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Music

Listen: Kurt Masur conducts Beethoven's Symphony No. 8

Exclusive concert recordings with the recently-deceased maestro and the Dresden Philharmonic, as download or on-demand audio stream.

Listen to audio 28:12

Masur conducts Beethoven's Symphony No. 8

Tension and release: Beethoven's symphonies follow a certain dramaturgy. The upstart First is followed by the lighter, Haydnesque Second; the titanic Third by the cheerfully Romantic Fourth; the "fateful" Fifth preceding the tone paintings of the Sixth and the dance vortex in the Seventh. The Ninth, with its choral movement, was an utter departure. Did we miss one?

Yes, the Eighth. Comic relief sandwiched in between standard-setting, superdimensional symphonic writing, this one is full of jokes. Two hundred years later, we no longer have a grasp of the musical syntax of Beethoven's time, so we don't get the punch lines - and there's nothing worse than having to explain a joke. But there is a little anecdote to go with the piece:

In his Beethoven biography of 1860, the composer's onetime personal secretary Anton Felix Schindler wrote that the metronome, having recently been invented by Johann Nepomuk Mälzel, had inspired the second movement. Now, the symphony was finished in 1812 and the metronome invented two years later, so this wouldn't be the only instance of Schindler's more than lively imagination. But it's a nice story nonetheless - and listening to the relentless tick-ticking rhythm of that movement, it fits perfectly.

These concert recordings from 2012 were supervised by Kurt Masur's personal "Tonmeister." Combining studies in music and sound engineering, that profession in Germany has no equivalent in other countries. Enthused by the electronic media, the maestro gave his personal approval to the project, having known for years that this would be the place where such music is truly appreciated.

Kurt Masur with the Dresden Philharmonic. Photo: Marco Kubitz

With the Dresden Philharmonic.

In this edition:

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 8 in F Major, op. 93

Dresden Philharmonic

Conductor: Kurt Masur

Recorded by DW in the Gasteig Philharmonic Hall in Munich on December 11, 2012.

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