Claudio Abbado conducted Beethoven’s symphonies on many occasions in the Philharmonie in Berlin. But only at the end of his tenure as chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker did he decide to give a performance of the complete symphonies. It was left to audiences of his native Italy to witness these concerts in February 2001 in the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. For both critics and the musicians alike, they marked great moments in the partnership of conductor and orchestra.
The audiences also applauded enthusiastically, demonstrating not least their gratitude at experiencing Claudio Abbado as a conductor of unbroken creativity, after he had spent several months overcoming a serious illness. Above all, it was the sinewy, driving interpretations themselves which led to standing ovations after each concert. The Financial Times spoke of a “revolution”. Instead of the monumentality of earlier times, here there was “something leaner, earthier, more experimental: something that borrows from the period movement’s wardrobe without causing a personality change”. This stylistic change is also apparent visually: in contrast to previous years, Abbado employs a reduced string section for the symphonies. In addition, a new edition of the score by Jonathan Del Mar is used which reflects the most recent research. For Abbado, these innovations are not just for their own sake, but are merely the means to revealing the core of Beethoven’s music. He described his point of reference in this question as follows: “If you try to look at Beethoven’s world objectively, then an interpretation à la Haydn is just as wrong as an interpretation à la Wagner. Ideally it should be – and this is the difficulty – Beethoven. “
Although orchestra and conductor performed all the Beethoven symphonies in Rome, the Ninth was not recorded at the time as the work had been produced for television just a few months before for the European Concert in May 2000. This recording is also available in the Digital Concert Hall.