Posted by Claire Whittle
Saturday 21st January, 2017

Monumental Humanity 

AYO National Music Camp
Week 2, Orchestral Concert: Saturday 21 January, 4pm

BEETHOVEN Symphony No.5

Alexander Orchestra — Dietrich Paredes, conductor   


‘Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is a seminal piece – it’s one of the classical music cornerstones that everyone hears about. It draws people in,’ says Nick Byrne, AYO National Music Camp trombone tutor. It is also a pivotal piece in the trombone repertoire, as it was the first time the instrument was used in an orchestral symphony.

Stephen Robinson, AYO National Music Camp oboe tutor, explains why it is an equally important piece to oboists: ‘I think that what Beethoven is doing with this strange cadenza in the first movement is that he’s showing a single human being in all their frailty, and all their beauty, in contrast to all of this enormity. The oboe emerges, plays this little lament, and tells us that the individual is still important. It’s not easy to play, but it has so much movement and pathos in it that you don’t need to do anything with it; you just play it the way he wrote it and it’s splendid music.’

As for the approach Dietrich Paredes is taking to this masterwork, Nick believes that Dietrich’s background coming from the new school of South American conductors is of great benefit to the students.

‘He has this undeniable energy that he infuses into his music-making, and that can only be infectious for the students. I also think he’s great because he’s not detached from the music. He doesn’t turn it into a science. It’s really living music now as much as when it was written.’

Stephen shares Nick’s enthusiasm. ‘I think Dietrich really is into the full strength of it. The strength and the power, and the inevitability… The monumental nature and the smallness of the human condition are things that Dietrich is bringing to it.’

Nick also notes the inherent energy that members of a youth orchestra bring to a performance, and their ability to present the work without the baggage of the past.

‘The great thing about having students play it is that often they are playing it for the first time, so it’s fresh. It’s like falling in love for the first time – you’re so enthusiastic about it that the whole acoustic experience of sitting there and creating something like that is amazing. Some orchestras can be affected by tradition and play it always the same way no matter who’s conducting. But you never get that with a youth orchestra because they’re always on the edge of their seat and they want to do it so well – they aren’t burdened by any tradition.’

– Claire Whittle*

* Words About Music participant at AYO National Music Camp 2017