Götterfunken

Eliane Rodrigues piano
Nina Smeets piano

Release Date: November 12, 2021
Catalog #: NV6382
Format: Digital & Physical
Classical
Chamber
Piano

Inspired by a transcription by composer Franz Liszt, GÖTTERFUNKEN employs the duality of two grand pianos to reimagine and reinterpret Beethoven’s revered Ninth Symphony. As mother and daughter, pianists Eliane Rodrigues and Nina Smeets infuse their own personal flair with Rodrigues’s arrangement, following the path Beethoven paved while connecting his work to the present day with small instances of improvisation throughout that reflect his original stylistic preferences. Conceptualized in the age of social distancing, GÖTTERFUNKEN was arranged not only to reunite Rodrigues and Smeets through music, but the world as a whole with Beethoven’s magnum opus.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Symphony No. 9: I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso Ludwig Van Beethoven, arr. Eliane Rodrigues Nina Smeets, piano 1; Eliane Rodrigues, piano 2 17:02
02 Symphony No. 9: II. Molto vivace Ludwig Van Beethoven, arr. Eliane Rodrigues Nina Smeets, piano 1; Eliane Rodrigues, piano 2 12:33
03 Symphony No. 9: III. Adagio molto e cantabile Ludwig Van Beethoven, arr. Eliane Rodrigues Nina Smeets, piano 1; Eliane Rodrigues, piano 2 19:23
04 Symphony No. 9: IV. Finale Ludwig Van Beethoven, arr. Eliane Rodrigues Nina Smeets, piano 1; Eliane Rodrigues, piano 2 29:16

Recorded April 7 – 9, 2021 in the Blauwe Zaal of deSingel in Antwerp, Belgium, on two Steinway Model D concert grand pianos.

Piano tuner Ortwin Moreau moreau-pianoservice.be

Artistic director and sound engineering Korneel Bernolet bernolet.com

Cover photo Karine Gondim, Ernest Smeets

Package photography Ernest Smeets, Sergio Smeets,
Sanne Vanhellemont, Luc de Decker, Gabriel Ferraz

In collaboration with deSingel desingel.be/en/info/mission-vision

DE SINGEL is a welcoming arts house, a meeting place for art without borders in a changing world. In a unique building on a multifaceted arts site, DE SINGEL connects communities with artists and art practices across the globe. Building on a fascinating artistic past, DE SINGEL invites a broad audience to experience music, theatre, dance and architecture in all their variety and to discover fresh, contemporary perspectives.

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Chris Robinson

General Manager of Audio & Sessions Jan Košulič
Production Director Levi Brown
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Mastering Shaun Michaud

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Sara Warner

Artist Information

Eliane Rodrigues

Pianist

From an early age, it was noticeable that Rio de Janeiro-born pianist ELIANE RODRIGUES was a child prodigy: she started composing at three years old, played her first recital at five, and performed with an orchestra at the ages of six and seven. From then on, she won prizes at numerous regional and national competitions, going on to win the special prize at the Van Cliburn Competition in the United States when she was just 18. She came in fifth place at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 1983 and was elected as the people’s number one favorite in 2020, a vote consisting of the top 30 most memorable moments of the competition’s history.

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Nina Smeets

Nina Smeets

Pianist

When NINA SMEETS makes music, she fully expresses the feelings coming from her heart and soul. She combines a fresh, delicate, and clear sound with a full range of musical colors. Her ability to mesmerize the audience with pure, sincere, and touching performances makes her an artist of unconditional value. Smeets devotes herself fully to music. She’s not only a performer, but also a passionate composer. After the release of her solo piano book and album, Project Reborn, Smeets’s music was nominated for an award in 2016.

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Notes

Two people. Two personalities. Two pianos. One heart.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve seen so much sadness and pain that I wanted to share a moment of joy, love, and friendship. The only thing that came to mind and heart was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, a version for two pianos with my daughter, Nina.

My arrangement is not a literal transcription of the orchestral score. Rather, it’s based on what I hear and feel when listening to the orchestral music and Franz Liszt’s arrangement for two pianos. The main goal was to follow in Beethoven’s footsteps and connect his work to the present day; to achieve what he would have wanted: to unite all people with just one simple melody.

— Eliane Rodrigues

Götterfünken, a spray of divine sparks magically conjured forth by Eliane Rodrigues and Nina Smeets in the darkest hours of the COVID-19 pandemic is captured on this quite wonderful new album. Divine sparks they are indeed, in both possible senses, divinely sublime and divinely healing thanks to their origins in another world: the world of the gods.

Our COVID-struck sublunar sphere has been decidedly less than charming the past year. Fate came knocking, but Eliane Rodrigues and Nina Smeets rediscover, reinterpret, and transform the great old savior in our hour of need, the creator of the most beautiful music in the cosmos, Ludwig van Beethoven, with a panache all their own and a quality only they can aspire to. Awkward questions are answered with confidence and the thundering verses of Friedrich Schiller segue into an irresistible moment of triumph. At the same time, invisible beings mediate between Beethoven and Eliane and Nina, like angels descending from a higher reality to give us stricken mortals new hope. The miracle takes place on two pianos in an explosion of uplifting and improvised creativity.

These Götterfünken are pure magic in this period of miserable lockdown. COVID-19 forced both Rodrigues and her daughter to completely rethink all their social contacts. For months, the telephone was the only feasible way of contacting one another. This physical constraint, however, could not muzzle the creative urge of mother and daughter. Using all the possibilities of telephone and video, Eliane and Nina explored the surprising possibilities and untouched power concealed in Liszt’s transcription of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In this way a new project was born, the transfer of all the force and richness of one of the world’s most powerful musical works to two grand pianos. It has become an exceptionally faceted project, the result of a profound effort that goes to the heart of the burdensome experience of lockdown and a return to close communication from heart to heart, in warm companionship with one another.

Time and again we are bowled over by the seeming inexhaustibility of the creative invention of Eliane Rodrigues. The world of Beethoven is the most musical expression of emotion in existence, but in her painstaking examination, interpretation, and implementation of Liszt’s piano transcription, she discovers elements, unsuspected details, and moments of silence. For that is the miracle here, every bar “speaks” but there are also bars that remain silent. In the meantime, Beethoven lets all our human feelings flow, from the deepest despair to ecstatic rejoicing.

Eliane Rodrigues squares up to the music of a composer whose career is one of the best reflections of the tumultuous changes sweeping Europe as the eighteenth century merged into the nineteenth. Beethoven was well aware of the ideals of the enlightenment; he absorbed the music of Haydn and Mozart; he witnessed the French revolution from afar; he idealized Napoleon and was later disillusioned by him and lived his last 12 years under the yoke of political oppression. As a promising virtuoso pianist and composer, he was forced to stop performing because of his total deafness, a state that had already taken hold by the time he composed the ninth symphony. Despite being totally deaf, Beethoven was nonetheless fully the master of the musical language and genres of his time, and he increasingly reached the higher dimensions of his very personal own voice. He developed a style that reached new heights of drama and expression, which made him immensely popular.

The idea of giving Schiller’s Ode to Joy a place in his music had already occurred to him in 1793, but it was only in the winter of 1823 that he completed the symphony of which this poem is the climax. This grandest of Beethoven’s compositions cleared the way for the heroic compositions of Wagner and Berlioz. It is a magnificent piece, so much so that subsequent composers would feel a superstitious dread about embarking on their own ninth symphonies, as if it would tempt fate to proceed with a tenth score in the symphonic genre. For others though, the 9th Symphony was a catalyst. Beethoven’s merging of poetry and orchestral music was the starting point of Wagner’s obsession with the development of an art form that would introduce the expression of boundless sensation.

What makes this culmination of Beethoven’s life work so very special? The first notes are the violins stating the theme in D minor. “Here I am,” the music is saying. Here before you is a powerless man — the composer — alone in a huge empty space in which the world is created and fate is bound to strike.

The second part explores what has already been. It is a musical review of the past. All the defeats and moments of glory are summarized. Now and then the music pauses, just as our human spirit would do when looking back at our past, before repeating with a few variations.

In the third movement we hear the birth of the musical equivalent of a great force of love. Fanfares with the entire orchestra bring out the highly lyrical theme of the movement, as indicated by the cantabile note in the score. At first the strings play along quietly, only to take the lead as the movement continues.

The fourth movement is the moment for the divine voice, but this is only a prelude to a return to earth, to the voice of a humankind that was left orphaned and alone, seemingly downcast. A minor theme passes by. Then the universal connectedness triumphs and that, for Beethoven, and for Eliane Rodrigues too, is an exceptional opportunity to experiment with French, Italian, German, and other “styles” which had such a great influence on Beethoven’s creative spirit. Eliane Rodrigues succeeds — just like Beethoven — in significantly expanding this syncretic universal musical thinking.

With this album, Eliane Rodrigues has reached a new milestone on the road she has resolved to travel. Together with Nina Smeets, she addresses the rich material with a pleasurable and relaxing measure of self-confidence, without ignoring the development towards a climax, or even a concealed, smaller climax. The impressive relief of Beethoven’s ideas are highlighted by the clear illumination of her interpretation, ideas which are accompanied by the unanticipated yet agreeable shadowing of Nina Smeets. No opportunity for a slight improvisation is left unused, although these are always subservient to Beethoven’s intentions and the stylistic paradigms he is using in the score at that particular moment. This is quite the opposite of a capricious performance. Every note has its unique place, and every rest and silence is an expression of something you never heard before when listening to Beethoven’s magnum opus.

Beethoven was a rebellious composer who rejected standard classical practices so that he could write with emotion. Eliane Rodrigues’ performance of this transcription raises it to new heights and confers a wealth of lyricism on it, which allows Beethoven’s heroic ideal and experiment to resound in all its glorious wonder. This album may without a doubt be called the highpoint of her career.

— Bart Stouten, radio KLARA (VRT) presenter and author.
Find him on the web at: schrijversgewijs.be/schrijvers/stouten-bart/ and facebook.com/BartStoutenKLARA/

Translation to English by the Translation Agency Van Lokeren