Over the years, the Triangle has heard Historically Informed Performances from several chamber orchestras such as Apollo’s Fire. Carolina Performing Arts is presenting pairs of performances encompassing four major symphonies of Beethoven by Orchestre Révoluntionnaire et Romantique, one of most highly regarded full-sized Early Music orchestras, led by John Eliot Gardiner. Their recordings of the complete Beethoven symphonies have set the standard since they were issued.

I do not use “revelatory” loosely but it aptly describes the opening November 12 concert, which featured a blistering performance of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, “Eroica,” and an infectious, rhythmically vital performance of the composer’s Fourth Symphony. The concert opened with the Overture to Beethoven’s incidental music for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus. Conductor Gardiner spoke from the stage before leading the “Eroica.” He said Beethoven was much taken with the concept of “hero” and the myth of Prometheus. He said period instruments had more distinct, wider color spectrums than modern ones and it was ironic that, in order to fully reveal how “modern” Beethoven was, older instruments needed to be used.

The unique sound of the period instruments and watching how they are played are among the many delights of these concerts. The brass and woodwinds are seated on risers. Watch the valveless French horn section: to change pitch, different crooks have to be inserted. Listen to the pungent timbres of the woodwinds!

We’ll have a full review of the opening concert in due course. Meanwhile, rush online or show up early to get tickets for the second of these unique performances. Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphonies are featured November 13. Balcony seating is best for spotting instruments.

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