That is normal. I don’t have to apologize for that. My first ideals were what I heard Furtwängler do. I’ve heard him often, during rehearsals and concerts. It has shaped my musical world; it was magic. But little by little I discovered that there are other ways of interpreting Beethoven’s music that are at least as motivated by what he wrote.
It’s not easy for a conductor, or for any musician who has the task of interpreting this music, to get on Beethoven’s wavelength, because you have so many memories, so many ideas about the music of what you’ve heard. You have to free yourself from that when you look ahead. It requires you to change your mind, but I think we should. Once you get used to that, you’ll discover new expressions in music that might not have been so obvious a hundred years ago.
What about the fermata on the last of the four notes in the motif?
From a musicological point of view, the fermata shows that tempo no longer exists. What really says how long a fermata is, in this case, is how long the arc is. When the bow is at the end, you have to stop unless you want to do two bows, which some people do. I think that misses the point because to hold the fermata with a single downward bend requires great muscle control. If you do two, you don’t have to have that tension in your arm; it’s too easy.
Why do you think Beethoven remains such an obsession for so many of us?
You could write a whole book about that, but one thing is characteristic for me. We know that Beethoven was a sufferer, but he never expresses his suffering in his music, as Mahler does. You hear it in every measure of Mahler – I suffer, I suffer, I suffer – and it is beautiful the way he does it.
Beethoven was a different type of person. He doesn’t show his emotions and that makes it more objective. It can represent everyone’s suffering, not just his own, but mine, the suffering of the whole society. The suffering of today, for example in Ukraine. It can symbolize anything. That helps it to survive the personal situation of the composer, or the personal situation of the interpreter. It’s something we as humans go through.