Conductor Laureate Herbert Blomstedt leads the San Francisco Symphony in a program of two works that are so familiar, you might think you know them. But he insists that even after playing Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ and Mozart’s 40th in concert halls around the world, there are still discoveries to be made, if you go past the surface, and aim to make them new with each performance.

There’s more information about the concerts, with a Thursday matinee, and Friday and Saturday evening performances, at the San Francisco Symphony website.

“These are constantly new pieces. It’s a progressive revelation. For me, the Eroica, even if I’ve played it more than 100 times, is an enormous piece, and I discover new things every time.” It’s always with the aim of discovering the composer’s intentions. One particular marking in a score, he learned, was the result of a printer assuming he could read Beethoven’s handwriting, and so for generations, an accent was placed at the top note of a phrase, rather than a ‘hairpin’ decrescendo, pretty much the opposite effect. Blomstedt was able to see for himself when he was conducting at the Vienna Philharmonic, and looked at Beethoven’s performance score. “And I saw the part even, that he used, with his own corrections, and ALL of them had diminuendo, not an accent… So, a discovery I made when I played the piece perhaps a hundred twenty times. You can make that kind of a discovery all the time.” He insists he only plays ‘new music,’ of whatever century. “It’s like baking bread,” he says. “You know, you don’t eat bread that has been just in the refrigerator and then warmed up… deep frozen. You bake it new every day. So it is when we play these works also. We play it as if it was the first time.”

 

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