauss disregarded Beethoven's arco instruction at the end of the movement. Strauss recorded the symphony for Polydor in the 1920s and at the end of the allegretto the strings play arco, as written.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAU0YbOFZK0

Whether Kleiber had it wrong or Barber remembered Kleiber wrongly, this is the kind of thing that Barber should have fact-checked before publishing it, and puts the factual reliability of his book in question.

What's not as written in the Strauss recording is a whopping cut in the finale, doubtless to fit the movement and the symphony onto one less 78 rpm disc. It's this and other oddities in his records that make people wonder how seriously Strauss took his studio recordings except as a source of income.
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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by Belle » Fri Mar 24, 2017 3:00 pm

I'm attempting to contact Dr. Barber about this issue; I don't think it could be Kleiber's faulty memory because the conductor was known for his extraordinary memory and his superb attention to detail. Erich Kleiber knew Richard Strauss and, indeed, Carlos also met the composer himself.

If I get a reply I'll forward this thread to Barber for his comments! I know he reads Norman Lebrecht's 'Slipped Disc' as I only had an exchange with him there very recently. But you base your argument upon one recording of Strauss conducting the Beethoven, and from the 1920s. Strauss lived another 25 years.

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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by John F » Fri Mar 24, 2017 3:35 pm

Belle wrote:you base your argument upon one recording of Strauss conducting the Beethoven, and from the 1920s. Strauss lived another 25 years.
Well, I based what I said on the only direct evidence at hand of how Strauss conducted this music. What objective reason is there, other than Carlos Kleiber's unsupported comment as reported by Charles Barber, to suppose that this recording, specifically the end of the allegretto, is unrepresentative of Strauss's way with this music? The natural, unforced conclusion would be that Kleiber or Barber was mistaken, for whatever reason.

Of course Erich Kleiber knew Richard Strauss; so did many other conductors who, like Strauss, conducted those bars as written. We need something much more definite than that to impeach the evidence of his recording.

If you do hear from Charles Barber, on whatever topic, that would certainly be interesting. Please pass it on!
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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by barney » Sat Mar 25, 2017 9:11 pm

Making my usual profound and scholarly contribution to a discussion,
do you know the story of Oscar Levant arguing his way out of a speeding ticket by saying noone could hear Beethoven 7 and drive slowly. :roll: :D

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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by John F » Mon Mar 27, 2017 4:24 pm

I've now read Jonathan Del Mar's critical commentary to his Barenreiter edition, and here's what he says about the conclusion of the Allegretto.

It is "probably the most contentious issue in the symphony, due to the apparently convincing logic with which [the publisher] Breitkopf moved [the pizzicato marking] to 275 n.2, creating a neat imitation between violin 2 and violin 1. But however felicitous this seemed to 20th century ears (so that it is even perpetuated in Breitkopf's critical edition of 1994), it is important (a) to remember that it has nothing to do with Beethoven, nor is there any reason to suspect an error, (b) to take account of the fact that it relied for its effect on a wholly spurious hairpin crescendo added to the violin 1, violin 2, and viola parts (though not the full score) in 275."

Breitkopf & Hartel published its second edition c. 1920. Del Mar says the spurious pizzicato is in that score, which may have been the authority on which Erich Kleiber and Otto Klemperer adopted that reading, in defiance of every other edition of the music and Beethoven's autograph, and held to it for the rest of their lives. That's just a guess. I've suggested that Carlos Kleiber was following his father's example and possibly even the markings in his father's conducting score, but that too is a guess.

Jonathan Del Mar has this to say about Beethoven's metronome marks: "The metronome indications for all the symphonies 1-8 were sent by Beethoven to the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, where they appeared in the issue of 17 December 1817. Since Beethoven may be presumed to have continued revising and correcting op. 92 up until any time before its publication hardly more than a year earlier - so that the work was still relatively fresh in his mind - it seems justifiable to accept these metronome marks as having been determined in the same spirit of creation, as it were, as that of the Symphony itself, and we accordingly present them as an integral part of the text."

Del Mar doesn't mention the possibility that Beethoven's metronome might not have been working correctly, and of course there's no direct evidence of this one way or the other. Beethoven's metronome has actually survived but its weight has not, and without the weight it can't be tested.
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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by Belle » Mon Mar 27, 2017 7:17 pm

In his book, "Corresponding with Carlos", Charles Barber says that Kleiber used all his father's scores and knew them intimately, note for note. This was an article of faith with Carlos Kleiber. Norman Lebrecht, in fact, goes so far as to quote an unidentified 'veteran record producer' (in "The Maestro Myth") that "The problem with Carlos...is that once Erich was dead he saw the entire musical world as a surrogate. When he cancels a concert he is killing his father; when he conducts a great performance he is identifying with him".(233). It's very unsatisfactory that I could not find the specific name to attach to this distinctly Freudian analysis. It is merely footnoted as "author interview".

It remains enigmatic how much independent research Carlos Kleiber would have done, if any, for his own performances. I got the impression from Barber's book and two documentary films made about Kleiber that his use of his father's scores meant that any editorial changes made by the father, and replicated by the son, were considered sacrosanct.

You are suggesting that the 'arco' marking at the end of the Allegretto of the Symphony #7 was there in the autograph. Despite this, these things are seldom definitive. The subject of scores and publishers is so very fraught. Then there is the no less substantial matter of 'practice'.

Beethoven's metronome markings have been the subject of debate for a long time.

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Re: Beethoven Symphony #7 - Allegretto

Post by John F » Tue Mar 28, 2017 5:04 am

Belle wrote:
Mon Mar 27, 2017 7:17 pm
In his book, "Corresponding with Carlos", Charles Barber says that Kleiber used all his father's scores and knew them intimately, note for note. This was an article of faith with Carlos Kleiber. Norman Lebrecht, in fact, goes so far as to quote an unidentified 'veteran record producer' (in "The Maestro Myth") that "The problem with Carlos...is that once Erich was dead he saw the entire musical world as a surrogate. When he cancels a concert he is killing his father; when he conducts a great performance he is identifying with him".(233). It's very unsatisfactory that I could not find the specific name to attach to this distinctly Freudian analysis. It is merely footnoted as "author interview".

It remains enigmatic how much independent research Carlos Kleiber would have done, if any, for his own performances. I got the impression from Barber's book and two documentary films made about Kleiber that his use of his father's scores meant that any editorial changes made by the father, and replicated by the son, were considered sacrosanct.
That's really fascinating. As I said, I think Carlos Kleiber's performances were finer than his father's of the same music, when I've been able to hear both. It doesn't bother me that he may not have been an original thinker as an interpreter of the music; what matters is the result, what we actually hear.

As for Norman Lebrecht's comment, I wouldn't take it with a grain of salt, I wouldn't take it at all. In books like "The Maestro Myth" and "The Death of Classical Music," he constantly twists the facts to support his sensationalistic claims, and when there aren't facts to twist, he makes them up. He was sued for libel by the founder of Naxos Records over one of those made-up "facts," lost in court, and his publisher was required to withdraw the book. It's not that he never gets it right, of course he sometimes does, but you never know until you find some confirmation from a source more reliable than he is. Of the passage you quote I'm deeply suspicious, unless someone who actually knew Kleiber well, like Charles Barber, confirms it.
Belle wrote:
Mon Mar 27, 2017 7:17 pm
You are suggesting that the 'arco' marking at the end of the Allegretto of the Symphony #7 was there in the autograph. Despite this, these things are seldom definitive. The subject of scores and publishers is so very fraught. Then there is the no less substantial matter of 'practice'.
I'm not "suggesting" it, I'm reporting it. Del Mar's critical commentary spells out that Beethoven was constantly correcting and revising the 7th until it was finally published four years later, and as he was dissatisfied with the first edition, he corrected many errors in it for the second. In none of these many sources did he change the placement of the "arco" instruction; that change first appears in a Breitkopf & Härtel edition many years after his death. That's definitive, isn't it? Del Mar the musicologist and editor thinks so, saying flatly that the change "has nothing to do with Beethoven."

As for "practice," Klemperer and Erich and Carlos Kleiber are the only conductors I know of, Richard Strauss not being one of them, who have not followed the common practice of playing that passage as Beethoven wrote it. But maybe you mean something else by the word "practice"?
John Francis

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