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Conductor John Eliot Gardiner has a reputation of being difficult to work with. His penchant for demeaning musicians cost him at least one job offer, director of the U.K.’s Opera North, when the orchestra flatly refused to play for him. This partly explains how one of the most prolific conductors of our time—he’s recorded more than 250 albums—has never fronted a major orchestra. But the main reason is because he doesn’t want to. A true control freak, Gardiner has always preferred to lead groups of his own creation: the Monteverdi Choir, the English Baroque Soloists, and most recently, the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. All reflect his pioneering and monomaniacal interest in early classical music: He once performed 200 Bach cantatas in one year. (Eccentrics seem to run in the family: His father, Rolf Gardiner, was a prominent British fascist with an unbridled passion for organic farming.) For today’s performance of Beethoven’s third and fifth symphonies and the overture to Egmont, Gardiner will offer the “historically informed performance” (HIP) that has become his signature; it involves drawing from archival sources in order to play pieces as the composer originally intended. The result is, of course, entirely subjective, but Gardiner delights in tweaking classical audiences with unfamiliar arrangements of familiar symphonies. Whatever his take on Beethoven, it will probably be weird. The Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique performs at 3 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW. $39-$100. wpas.org. (202) 785-9727.