Review: Spira Mirabilis, Beethoven Symphony No 4, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 11

Spira Mirabilis, Beethoven Symphony No 4, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 11

Spira Mirabilis is a group of elite young musicians from all over the world who study and practise works from the classical repertoire intensively prior to performing them without a conductor. The group is on a long term project to perform all of Beethoven’s symphonies in this way and Saturday morning’s concert comprised the fourth. For Beethoven’s most lightly scored symphony the group chose a string allocation of 6-6-4-4-1.

For most of the performance this was acceptable but on occasions, such as the violins exposed quavers in the slow introduction and in the main Allegro when for two bars there is nothing but quietly pulsating violins and violas, the sound came close to inaudibility. That apart the performance merited nothing but praise. The first movement Allegro had a raw energy, a bustling athleticism entirely in keeping with the composer’s increasing confidence and horizons.

The slow movement laid open all of Beethoven’s intricate string writing and the players distinguished themselves with a disciplined reading in which the legato line of the main theme and the more rhythmic accompanying figures were smoothly balanced. The finale, with its high profile virtuoso passages breathed urgency and excitement and no one could be in any doubt of the personal rapport and musical empathy that sparked between the players and contributed to an exceptionally revealing and enjoyable performance.

And there we could have left it (some did) but more was to follow – a scheduled audience discussion and an unscheduled encore – the Barber of Seville Overture.

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Its inclusion divided opinion but it was beautifully played with the crescendos minutely controlled from first to last. The audience discussion produced many thoughtful questions and comments and elicited interesting answers in return. It was certainly good to know the geographical spread of the players and even better to learn that the rehearsal language is English.

Gareth Jones

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