In Parallels and Paradoxes, a 2002 book of conversations between Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said, Barenboim presents his vision of music history as a continuum, with each major composer linked to the others in a constant flow of experimentation and expansion. This view doesn't have a lot of traction among American composers, who don't feel history's tug so strongly, but it's still powerful in Europe. Barenboim brings this idea of perpetual development to any work he performs, and especially to Beethoven's. This weekend he and the CSO begin a series of four different programs, also called "Parallels and Paradoxes," in which they'll examine the connections between Beethoven and his fellow radical Schoenberg. The first installment is the blockbuster, featuring bass-baritone Robert Holl in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Schoenberg's A Survivor From Warsaw, scored for narrator, men's chorus, and orchestra. Holl's voice has grown since he recorded the Beethoven for Teldec in 1991, and he gave a thrilling performance in Berlioz's Romeo et Juliette with Boulez in December. The unifying thread in this program is monumentality, the use of massed forces to state universal truths, but the contrast between the works is just as overwhelming: the Schoenberg, in which a dazed narrator tells of being beaten by German soldiers in the Warsaw ghetto, becomes a harrowing commentary on Beethoven's glorious prediction of reconciliation among all humanity. Thursday through Saturday, February 5 through 7, 8 PM, and Tuesday, February 10, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Steere.