Gabriel Prokofiev: Beethoven Reimagined review — uplifting 21st-century take on the composer
Friday March 13 2020, 12.01am, The Times
**** 4 STARS
What’s the best gift for musicians to bring to Beethoven’s 250th anniversary celebrations this year? Probably a string of performances so vital and fresh that his music appears newly minted, composed by someone who’s not just an alabaster bust in a music room, but a 21st-century citizen. The second-best might be Beethoven remixed or otherwise dressed in different clothes in music that honours his spirit if not all the notes he wrote.
You get a jolting example of this in the Naxos album Beethoven Reimagined, devised by the American conductor Yaniv Segal, with lively assistance from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Two items — Violin Sonata No 7 reupholstered for orchestra, and a half-hour, voice-free Fidelio Symphony — are colourful, but artificial, equivalent to painting by numbers. Neither is likely to enter the repertoire as a “new” piece by Beethoven. But the third is something else: an exciting 24-minute rampage by Gabriel Prokofiev (composer, DJ, grandson of you know who), inspired by the Ninth Symphony’s finale.
The title is BEETHOVEN 9 Symphonix Remix. The structure of the original remains, but the music is squashed, distended, stitched into electronic loops and grooves, and pushed through different musical styles from 20th-century modernism to Egyptian funk, with Prokofiev providing live electronics. The point of it all? Simply to modernise the spirit of “universal brotherhood” celebrated in the finale’s Ode to Joy. Up until the strangely weak ending, this outrageous but still loving remix certainly worked for me.