The glorious 5th


We heard Beethoven’s fifth symphony played by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra last Friday night. The conductor was Roberto Abbado, nephew of Claudio. He was wonderful – at times up on tip toes and at others sweeping the players along with exaggerated arm movements. It is dramatic music that requires a dramatic conductor. Although the symphony is so well-known, it is amazing to hear it live and see the all the instruments, from piccolo to trombone, from violin to double bass, played with such rapid proficiency. It is hard to believe that Beethoven wrote such music over 200 years ago. Apparently the French composer Lesueur said after its first performance in 1808 “It moved and excited me so much that my head was reeling. One should not be permitted to write such music.” To which his student Berlioz replied “Calm yourself, it will not be done often” and he was right.

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