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Hogwood leads empty performances of Beethoven works

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HANDEL & HAYDN SOCIETY

Conducted by Christopher Hogwood.

Piano soloist, Melvyn Tan.

Works by Beethoven and Rossini.

Symphony Hall, Feb. 8 and 11.

By JONATHAN RICHMOND

LAST NIGHT'S CONCERT No performance of Beethoven has a chance of succeeding if the conductor doesn't understand the role of rhythm in Beethoven's music. Hogwood's reading of the Symphony No. 2 The first movement of the symphony sounded formless and, despite its speed, slack. Especially confounding, Hogwood allowed tempi to shift when the going became just too hard. If a conductor is going to insist on maintaining ludicrous tempi, they should at least be consistently followed. Shifting tempi mid-movement destroys any concept of structure the work might otherwise have.

Hogwood's treatment of the Larghetto The concert ended with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 Tan certainly has a remarkable technique, although the impression he often gives is of a mouse scurrying about on a bed of nails. But there is no emotion to his playing, no variety, and no evidence that he has thought about how the work fits together as a whole.

Tan's monochromatic view of Beethoven precludes the exploitation and development of tensions. There was no sense of elation at Tan's arrival at the opening of the last movement, just more mechanical showing off.

As to Hogwood's band, it gracelessly boomed its way through the piece sounding thin and scrappy; sounding, in fact, as if its conductor couldn't care less.

A disgrace.

Note: Christopher Hogwood frequently sounds better on record than live. While his recordings of the Beethoven symphonies with the Academy of Ancient Music are often weak, his recently-released recording of Handel