Which brings me to the heart of this recording: Beethoven. Too often in the quest to make classical music more “accessible,” the approach is to ask “how is this relevant to today?,” and the result is to water down the art. Op. 131 remains infectious because the world today is still relevant to Beethoven, even if most people don’t know it. (Does that sound elitist? I hope so.) The quality of late Beethoven resides in its emotional search through life that draws out the depths of sadness, exuberance, and strivings in its music: something that is universal no matter what the era. Conservatory technique, while of course necessary, can ever quite capture this raw quality, and ultimately performers must make their own connections with the music.
You might guess that the reason I liked this is the whole “accessible” and “relevant” thing. You would be right. I detest both of those words in some ways. I appreciate Mr. Pearson’s ability to explain why the Beethoven is relevant though. Rather than roll his eyes, as I do, he just makes a good point.