David's Review Corner
, March 2020
The Ruins of Athens continues Leif Sagerstam’s project to record Beethoven’s works for chorus and orchestra for the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
Though now seldom performed, it was intended to be a major undertaking to mark the opening of the German theatre in Pest in 1812, this release offering the first recording of that original work with full narration. In essence it became a quasi-Singspiel with arias, duets and choruses to meet a requirement that it would help position the city of Pest as the new Athens. The idea was for the work to use, as the basis of its text, Greek mythology as seen through the eyes of August Friedrich Ferdinand von Kotzebue, a leading German writer and dramatist in the early 19th century. Lasting over fifty minutes and in sixteen sections, it calls for five speakers, soprano, bass, chorus and orchestra, and includes one very taxing aria for the soprano soloist in the role of the Greek Woman, here taken by Reetta Haavisto, with the excellent bass, Juha Kotilainen, taking the part of the Chief Priest The work was then used again, but reshaped to form the celebratory music for the 1822 occasion of the inauguration of the Josephstadt Theatre in Vienna. That did demand a new and substantial overture that became known as the Consecration of the House. That, and three other pieces related to the original work, form a valuable addendum to this performance of The Ruins. I have the highest admiration for Leif Segerstam in his conducting of this Beethoven series, and of the orchestra and chorus from the Finnish city of Turku. Here they are enthusiastic in their performance of a score that was not the composer at his most inspired, and they have an excellent recording team. An absolute ‘must have’ for the anniversary celebration. © 2020 David’s Review Corner