If the performances weren’t themselves revolutionary, the orchestra, Daniel Barenboim’s epoch-making West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (made up of young Arab and Israeli musicians), certainly is.
And, of course, there’s the nine symphonies themselves. While the First and Second are clearly the children of Haydn and Mozart, the Third, ‘Eroica’ is, quite simply, the most genre-busting piece in the classical repertoire. From its great opening chords to the final moments of awe-struck silence at the end of the Ninth, the symphonic journey is one of constant innovation and inspiration. He changed that world not only forever but irreversibly.
Interspersed with these immortal works was a selection of pieces by the French avant-garde composer, Pierre Boulez. Invariably, these involve electronics, something he believes classical music has to master if it is to thrive. He, too, sees himself as being in the vanguard of a musical revolution.
Anthologies of quotations are chock-full of predictions that now seem utterly foolish in their lack of vision. Let me join them. The output of Boulez et al is frozen in time, as relevant to the future as Egyptian hieroglyphs are to us, and just as comprehensible.
Music should speak to the heart and the soul, as well as the brain. If it tries to address only the cerebral and the intellectual, it ceases to be music and becomes something wholly different, something arid and inaccessible to all but a few.
Beethoven would, I am sure, laud the attempt and decry the result. He wanted to inspire, he wanted to write for posterity - but he wanted people to 'get' his music and would be distraught if, like the 'Große Fuge', it was seen as impenetrable. Boulez, perversely, seems to yearn for that.
It all reminds me of the observation by Jascha Heifetz: "I play works by contemporary composers and for two reasons. First to discourage the composer from writing any more and secondly to remind myself how much I appreciate Beethoven."