Last Sunday in the Regal Cinema there was a concert of Beethoven given by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. The works performed were the Leonora Overture No. 1 (for a change) and Symphonies No. 3 and No. 8. It is interesting to note that the Authenticists had not had their say. The “Eroica” came last in spite of Beethoven's preface (in Italian, which might account for its being ignored) requesting that this Symphony, purposely written at greater length than usual, may be performed nearer the beginning than the end of the concert, in case, with the audience fatigued by preceding pieces, the Symphony may fail to make its intended effect. However, in these days, when everyone is fatigued merely by the responsibility of being alive, such a minor inconvenience as a delay in the delivery of a symphony is taken easily in one’s stride. But not many of us could vie in intellectual stamina with the Prince von Lobkowitz and Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia who insisted on hearing the symphony played three times over in one evening—an interval being made only because the orchestra demanded some supper before settling down to the third session.
No; somehow, one is always on the lookout for that little bit extra, spurious though it may be, that turns the act of interpretation into one of creation, that is, the excitement and distractions of actual performance. So it gave rather an old-world feeling to see Sir Adrian Boult adopt an almost studied pose of indifference or laissez-faire, and appear to let the orchestra severely alone. I visualised a scroll in his grasp, not a baton. But, in fact, both conductor and players had evidently conspired together beforehand to give the closest attention to the works in hand; fortepianos and off-the-beat sforzandos were all duly registered; Beethoven was allowed, nay encouraged, to speak for himself. So although one’s craving for a sauce piquante was not indulged, the concert was, to be sure, in all other respects highly satisfactory.