Here’s the third article in my series on Beethoven’s symphonies first published in The Orange County Register in 1999.

After ‘Eroica,’ music could never be the same

By the time I wrote the essay linked above, in April of 1999, I was in the third week (naturally) of my nine-part series on the Beethoven symphonies, and beginning to feel it. Though I had done quite a bit of prior research, the actual writing of the essays was on a tight schedule requiring me to slam each one out in the period of a few days. Not easy for me at the time — and probably no breeze under any circumstances.

I remember being intimidated writing about the “Eroica,” and at least partly for that reason I chose a different tack than I had taken with the First and Second symphonies in doing so. I decided to compare an original instrument recording (led by John Eliot Gardiner) with a modern instrument recording (led by Carlo Maria Giulini) and discuss some of the interpretive issues involved. The result, while interesting in detail, is probably the weakest essay in the series. But who am I to say?

Gardiner, as you know, was coming to town shortly after my series reached its completion to conduct all nine symphonies. Naturally, an interview was set up. Unbeknownst to me, a flak from the Philharmonic Society, which was presenting Gardiner’s performances, sent him a copy of my “Eroica” essay before I interviewed him. Even worse, he read it.

Gardiner apparently took issue with the essay (and I can’t say I blame him — I found his recording lacking), because he proved to be an uncooperative and prickly interviewee who objected more or less to every question I posed. It was uncomfortable.

The interview article turned out OK, though. Thanks to Gardiner I learned that if your interviewee is pissed, you get good quotes.