GTIN13: 0190295975098
Verschijningsdatum: 26. augustus 2016
Aantal discs 5
Aantal tracks: 37
Speelduur: 367:27

Beethoven was Wilhelm Furtwängler’s guiding musical force. In his interpretations of the symphonies, the conductor generates irresistible dramatic momentum – and a constant sense of imaginative freshness – through the interrelationship of form, harmony, texture, rhythm and tempo. These recordings, all made in the late 1940s and early 1950s, in the Musikverein in Vienna and at concerts in London, Bayreuth and Stockholm, were newly remastered in 2010, bringing their sound more alive than ever before.

1. Symphony no 1 in C major, Op. 21 by Ludwig van Beethoven 
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Period: Classical
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria
2. Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36 by Ludwig van Beethoven 
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Period: Classical
Written: 1801-1802; Vienna, Austria
3. Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 “Eroica” by Ludwig van Beethoven 
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Period: Classical
Written: 1803; Vienna, Austria
4. Symphony no 4 in B flat major, Op. 60 by Ludwig van Beethoven 
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Period: Classical
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria
5. Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven 
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Period: Classical
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria
6. Symphony no 6 in F major, Op. 68 “Pastoral” by Ludwig van Beethoven 
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Written: 1808
7. Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92 by Ludwig van Beethoven 
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Period: Classical
Written: 1811-1812; Vienna, Austria
8. Symphony no 8 in F major, Op. 93 by Ludwig van Beethoven 
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Period: Classical
Written: 1812; Vienna, Austria
9. Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op. 125 “Choral” by Ludwig van Beethoven 
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Period: Classical
Written: 1822-1824; Vienna, Austria 

Disk 1 (CD)

  • 1 1. Allegro molto – Allegro con brio
    07:56 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 2 2. Andante cantabile con moto
    07:23 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 3 3. Menuetto: Allegro molto e vivace
    03:52 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 4 4. Adagio – Allegro molto e viviace
    06:25 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 5 1. Allegro con brio
    16:11 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 6 2. Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
    17:22 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 7 3. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
    06:31 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 8 4. Finale: Allegro molto – Poco andante – Presto
    12:20 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van

Disk 2 (CD)

  • 1 1. Adagio molto – Allegro con brio
    10:11 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 2 2. Larghetto
    11:11 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 3 3. Scherzo: Allegro
    04:04 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 4 4. Allegro molto
    06:59 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 5 1. Adagio – Allegro vivace
    10:41 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 6 2. Adagio
    11:49 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 7 3. Allegro vivace – Trio: Un poco meno allegro
    06:01 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 8 4. Allegro ma non troppo
    07:35 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van

Disk 3 (CD)

  • 1 1. Allegro con brio
    08:37 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 2 2. Andante con moto
    11:21 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 3 3. Allegro
    06:03 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 4 4. Allegro – Presto
    09:51 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 5 1. Poco sostenuto – Vivace
    13:07 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 6 2. Allegretto
    10:19 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 7 3. Presto – Assai meno presto
    08:40 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 8 4. Allegro con brio
    06:55 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van

Disk 4 (CD)

  • 1 1. Erwachen heiterer Gefühle bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande: Allegro non troppo
    11:56 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 2 2. Szenen am Bach: Andante molto mosso
    13:27 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 3 3. Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute: Allegro
    05:58 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 4 4. Gewitter, Sturm: Allegro
    04:08 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 5 5. Hirtengesang. Frohe, dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm: Allegretto
    09:28 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 6 1. Allegro vivace e con brio
    08:06 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 7 2. Allegro scherzando
    04:34 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 8 3. Tempo di menuetto
    05:51 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 9 4. Allegro vivace
    07:35 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van

Disk 5 (CD)

  • 1 1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
    18:02 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 2 2. Molto vivace
    12:05 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 3 3. Adagio molto e cantabile
    19:40 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 4 4. Presto – Allegro assai – Allegro ma non roppo – Presto – Recitativo – Allegro assai – Allegro assai vivace – …
    25:13 Furtwängler,Wilhelm/WP/SPO/Schwarzkopf,E. Beethoven, Ludwig van



Beethoven 9 symphonies

  • Performer: Luba Orgonasova, Anne Sofie von Otter, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Gilles Cachemaille, The Monteverdi Choir
  • Orchestra: Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
  • Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (September 20, 1994)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Archiv Produktion
  • ASIN: 439 900 2
 Toscanini was probably the first conductor to record the Beethoven symphonies to the accompaniment of a publicly stated agenda; the old, unstated premise ”Beethoven: a personal view” replaced by an evangelist’s determination to give us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It was not an historicizing agenda, though it was an anti-romantic one and, to some extent, anti-German. Nor could it be easily replicated; though in 1962 Karajan and a rejuvenated Berlin Philharmonic came close to mirroring it in what was the gramophone’s first integrally packaged subscription set of the Nine.
It was the arrival of period performance that reintroduced the idea of a public agenda. And what an agenda! At times, the list of items to be considered—of wrongs to be righted—has looked more like a supermarket check-out roll than Toscanini’s simple sheet of Milanese vellum.
The new Archiv set conducted by John Eliot Gardiner—a remarkable set, that I suspect many will rate as Mr Knightley rates Emma Woodhouse ”faultless in spite of her faults”—comes with its own lengthy agenda. The tone is set by Peter Czorny’s booklet essay ”In the Spirit of Rediscovery”. The recordings are offered, he tells us, in the hope of transporting the listener back ”to that moment when this music burst forth into a world of heroes, wars and revolution, creating its own world of the sublime and ineffable”. It is a theme that is developed by Gardiner himself in a characteristically robust and contentious 20-minute talk on the project that comes gratis on a sixth CD.
At one point in his talk, Gardiner suggests that Beethoven wanted his musicians to live dangerously. To push them to their limits, he avers, ”was part of his whole aesthetic purpose”. It is an idea that has some peculiar consequences in the new cycle. A live performance of the Fifth Symphony—a performance that defies the moderating influence of many of Beethoven’s written tempo markings and even occasionally upgrades what are already fairly urgent metronome markings—burns more or less consistently at white heat. It is a tour de force. Elsewhere, though, the approach generates a terrible feeling of musical enforcement. Yet when Gardiner stands back from the fray—feeling the music urgently but naturally along a pulse that is his own and the orchestra’s, as he does in the Seventh Symphony—the results can be finer still. The new Seventh is not merely a tour de force: it is, by any reckoning, a great performance.
Sometimes—as in the First and Fourth Symphonies—the compulsion to live dangerously sits cheek-by-jowl with wiser counsel. The metronome mark for the slow movement of the Fourth, quaver=84, is palpably too fast and Gardiner ignores it in favour of the relaxed but by no means staticquaver=69 favoured by conductors like Karajan (in 1962), Toscanini and Weingartner. The result is playing of great tenderness and imagination. The passage cited by Gardiner in his interview on page 14 (Adagio, bars 60-68, 5’17” ff) is especially beguiling.
Roger Norrington, whose approach to these scores seems to me to reveal a keener feel for the everyday dress and furnishings of period Beethoven, treats the Adagio as an exquisite period dance. He is quite close to the printed metronome; but on grounds of style, rather than dogma.
It is very different, though, in the case of the Andante cantabile con moto of the First Symphony. This movement (metronome mark quaver=120) has generally been played at too lugubrious a tempo (Furtwangler 84, Toscanini a leisurely 96), though Karajan broke the mould in his 1962 recording with a beautifully flowing quaver=104. Norrington, as urbane here as in the first movement of the symphony, manages mm 114; Harnoncourt, nailing his colours to the fence, settles for mm 108, a charming but by no means inexpressive reading markedly similar to Karajan’s. By contrast, Gardiner is uncompromising. He goes for mm 120. The result is a route-march; a delectable serenade is turned into marionette music.
The modern preoccupation with Beethoven’s famously fallible metronome marks at the expense of his famously exact written tempo instructions has long baffled me. Even where a half-decent contemporary performance was a possibility (an assumption that rules out most of the Ninth Symphony), Beethoven was now so deaf he could check neither the accuracy with which his calculations had been made and conveyed, nor their effectiveness in performance.
The finale of the Fourth Symphony is a fairly representative battleground. The marking is Allegro ma non troppo; quick but not too quick. (Minim=63-6 might be a rough translation.) Beethoven’s printed metronome is minim=80, an Allegro molto. A simple miscalculation or a cruel piece of musical revisionism? It is impossible to say. I don’t know whether Toscanini was the first conductor to opt for out-and-out speed here. He was certainly the most influential, but even he only brought it off successfully on rare occasions. Thus, though his 1939 BBC SO recording (Biddulph, 5/94) is a miracle of elegant high-speed articulation, his 1951 NBC version sounds desperately hard-driven. Karajan’s 1962 recording is another miracle of high-speed articulation, beautifully poised; but he never tried to repeat the trick; the 1977 remake (DG, 4/88) is a buoyant but non troppo minim=66.
The new Gardiner is very quick indeed, exciting but joyless. Of course, the fact that he can articulate the music at all at this speed is not only a tribute to his players; it also partly validates his claim that a 60-strong ensemble of old instruments is capable of achieving exceptional clarity of rhythmic and instrumental detailing. It is purest nonsense, though, to claim, as he does, that these attributes are unique to old instruments. Toscanini’s 1939 Fourth is just one of a long list of recordings one could cite that prove otherwise. ”What you lose in opulence, you gain in transparency and rhetoric,” says Gardiner. I don’t know whether the Vienna Philharmonic under Karl Bohm (DG, 12/91) can be branded ‘opulent’, though it has to be said they paint the Pastoral Symphony in richer colours and in greater detail than Gardiner does here. Oddly, in a set that is for the most part stunningly well recorded in a variety of shrewdly chosen locations, the first movement of the Pastoral has rather a lot of murkily distant wind playing. (Several crucial key-changing entries in the development virtually go by the board.) And what of those many seemingly otiose details of orchestral colour with which Beethoven so carefully peppers his score? The ten bars of pizzicato crotchets he gives to the second violins at bar 376 in the recapitulation of the first movement, for example. It is Bohm not Gardiner who, like the old countryman in Thomas Hardy’s Afterwards, notices such things.
Of course, it is naughty to seize on such a detail; yet the sometimes hubristic claims made by Gardiner on behalf of his own music-making do occasionally call for modest qualification. In general, his orchestra, which shares some musicians with Norrington’s London Classical Players, is a virtuoso band capable of astonishing feats of sonority and articulation. The fact that one or two of these performances are live is an earnest of how much things have progressed in the last decade. Which is not to say that work of the LCP under Norrington sounds dated. There are moments when the LCP’s solo wind playing has a bloom and finish to it that isn’t entirely matched on the Gardiner set. Nor am I any more convinced here than I was in Gardiner’s recording of Brahms’s Deutsches Requiem (Philips, 4/91) that the string sound we have here in certain espressivo or cantabile passages is either agreeable or authentic. The awed sotto voce in the Pastoral Symphony’s hymn-like coda sounds very prim. Nor do the first and second violins have quite the weight of tone one ideally needs in the flashing swordplay of the Seventh Symphony’s final bars. There is nothing ‘opulent’ about the playing of the Vienna Philharmonic under Rafael Kubelik or Carlos Kleiber (two conductors who divide their fiddles antiphonally—something that, astonishingly, Harnoncourt declines to do). The Vienna sound is, in fact, extraordinarily spare; but it also tougher, more resilient, than that of the ORR.
Inevitably, the new set makes several claims on the textual front. (Jonathan del Mar is Gardiner’s principal adviser.) These, too, may occasionally seem peremptory to collectors who have a wider knowledge of extant recordings than the present team either possesses or requires. Not that this in any way invalidates the sharpness of Gardiner’s insights or the keenness with which they are executed.
Two examples are worth citing, both from the Ninth Symphony. In his talk Gardiner illustrates the marvellous diminuendo effect—the sound retreating into the distance—of the timpani interventions near the start of the second half of the Scherzo. It seems that what Beethoven wrote here were not accents but diminuendo marks. Gardiner calls this a revelation. It is certainly not often heard, though anyone who has Kurt Masur’s 20-year-old Leipzig reading of the Ninth will be familiar with the effect. (Masur once did a good deal of first-hand scholarly research on Beethoven—see his 1968 essay ”Autograph und Druck” in Musik und Gesellschaft.)
Gardiner has also taken a bold initiative on the question of the tempo for the tenor’s Alla marcia in the finale of the Ninth. Quite simply, he takes the metronome 84 to be a dotted minim, not a dotted crotchet. Again, this isn’t a new idea, nor does Gardiner actually take 84 as his figure. To judge from recorded performances, the 1937 live London recording (EMI, 9/85—nla) in particular, Furtwangler—one of the work’s finest interpreters—took a broadly similar view of the problem. That said, I haven’t heard the Alla marcia and the subsequent effortless graduation to the fugato realized with such logic and panache as it is here. Norrington took the opposite solution, conducting the Alla marcia at crotchet=84 as a painfully slow march, with a dirge-like fugato. Hardly an Allegro assai vivace. But, then, I prefer Norrington in the Trio of the second movement. Where Gardiner gabbles, Norrington, like Klemperer (EMI, 8/90) before him, treats the Trio as a pastoral interlude, a view that the orchestration seems to validate.
Symphony No. 1. The opening is superbly judged. Gardiner doesn’t overplay the Adagio molto, thus avoiding the over-romantic, world-weary feel of Harnoncourt at this point. The Allegro con brio, always something of an awkward customer and often played with a fatal languor by members of the old German School, is pretty quick. Like Toscanini, Gardiner regards the metronome mark crotchet=112 as achievable. In practice, there is a slightly conscripted feel to the playing, especially in the second subject group where the phrasing sounds pinched. At a slightly slower tempo, Norrington brings out the unenforced joy of the music, its kinship with the dance. After his absurdly brisk reading of the second movement (see above), Gardiner goes on to conduct dazzlingly successful accounts of the Scherzoand finale.
Symphony No. 2. This was the first symphony to be recorded and is very fine throughout, as indeed are the rival performances by Norrington (the coupling of Symphonies Nos. 2 and 8 was a Gramophone Award winner) and Harnoncourt. By following the written tempo markings and his own musical instincts Gardiner produces a perfomance of the first movement that, if anything, opens out the drama even more compellingly: the slow introduction measured, the allegro con brio brimming with energy, self-evidently elated by its own new-found reach. In the Larghetto, he doesn’t attempt what is apparently a faulty metronome mark (quaver=92) nor does he render the movement interminable in the German style. Toscanini’s flowing songful account (mm=80) was always an agreeable solution; but given finely nurtured playing mm=84 can produce an ideal blend of motion and repose as Karajan demonstrated in his 1977 cycle (DG, 12/87). This is Norrington’s tempo, and Gardiner’s. Harnoncourt is slower in this movement, and more mannered.
Symphony No. 3. More revolutionnaire than romantique. A very fast first movement gets within spitting distance of another impossible metronome mark. That and keen texturing undoubtedly make for a tremendous sense of dramatic urgency. There is also an unerringly placed climax at bar 671 (15’04”), a crucial point of arrival, ignored by many interpreters. Unfortunately, there is also too little accommodation en route of the rich cargo of ideas that Beethoven has shipped into this movement. Gardiner’s rough-and-ready preparation for the recapitulation is a case in point. The imaginatively charged bridge passage for solo horn and flute over a pizzicato bass needs to be played with the utmost poise. Toscanini has it, not least because his basic pulse (mm=52) is brisk but never hectic. In their haste to get to the recapitulation itself, Gardiner and his players are decidedly unpoised. Gardiner says he abandoned an attempt to play the Funeral March at the printed metronome mark. Still, he isn’t far off it, and it remains pretty blank and inexpressive. Norrington is equally quick in these two opening movements, but he has greater litheness in the first and makes more of the strange mood of the Funeral March in the second. Both conductors are superb in the last two movements; but these are considerably less than half the story where the Eroica is concerned.
Symphony No. 4. An unusually quick introductory and brisk Allegro vivace. Gardiner treats the pivotal drum entry before the recapitulation atmospherically—closer to Karajan than to Norrington with his Gothic, dynamically exaggerated death-rattle. Glorious slow movement, impossibly quick finale.
Symphony No. 5. Here is the stuff of which revolutions are made. Where Harnoncourt takes a rather old-fashioned view of the piece and where Norrington tends to overplay his hand with yet more unscheduled interventions by gung-ho timpani and brass, Gardiner plays the piece pretty straight, and at white heat. The orchestra is superb, helped by the Francophone bias of its sound base. That said, the Scherzo (which has its repeat) is surely too fast. It starts briskly and not especially quietly (Berlioz said of the opening should ”fascinate like the gaze of a mesmerizer”). At the entry of the main theme at bar 19 the horns blaze away at a tempo faster than the metronome or the Allegro marking. The pace drops back for the Trio, which is just as well since the strings are hard-pressed to articulate clearly. The finale is also very fast, again ahead of what is generally regarded as a good metronome. The only other great conductor I recall doing this is Szell. I am not sure this is the whole story as far as the Fifth is concerned. There is a grandeur to the Scherzo-cum-finale, over which Beethoven laboured so long, that could be seen to reflect a vision (Hegelian, to be precise) that transcends the politics of revolution. Still, for its eclat terrible, this is unbeatable. The slow movement is also superbly shaped and directed.
Symphony No. 6. Despite some lovely playing in the slow movement and a general air of brisk efficiency, this is a rather joyless account of the Pastoral. Nor is it at all a spiritualy uplifting one, as Klemperer’s is (EMI, 8/90) or Giulini’s (Sony, 5/94). The scherzo—”A merry gathering of country folk”—is a very high speed affair. At such a pace the various amusing false entries rather lose their point; to play in this village band you would need to be a virtuoso, and teetotal to boot. I am reminded here of an old New York PO player who said that when Mahler conducted this movement it was jolly, whereas Toscanini was just waiting for the storm to come up.
Symphony No. 7. A glorious performance. The introduction sets the scene with an ideal blend of weight and anticipation. The Vivace has a splendid dance feel and a power that is utterly unforced. Scherzoand finale are also superbly paced. The Allegretto is eloquent with a sense of barely sublimated grieving. Marvellous brooding basses and fine, veiled colourings. The recording is magnificent, finer than the Norrington which has a rather foggy finale, The Archiv recording was made in All Hallows, Gospel Oak: empty, there is a splendidly open ‘ring’ to the acoustic.
Symphony No. 8. In the Trio of the third movement, the slightly tentative wind choir sounds as though it has been left in the vestry of All Hallows. In general, the symphony thrives on the Gardiner approach, though in the finale the emphasis is again on high-speed locomotion. Gardiner even outpaces Karajan (1977—DG, 8/87), the previous holder of the course record. In neither case is the sound of the respective string sections 100 per cent focused and ‘seated’. (Compare the superior focus and articulation of the 1962 Karajan version.) 72 bars a minute, Harnoncourt’s tempo and Karajan’s in 1962, is quite fast enough here. In this movement, metronome chasing merely fazes the players and foreshortens the listener’s perspective on the movement’s huge architectural reach.
Symphony No. 9. I have never heard the first movement dispatched as rapidly as it is here, not even by Toscanini. This is another example of a dubious metronome (crotchet=88) being preferred to a very specific tempo marking: Allegro, ma non troppo, un poco maestoso. In fact, Gardiner doesn’t get the bit between the teeth until bar 51, so the celebrated introduction has room to breathe. (Norrington is the reverse; he begins at a disquieting crotchet=88 but then proceeds to modify the pace during the course of what is a far more lyrically and dramatically various reading of the first movement than Gardiner’s.) Of course, Gardiner isn’t entirely inflexible and he and his players show remarkable skill in making busy detail ‘tell’. Yet a lot does go by the board. For instance, the exquisite and wholly unexpected interlude in the coda (bars 469-77; 11’01” – 11’14”) when horn and oboe play a kind of pastoral plaint. Vaughan Williams saw here an anticipation of the finale’s joy theme; ”Suddenly the clouds lift and a mirage, like a vision of joy, appears for a brief moment”. Not in Gardiner’s performance, where the placing of horn and oboe is vague and ill-focused. The great French conductor Francois-Antoine Habeneck (much mentioned by Gardiner) who pioneered accurate and responsible Beethoven interpretation in the 1830s is said to have brought a singing quality to the intricate thematic detail of this astonishing movement, a movement that orchestras in places like London and Dresden had hitherto gabbled mercilessly.
The slow movement is also played very quickly. Perhaps there is a point to this, but I fail to see what it is. As both Klemperer and Toscanini have demonstrated, it is possible to play the movement swiftly and unsentimentally, yet feelingly too. However, Gardiner’s finale is superb. Tempos are unerringly chosen, the choral singing is beyond criticism, and there is a rare expressive quality to the singing of the solo quartet. Still, superb as Gardiner’s account of the finale is, neither he (driven first movement and near-meaningless slow movement) nor Norrington (eccentric finale) can be said to conduct a wholly satisfactory Ninth. Harnoncourt, by contrast, conducts a performance that is—slightly untypically—more or less without eccentricity, consistently fine.
Given the quality of the playing of the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, the often exceptional Archiv sound and the single-mindedness of Gardiner’s approach, I wasn’t surprised to find at the end of my three-week stint of listening that his set emerged ahead on points over the Norrington and Harnoncourt. Which is not to say that he would get my vote as the ‘period’ choice over Norrington, whose EMI set, for all its several oddities, has something of the evocative power of a Balzac novel. (Balzac once said Beethoven was ”the only man who ever made me feel jealous”.)
And if that is an accolade Gardiner might expect to covet: well, it strikes me that he is at his finest—in the Seventh Symphony or the Second—when he is out of costume, competing, no holds barred, with the big boys. At best, the physical and intellectual vitality of his music-making brings us close to the Ding an sich, the inexplicably wonderful thing-in-itself. It is a best that occurs only intermittently in the new set. That it occurs at all is perhaps a sufficient miracle.


Beethoven – The Symphonies

GTIN13: 0028947786436
Verschijningsdatum: 30. maart 2010
Aantal discs 5
Aantal tracks: 38
Speelduur: 329:19

‘It seems almost incredible,’ writes John Eliot Gardiner in the press handout accompanying this set, ‘that these, the most celebrated symphonies ever composed, are performed regularly from texts that correspond neither to Beethoven’s first nor last wishes, as evinced by the autograph scores or by the first printed editions with corrections in Beethoven’s hand.’

These new recordings have used Clive Brown (Fifth Symphony) and Jonathan Del Mar (all the others) to re-examine all the extant source material and to correct the ‘standard’ texts of Breitkopf & Härtel which, everybody assumed, transmitted the Urtext of Beethoven’s symphonies. The results are spectacular, like the recent cleanings of the Sistine Chapel or the Cappella Brancacci in Florence. Beethoven’s symphonies have emerged cleansed of wrong notes, wrong phrasings, wrong dynamic marks and even wrong tempi. The most glaring wrong tempo comes in the finale of the Ninth, with the alla marcia tenor solo, where the metronome marking which Beethoven dictated to his nephew, Carl, was misread so that the passage has always been taken far too slowly. (Details may be consulted in the exemplary booklet.) The most interesting, large-scale textual change concerns the Scherzo/Trio of the Fifth, now restored to its original form: scherzo/trio/scherzo/trio/transition to finale (this is the form in a set of manuscript orchestral parts corrected by Beethoven, now in the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde).

But a large part of the cleansing process must be attributed to the remarkable Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and the clear, incisive, taut readings it gives under Gardiner’s guidance. Again and again I felt as if I were hearing these warhorses for the first time. Never have Beethoven’s brilliant timpani parts seemed so aggressively original – even violent. Never have the woodwind and brass meshed so effortlessly with the strings: the balance of these CDs is impeccable.

On all accounts, therefore, this set is a triumph and certainly the most important Beethoven recording since the arrival of CD: important for getting the texts right (something we now regard as obvious in Haydn’s and Mozart’s symphonies); important for the revelatory sound of these original instruments; and especially important for the clean, unsentimental, brilliant readings by Gardiner and his orchestra. Not least, DG has given us a marvellously rounded, yet detailed sound, despite the fact that the nine symphonies were recorded at different times and places. Never was the advent of CD more triumphantly vindicated.
Performance: 5 (out of 5); Sound: 5 (out of 5)



GTIN13: 0028947758648
Verschijningsdatum: 02. juni 2008
Aantal discs 5
Aantal tracks: 38
Speelduur: 345:12

Reviewing Abbado’s ineffectually eclectic account of the Ninth Symphony in his mid-1980s Vienna Philharmonic Beethoven cycle, I wrote: ‘Next time, he should do everything his way.’ The new cycle is certainly different – quicker, lighter-toned, more ‘Italianate’ – the Ninth Symphony radically so, something flagged in advance by Abbado’s 1996 Salzburg Festival recording (Sony, 1/97) which uses the same orchestral and choral forces as here. By concentrating on pace, logic and transparent texturing Abbado effectively draws Beethoven into that distinguished circle of musical obsessives – Rossini, Stravinsky, Prokofiev – whose music he has always conducted as to the manner born.
The question remains, is this the Beethovenian ‘truth’ as Abbado feels it in his bones? Probably not, since in a long and absorbing interview with Wolfgang Schreiber published in the CD booklet, he articulates yet again his long-standing preoccupation with the Beethoven conducting of Wilhelm Furtwangler. Hermann Scherchen, Abbado’s teacher in the early 1960s, thought Furtwangler ‘terrible’. ‘The only good conductor for him,’ Abbado recalls, ‘was Toscanini, who did everything right: chop-chop, keep moving!’ How vehemently Abbado disagreed, and disagrees still: ‘Toscanini’s music-making was more of a schematic, technical affair … I think he was the greatest conductor for an orchestra, the most important for an ensemble. But as far as the significance of a phrase … ’
It is a curious statement, not least because ‘chop-chop, keep moving!’ is a decent description of Abbado’s new cycle, with its air-brushing out of the picture of most of the music’s autochthonous ‘German’ character. Back in 1962, the Beethoven playing of another ‘new’, ‘young’, Berlin Philharmonic was similarly fleet of foot; but Karajan (whose interpretative model was clearly Toscanini’s work with the Vienna Philharmonic in the 1930s) had been careful to graft mainly home-grown young vines onto the old German root-stock. Abbado, by contrast, appears to have favoured an ‘inclusive’, ‘internationalist’ style of recruiting and music-making. With the Berliners thus transformed into a kind of glorified Chamber Orchestra of Europe – though better schooled rhythmically than the COE in Harnoncourt’s much-praised set – the contrast with recent Beethoven cycles made in Hamburg, Dresden and Berlin by Wand, Davis and Barenboim could hardly be more marked.
It is all vaguely puzzling. The new young players who have flocked to the Berlin Philharmonic during the Abbado years may fancy they owe a diminished allegiance to the traditions forged in the von Bulow, Nikisch, Furtwangler and Karajan eras; but as his continuing talk of Furtwangler makes clear, Abbado’s own roots in the German school of Beethoven interpretation are unignorably deep.
He began his Beethoven odyssey in April 1966 when he recorded the Seventh Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic (Decca, 1/67 – nla). The performance was dismissed in these columns as dull and laboured. The tempos in the two opening movements were certainly Klemperer-like in their deliberation, but there is nothing wrong with that. The idea of the Seventh Symphony as a great harmonic drama massively built around key centres strategically remote from the home key of A (‘more like dimensions than keys’ as Robert Simpson memorably put it) is an entirely plausible one. Re-hearing the LP the other evening, I was mightily impressed by it. I also got down from the shelves the performance of the Eighth Symphony which Abbado recorded with the VPO in 1968 (Decca, 1/73 – nla). The pacing here is less controversial, but again the reading has a wonderful earthiness and humanity.
Abbado developed both readings in his 1987 remakes with the Vienna Philharmonic (DG, 4/88). Now, with his own new-look Berlin Philharmonic, it’s a case of ‘all change’. The first movement of the Seventh is now quick to the point of skittishness, the finale a hectic sprint outstripping Beethoven’s – very good – metronome mark. (Abbado’s tempos here are identical to those on Karajan’s 1983 Berlin recording. In the finale, the Abbado is the clearer of the two texturally – a fabulous performance if you can stand the pace – but in the first movement the power and narrative drive of the earlier Berlin version entirely eclipse the newcomer.) Abbado’s new account of the Eighth offers no such volte-face. Marginally more streamlined than his 1968 version, it has marginally less character. Hans Keller once remarked that the Eighth is very easy on the ear, especially if you don’t listen to it; once you do, your mind is fully occupied with the sheer pace of structural events, of violent contrasts chasing one another. Abbado’s Vienna recordings of the symphony’s epic finale are only 20 seconds slower than the new one, but it is the Vienna readings which hold pace and structure in a finer accord.
The First and Second Symphonies were recorded with reduced orchestral forces in the Philharmonie’s Chamber Music Hall. Whether ‘early’ Beethoven should be condescended to in this way is open to debate. The performances, crisp and stylish, will give a good deal of pleasure. But how characterful is the playing? Toscanini, whose tempos are identical to Abbado’s in the First Symphony’s difficult first movement, gives the introduction a much sharper dramatic profile and his Allegro con brio has a real spring in its step (the pacing and phrasing taken, quite literally, from the violins’ bow-spring). The Berlin playing under Abbado has a flatter trajectory, something which appears to inhibit the solo winds at the start of the second subject where the playing is tentative and dull.
The question of ‘character’ in the orchestral playing is something I found cropping up frequently during my comparisons with the rival Berlin and Vienna versions. I have no doubt that in the opening bars of the Second Symphony’s Larghetto some collectors will prefer the cool yellows and greys of Abbado’s young players to the russets and old golds of the Berlin orchestra in 1982 where the crescendos are steeper and the violins’ high-lying legato-staccato alternations are played with an eloquence that makes the music seem to tower above us. In the new recording of the Pastoral Symphony there is some marvellously sensitive oboe and horn playing in the Scherzo, and the ‘Storm’ is truly menacing, but there is a lack of uplift in ‘Shepherds’ Thanksgiving’. The first movement, taken at a joyously quick tempo, is again uncannily similar to the 1982 Karajan version. Here I prefer Abbado and his players in the exposition (Abbado is good at expositions), where the playing seems crisper and fresher, but I lose patience in the development. Here the ensemble-playing is routine in comparison with that of Karajan’s musicians, who take wing as if of their own volition, making marvellous music together.
Spike Hughes once likened the swift change of string sonority at bar 422 in Toscanini’s performances of the first movement of the Pastoral Symphony to the sudden reflection of the sun on a farmhouse window-pane. Fanciful stuff, but unless a conductor can articulate the sound as well as the sense of Beethoven’s symphonic world, his performances will never really touch the imagination. In the Eroica and the Fifth Symphonies, Abbado’s Berliners are never encouraged to develop the palette of sounds which these huge symphonic canvases demand. The new Fifth is only intermittently exciting (the controversial repeat of the Scherzo and Trio adding to that sense of intermittence) and it ends with a typically underprepared final chord: etiolated brass and a rattling drum. As for the Eroica, Abbado has never done a great deal with either the Funeral March (here entirely unmomentous) or the epic first movement. His 1985 recording of the first movement is strangely static, though that at least gives us time to wonder at the mighty procession of events the Vienna Philharmonic is unfurling to the view. In Berlin, after another crisply articulated exposition, we embark on what is a largely meaningless helter-skelter through the ruins.
Ironically, Abbado uses here for the first time the correct Eroica text, the coda’s spurious ‘Victory Symphony’ (bar 658) eliminated, the real climax (bar 671,15’32”) grimly placed (oldies like Monteux and Erich Kleiber used it, too, but that is by the by). Throughout the set, Abbado uses the new Bahrenreiter texts, edited by Jonathan Del Mar, with intelligence and respect – an object lesson in musical manners to others whose espousal of the edition has been little more than a PR exercise.
The Fourth Symphony, by contrast, is superbly done, a fiery reading of Apollonian loveliness, though it is worth pointing out that anyone who has Karajan’s 1962 Berlin performance (the only time Karajan played the work this way) already owns a more or less identical reading played in a more or less identical way. I don’t normally care for a quick-fire performance of the finale (the marking is Allegro ma non troppo), but even this seems plausible when, as is the case with both Karajan and Abbado, the playing is sublime and the pulse (metronome=72) binds together the first movement Allegro vivace, the third movement Trio and the finale.
There is one blot on the new Fourth’s copybook. Unless you are prepared to play the whole recording at ear-threatening volume, you will barely hear the harmonically crucial pianissimo drum rolls (8’00” et seq) in the transition to the first-movement recapitulation. Given the fact that Gunter Hermanns’s 1962 Berlin recording judges the levels to perfection, one is tempted to chuck DG’s state-of-the-art digital technology with its ‘sampling rate of 96kHz’ back in its face. At best, the new technology produces sound of astonishing transparency (I have never heard the finale of the Ninth Symphony so astutely and lucidly performed and recorded, the inner part-writing, vocal and choral, crystal-clear), but there are times when the technology’s application is more than a touch quixotic.
Though they are not advertised as such, all the recordings are live, with the exception of that of the Fourth Symphony. Musicians profess to like this because it provides ‘spontaneity’, though how many live performances are in any real sense ‘spontaneous’ is a moot point. In a set where dazzlement and deadness often vie with one another, it is the studio-made Fourth and the ‘live’ Ninth which currently stand clear in my memory.’

Disk 1 (CD)

  • 1 1. Adagio molto – Allegro con brio
    09:04 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 2 2. Andante cantabile con moto
    07:39 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 3 3. Menuetto Allegro molto e vivace
    04:34 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 4 4. Finale Adagio – Allegro molto e vivace
    05:40 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 5 1. Allegro con brio
    16:56 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 6 2. Marcia funebre Adagio assai
    14:49 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 7 3. Scherzo Allegro vivace
    05:52 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 8 4. Finale Allegro molto
    11:06 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven

Disk 2 (CD)

  • 1 1. Adagio molto – Allegro con brio
    12:14 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 2 2. Larghetto
    10:50 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 3 3. Scherzo Allegro
    04:25 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 4 4. Allegro molto
    06:02 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 5 1. Adagio – Allegro vivace
    11:34 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 6 2. Adagio
    09:48 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 7 3. Allegro vivace
    05:54 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 8 4. Allegro ma non troppo
    06:39 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven

Disk 3 (CD)

  • 1 1. Allegro con brio
    07:25 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 2 2. Andante con moto
    09:30 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 3 3. Allegro
    08:00 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 4 4. Allegro
    10:28 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 5 1. Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande: Allegro ma non troppo
    11:32 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 6 2. Szene am Bach: Andante molto mosso
    10:41 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 7 3. Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute Allegro
    05:09 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 8 4. Gewitter, Sturm Allegro
    03:26 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 9 5. Hirtengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm: Allegretto (Original Version)
    08:34 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven

Disk 4 (CD)

  • 1 1. Poco sostenuto – Vivace
    13:33 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 2 2. Allegretto
    07:40 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 3 3. Presto – Assai meno presto
    08:58 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 4 4. Allegro con brio
    08:12 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 5 1. Allegro vivace e con brio
    09:21 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 6 2. Allegretto scherzando
    04:13 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 7 3. Tempo di menuetto
    05:48 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 8 4. Allegro vivace
    07:12 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven

Disk 5 (CD)

  • 1 1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
    14:24 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 2 2. Molto vivace
    13:04 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 3 3. Adagio molto e cantabile
    12:49 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 4 4. Presto – Allegro assai (Original Version)
    05:38 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 5 4. Presto – “O Freunde nicht diese Töne” – (4. Presto)
    16:29 Abbado,Claudio/BP Ludwig van Beethoven



GTIN13: 5099991562425
Verschijningsdatum: 09. oktober 2012
Aantal discs 5
Aantal tracks: 38
Speelduur: 353:04

There are fine performances in this 2002 cycle of the Beethoven symphonies by Simon Rattle with the Vienna Philharmonic on EMI. His Fourth is delightful: gracious and lyrical from start to finish with superb playing by the V.P.O. His Fifth is dramatic: strong and direct with an unerring sense of structure. His Sixth is lovely: affectionately shaped and sculpted with particularly exquisite wind playing. His Ninth is monumental: powerful and effecting with especially glorious singing from the Birmingham Symphony Chorus. There are also some less-than-fine performances. Rattle’s First and Second are too brusque and abrupt. His Third lacks sufficient tension and momentum. His Seventh and Eighth are too sloppy and erratic. EMI’s sound is always vivid, but sometimes so loud that the climaxes come close to breaking up. On balance, this is a more than adequate and less than wholly acceptable cycle.

A quick glance at the CD catalogue is enough to confirm the feeling that a new cycle of the Beethoven symphonies, even one with the Vienna Philharmonic and Simon Rattle, is the last thing that the record industry needs right now. There are already hundreds of available versions, representing every performing style and vintage, and the choice of great interpreters is so luxurious that it inevitably raises the question: why should anyone invest in a new full-price cycle of these works? There are versions of the Eroica and the Pastoral conducted by Klemperer, the Fifth and the Seventh under Carlos Kleiber and Fürtwängler’s epic Bayreuth account of the Ninth that can be acquired much more cheaply – not to mention the period-instrument sets by Norrington, Gardiner or Brüggen, as well as the hybrid interpretations by Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and, for those who insist on up-to-date digital sound, the very different recent cycles by Abbado and Barenboim, both recorded in Berlin (with the Philharmonic and the Staatskapelle respectively) in the 1990s.

EMI has ensured that Rattle’s set certainly looks the part; the packaging is luxurious, and includes substantial essays on the music bound in a hardback book. The recordings are taken from concerts in the Musikverein in Vienna last May, just a few months before Rattle took up his new post with the Vienna Philharmonic’s arch-rival in Berlin. As you would expect from the venue, the sound is warm and resonant, but textures always remain clear, the clarity reinforced by Rattle’s separation of the first and second violins to his left and right. These performances follow those on disc by Mackerras, Abbado and David Zinman in using the new Barenreiter editions of the scores, edited by Jonathan Del Mar and published in the 1990s, which strip away a century and a half’s worth of textual inaccuracies and accretions to produce some startling changes of emphasis and perspective.

Like Harnoncourt before him, Rattle brings his experience of conducting Beethoven with both conventional and period-instrument bands into his interpretations, and the creative friction with the Vienna Philharmonic, an orchestra arguably more rooted in the 19th-century symphonic tradition than any in the world, is always fascinating. Generally, though, these are accounts in which period-instrument learning is worn lightly. Rattle has certainly pared down the usually sumptuous sound of the Vienna strings, and encouraged them to ration their vibrato, and such leanness does pay dividends, especially in the buoyancy and vigour of many of the textures in the First, Second and Fourth Symphonies. But there is also a real physicality about much of the playing, gutsy attacks (in the Eroica and the Seventh especially) and often bitingly incisive woodwind, yet Rattle is equally prepared to exploit the potential warmth of the VPO sound when appropriate in many of the slow movements.

Where Rattle does depart from his period-instrument peers is in the flexibility of his phrasing and his willingness to allow the music to find its own expressive pacing. These performances never seem self-consciously rooted in the Great Tradition, as Barenboim’s Fürtwängler-like set with the Berlin Staatskapelle seems to be, but there is much about Rattle’s approach that is quite markedly interventionist. His shaping of the music’s paragraphs is not always convincing: the Pastoral never seems to flow as naturally as it can do, while the opening of the slow movement of the Ninth is very slow indeed and some of the gear changes in the finale of the same symphony are quite abrupt. This, though, is an account of the Ninth that really does begin by prefiguring Bruckner and end by echoing The Magic Flute – as Rattle has suggested in interview. It is in this work too that one notices some of the changes wrought in Del Mar’s new edition of the score. The contra-bassoon’s big moment in the finale, for example, is heard an octave lower than usual to provide a wonderful moment of grotesquery in the context of all that heaven- storming humanism.

Though there is not a single performance here that is likely to displace the standard favourites, the totality of the cycle adds up to more than its constituent parts, and no one who invests in this new set will regret it. They will certainly hear a great orchestra being challenged and encouraged to re-imagine music it thought it knew inside out, and experience interpretations that certainly take nothing on trust.

Disk 1

  • 1 Symphony No. 1 in C, Op.21: I. Adagio molto – Allegro con brio
    08:37 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 2 Symphony No. 1 in C, Op.21: II. Andante cantabile con moto
    07:07 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 3 Symphony No. 1 in C, Op.21: III. Menuetto (Allegro molto e vivace)
    04:04 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 4 Symphony No. 1 in C, Op.21: IV. Adagio – Allegro molto e vivace
    05:36 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 5 Symphony No. 3 in E Flat, Op.55 ‘Eroica’: I. Allegro con brio
    16:21 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 6 Symphony No. 3 in E Flat, Op.55 ‘Eroica’: II. Marcia funebre (Adagio assai)
    15:14 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 7 Symphony No. 3 in E Flat, Op.55 ‘Eroica’: III. Scherzo (Allegro vivace)
    06:02 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 8 Symphony No. 3 in E Flat, Op.55 ‘Eroica’: IV. Allegro molto – Poco andante – Presto
    12:07 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker

Disk 2

  • 1 Symphony No. 2 in D, Op.36: I. Adagio – Allegro con brio
    12:03 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 2 Symphony No. 2 in D, Op.36: II. Larghetto
    10:20 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 3 Symphony No. 2 in D, Op.36: III. Scherzo (Allegro)
    03:31 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 4 Symphony No. 2 in D, Op.36: IV. Allegro molto
    06:07 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 5 Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op. 67.: I. Allegro con brio
    07:24 Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle
  • 6 Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op. 67.: II. Andante con moto
    09:07 Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle
  • 7 Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op. 67.: III. Allegro –
    04:47 Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle
  • 8 Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op. 67.: IV. Allegro – Presto
    10:38 Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle

Disk 3

  • 1 Symphony No. 4 in B Flat, Op.60: I. Adagio – Allegro vivace
    11:47 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 2 Symphony No. 4 in B Flat, Op.60: II. Adagio
    09:53 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 3 Symphony No. 4 in B Flat, Op.60: III. Allegro vivace – Trio (Un poco meno allegro)
    05:28 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 4 Symphony No. 4 in B Flat, Op.60: IV. Allegro ma non troppo
    06:37 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 5 Symphony No. 6 in F ‘Pastoral’ Op. 68: I. Allegro ma non troppo (Awakening of cheerful feelings on arriving in the count
    12:36 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 6 Symphony No. 6 in F ‘Pastoral’ Op. 68: II. Andante molto moto (Scene by the brook)
    12:20 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 7 Symphony No. 6 in F ‘Pastoral’ Op. 68: III. Allegro (Merry gathering of the country folk) –
    05:24 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 8 Symphony No. 6 in F ‘Pastoral’ Op. 68: IV. Allegro (Storm and tempest) –
    04:00 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 9 Symphony No. 6 in F ‘Pastoral’ Op. 68: V. Allegretto (Shepherds’ Song. Happy and thankful feelings after the storm)
    10:20 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker

Disk 4

  • 1 Symphony No. 7 in A, Op.92: I. Poco sostenuto – Vivace
    14:09 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 2 Symphony No. 7 in A, Op.92: II. Allegretto
    08:25 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 3 Symphony No. 7 in A, Op.92: III. Presto – Assai meno presto
    08:28 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 4 Symphony No. 7 in A Op. 92: IV. Allegro con brio
    08:50 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 5 Symphony No. 8 in F, Op.93: I. Allegro vivace e con brio
    09:29 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 6 Symphony No. 8 in F Op. 93: II. Allegretto scherzando
    03:59 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 7 Symphony No. 8 in F, Op.93: III. Tempo di menuetto
    04:46 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker
  • 8 Symphony No. 8 in F, Op.93: IV. Allegro vivace
    07:41 Sir Simon Rattle/Wiener Philharmoniker

Disk 5

  • 1 Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Choral) Op. 125: I. Allegro ma non troppo e un poco maestoso
    16:55 Barbara Bonney/Birgit Remmert/Kurt Streit/Thomas Hampson/City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus/Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Si
  • 2 Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op.125 ‘Choral’: II. Molto vivace
    11:51 Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle
  • 3 Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Choral) Op. 125: III. Adagio molto e cantabile
    17:03 Barbara Bonney/Birgit Remmert/Kurt Streit/Thomas Hampson/City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus/Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Si
  • 4 Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Choral) Op. 125: IV. Presto – Allegro assai
    06:19 Barbara Bonney/Birgit Remmert/Kurt Streit/Thomas Hampson/City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus/Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Si
  • 5 Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Choral) Op. 125: Presto ‘O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!’
    17:39 Barbara Bonney/Birgit Remmert/Kurt Streit/Thomas Hampson/City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus/Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Si



GTIN13: 0028947834922
Verschijningsdatum: 22. november 2011
Aantal discs 5
Aantal tracks: 45
Speelduur: 373:33

Several recently recorded Beethoven symphony sets use modern instruments but have strong ‘period’ influences – David Zinman was one of the first to take this approach and he also incorporated the up-to-date findings that Jonathan Del Mar included in his editions for Bärenreiter. Riccardo Chailly also uses a modern orchestra but he returns to the standard Peters scores while still showing respect for performance practice of Beethoven’s time. One of his notable predecessors at Leipzig, Franz Konwitschny, took a similar view and was perhaps the first to have recorded the music in this way. By comparison, even the famously objective Arturo Toscanini compromised a little in that he permitted the use of some of the traditional re-orchestrations; also repeat indications in the scores were not always observed. Konwitschny made the repeats (very rare in the 1960s and a matter for discussion at the time) and his strong, direct approach avoided all those time-honoured tempo changes. Sadly the record-buying public was limited in its appreciation of this for the first re-issue cut out quantities of repeats and I have yet to hear his complete performance of any symphony except No.7. There is a CD transfer that I trust has restored the cuts.

Half-a-century later Chailly is very much Konwitschny’s successor. His Beethoven symphonies recall the magnificent sound that the orchestra provided for his predecessor but with the added advantage of modern technology. There is one big difference however because, like Zinman and many current conductors, Chailly pays great attention to Beethoven’s metronome marks. This is a fairly recent trend – I do not recall it being much of an issue prior to Roger Norrington and Christopher Hogwood and recent attempts to be faithful to these markings seem sometimes to put conductors in a musical straitjacket of their own making. That is not to say that this aspect should be ignored but adoption of metronome-inspired tempos can only work when conductors feel that these are the speeds that they themselves would have chosen. We know that Chailly is influenced by them because the booklet notes go into the subject in great detail – the indications are all specified exactly – including those of No.9 which, I understand, were not published under Beethoven’s direction. On the whole the suggested tempos appear very fast but that is hardly surprising since it is well-known that a person’s thought-processes usually imagine a faster tempo than would occur in public performance. At the time Beethoven was using this form of guidance his hearing was so poor that he could scarcely hear his own music so the tempo in his mind may never have been put to the test.

Having raised some doubts about this subject I have to say that if the metronome is obeyed in Symphony No.1 the effect is overwhelmingly convincing. Chailly does just that and many other conductors perceive the music in this way too – Toscanini and Ferenc Fricsay are the earliest examples to come to mind. With Chailly, conviction is enhanced by his fierce sforzandos – a notable feature throughout the work. In movements 1, 2 and 4 Beethoven uses the effect daringly at the start of the development in each case. The Minuet is a world away from the elegance of the 18th-century dance and I admire the way in which the orchestra launches so boldly into the Trio (I forgive the inexplicable inaudibility of its early string flourishes). This is strong Beethoven, the Nineteenth Century has arrived even though the work dates from its very first year.

Power also informs Symphony No.2 and in the slow movement the metronome again fully justifies itself. Zinman and Toscanini take the same view but how strange that so few others do likewise. Around nine minutes is par for the course but Mackerras took ten and Abbado nearly 11. At Beethoven’s prescribed speed Chailly presents a light-hearted, dancing movement – somewhat akin to the lively Allegretto of Symphony No.8. Sturdy, powerful playing in the other three movements makes the work sound far more mature than usual.

In Chailly’s hands the ‘Eroica’ proves that there is no question as to Beethoven’s early compositional maturity. Driving hard, almost to the point of fury, this is Beethoven with determination. There is none of the almost ubiquitous easing for the second subject. Not surprisingly, considering the great resonance in the hall, some of the quieter entries emerge rather than strike the ear because many of the full-orchestra chords are extremely forceful. This is as impatient a performance of this first movement as I have ever heard and it is very convincing: Chailly is even a minute-and-a-half swifter than Charles Mackerras. The ‘Funeral March’ does not linger and is steady and processional throughout – Chailly is never tempted, as was his compatriot Toscanini, to speed up for the forceful sections. The scherzo is strong and Beethoven’s angry syncopations are played fiercely; in the trio the horns sweep in magnificently. The finale is a tour-de-force featuring rapid tempos and strikingly rich sound. The march-like theme at around 3½ minutes in (probably five in any other performance) fairly races forward, although the flute’s upward rushes are not as clearly defined as should be, but I was hugely impressed by the way Chailly urges the music on when he reaches the Poco andante (bar 349). Many conductors relax so much here that what follows can sound like an interpolated slow movement. With Chailly it is simply a broadening which underlines the grandeur of the theme. This is as exciting a reading of the finale as I have heard.

Robert Schumann’s reference to Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony as being “A slender Greek maiden between two Norse giants” is a useful way to compare performances. I suggested recently that judging by Mackerras’s version, Schumann seemed to be speaking of an entirely different work. Chailly differs by being sonically substantial, dramatic and full of vivid contrasts. His performance justifies Robert Simpson’s comments when he said that the music is “neither maidenly nor Greek.” The full-blooded opening movement, which commences with a beautifully hushed introduction, is followed by a swiftly flowing Adagio and a scherzo in which Chailly follows the recent tendency to ignore Beethoven’s Un poco meno Allegro marking for each of the two trios; this means that tension, once built up, is not allowed to slacken. Beethoven might perhaps have intended the non troppoaddition to the Allegro marking of the finale to be a moment of sympathy for the bassoonist in the terrifyingly rapid solo but when he came to add a metronome marking he indicated minim=84, certainly very rapid – Chailly obeys it.

There are elements of ferocity in Chailly’s readings and in No.5 this is a suitable characteristic. He does not imbue the texture with quite so much weight here and this aids the detail. It also suits the conductor’s avoidance of traditional rhetorical tempo manipulations. Indeed he stresses this aspect in the booklet saying: “All these fermatas must be kept in tempo.” His driving tempo is held unrelentingly. The slow movement is a true Andante with a beautifully judged transition to the faster speed towards the end. Chailly observes the repeats in these symphonies but, as with most conductors, he chooses not to reinstate the indication requiring a second playing of the scherzo and trio that Beethoven decided later to delete from the score. The finale is dramatic: it is urged impatiently and excitingly forward: nobility remains the prerogative of other conductors. The piccolo comes and goes but the other additional instruments – trombones and contrabassoon – are well in evidence.

I often have a problem with conductors who take the first movement of the ‘Pastoral’ Symphony quickly and with Chailly I find it particularly uncomfortable. Not only is it very swift indeed (quicker than the very fast metronome mark) but there is a sense of hurry and Chailly’s usual admirable ability to instil firmness of rhythm seems not to be evident. The feeling may reflect the “joyful” element of the music that Beethoven mentions, but haste results in unsuitable tension – this is not a relaxed day in the countryside. The choice of a swiftly flowing Brook makes sense in the second movement but peace had already been disturbed; I do like the birdsong at the end of its close though. As expected the Peasants are very lively in their dance although maybe a bit more agricultural heaviness from the bassoon would have helped. Chailly is in his element in the Storm – massive chords are supplied where required and there are admirably forceful drums. No hurrying is evident in the finale: I wish this graciousness could have been applied to the first movement.

With the exception of a faster trio section, Symphony No.7 finds Chailly taking the same tempo pattern as Carlos Kleiber in his truly great recorded performance with the Vienna Philharmonic. Recently I much admired Mackerras too and despite some questionable elements elsewhere in his complete set, Emmanuel Krivine also gave an exceptional reading. Chailly is among this admirable company too: the rhythm of the main portion of the first movement is superbly handled – a very demanding feature in performances of this work and it is achieved magnificently. The tradition of taking the succeeding Allegretto too slowly has long gone – this version is beautifully poised. The scherzo is full of fire – I like the strong entries at the start of the second section of the scherzo on its every appearance but I don’t see any reason why the second part of the trio needed to be repeated on its final appearance (Carlos Kleiber doesn’t do so and I recall praising Mackerras for avoiding it). On its second appearance Beethoven reduced the pattern of the scherzo so surely the subsequent trio should reflect the same pattern. The finale is effective when its starts attacca but Chailly – refreshingly generous with his pauses between movements – does not see the necessity; the excitement is intense however.

No.8 starts with an interesting fade at the close of the first pattern of a dozen notes – nice idea. There is a slightly more prominent bassoon in this work too – very appropriate for this music. Hermann Scherchen’s 1954 recording, which shocked listeners at the time because of its rapid speeds, is virtually identical in pace to Chailly and this really does seem to be right for the music. The tiny Allegretto certainly need not be lingered over. The Minuet, allied to a rich orchestral texture, sounds lively and its Trio again displays the accuracy of the horns. Not for the first time Chailly brings an element of controlled fury to Beethoven at the most appropriate places and in the finale faster is always better; its dynamic contrasts are made vivid.

In the ‘Choral’ Symphony Chailly is for the only time a little slower than the metronome-inclined Zinman. How encouraging to hear the forceful attack of the Gewandhaus Orchestra at the first tutti with the clear, realistic tone of the timpani vehemently cutting through the weight of the orchestral chords. Utmost drive is evident here; contrasts of colour are strongly underlined. The pace is unrelenting but the rhythm is immensely strong. In the most dramatic moment of all – the start of the terrifying recapitulation – Chailly fully respects Beethoven’s demand that the timpani should play fortissimo throughout, reinforced by the occasional sforzando. Many recordings are surprisingly timid here. Most conductors convince in their different ways when it comes to the scherzo although I could never understand why Zinman sounded so underpowered and I hoped that the impression could be accounted for by the engineering. With Chailly the woodwind detail is excellent and the timpani are some of the most natural-sounding that I have heard. The problem of the trio’s unexpectedly faster tempo is solved satisfactorily and the phrasing is immensely precise. To my regret a matter of authenticity raises its head after the trio. Somewhere I believe there is an Urtext (but not one used for Del Mar’s Bärenreiter edition) that seems to indicate a further repeat after the trio of the 151-bar-long first section of the scherzo although I have never seen this in any study score. I don’t understand how it got there and in order not to ruin the symmetry of the movement it surely should be omitted. Chailly takes no repeats after trios in any other movements, but he makes this disputed example – and the shape of the movement is ruined. I recall the first time that this problem arose – this was in James Loughran’s recording: no-one had aired this matter before so I sympathise with the critic who suggested that the use of this repeat was due to an editing error. A flowing slow movement follows. The finale is ideally powerful with excellent male soloists and is full of drive and excitement – the coda is exemplary in being both very fast and very clear. High percussion is not very audible as so often is the case.

The assortment of overtures represents a generous bonus and all the performances are admirable. Prometheus and Leonore 3 are forceful and direct: Chailly’s philosophy. Leonore 3 is driven forward, unrelentingly; the unusually distant trumpet calls are very effective. Placed between symphonies 3 and 4, Fidelio sounds bolder than is often the case and in Coriolan, placed before No.5, Chailly marks out the timpani strokes particularly strongly. One day a conductor will again dare to underline the intense passage leading to the final climax by using a continuous timpani roll in crescendo. I do not know whether it is authentic but I do know that it sounds very exciting and typical of Beethoven. I have heard it done only on Furtwängler’s HMV recording and in an unreleased version by Carlos Paita. Egmont is forward-moving, here drama is achieved through attack rather than emphatic gesture. It is good to hear Beethoven’s striking use of the piccolo so clearly in the final stretch. For a very long time the only access to The Ruins of Athens was the recording by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by its leader of fifty years Arnold Rosé. Namensfeier (Name Day) – an occasional piece of no particular merit – and King Stephen in which one of its themes resembles one in finale of the ‘Choral’ Symphony. I recall reading that when the Royal Philharmonic Society of London was sent both these potpourri overtures its members were less than pleased. Chailly plays both lightly and deftly.

This is an important set of Beethoven’s symphonies played by one of the finest orchestras (“the first to perform a complete cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies, in 1825 and 1826 – when Beethoven was still alive”), notable for its powerful tone, and recorded in an ideally resonant acoustic. Chailly’s choice of tempos is related to the recent style of Beethoven interpretation and is often similar to choices made by ‘period’-instrument ensembles. Despite my fears that strict attention to metronome marks (explained in the comprehensive booklet) might restrict the conductor, I have the impression that Chailly chooses his speeds because he really feels the music at that pace. A few do not work, but overall there is welcome consistency and a truly admirable pattern of not altering a tempo once it has been set. I regard these readings as being part of the great German traditions of Beethoven performance. This is a notable release that deserves considerable attention.


The Gewandhaus Orchestra’s history of playing the nine symphonies of Ludwig van Beethovenextends back to 1825, when the composer was still alive, and these masterworks have been a mainstay of their repertoire ever since. After Riccardo Chailly took the helm of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in 2005, the idea of performing the full cycle for Decca under his direction became an imperative, and the recordings were made between 2007 and 2009. Chailly’s Beethoven draws on the traditions of performance long honored in Leipzig, so the interpretations of the symphonies have more than a little of historically informed practice about them, while still being connected to the mainstream. Tempos are generally brisk and textures are immaculate, while the strings play with minimal vibrato, and the winds offer distinctive and colorful sonorities. So the ideals of authentic period practice are realized without annoying mannerisms, and the music has all the dynamic flexibility and robust qualities that everyone wants in Beethoven. This deluxe set comes in a sturdy hardcover book, with the five discs held in stiff cardboard sleeves that show photographs from different angles of Max Klinger’s massive Beethovenstatue; the whole package is housed in a slip cover. Decca’s sound quality is crisp and clean, with nearly ideal resonance.


The fact that the classic impulse vies with the Romantic throughout Beethoven’s nine symphonies presents a perennial problem to would-be interpreters. Klemperer came as close as any conductor to enabling both impulses to inhabit a single style. Elsewhere Romantics vie with the Classicists, while the temporisers, sailing under various flags of convenience, attempt assorted syntheses of their own.
Riccardo Chailly’s first recorded Beethoven cycle shows him to be a Classicist through and through. This is no surprise given the classicising tendency of the Toscanini-led Italian school of Beethoven performance. There are classicising tendencies in Leipzig too. It was Mendelssohn who set the Gewandhaus Beethoven agenda in the 1840s, aspects of which have never entirely disappeared. When Kurt Masur recorded the symphonies in the 1970s, Robert Layton wrote in these columns of an orchestra that was consistently sensitive in its responses, its expression unforced, the overall sonority beautifully weighted and eminently cultured.

You can hear music-making of comparable pedigree at the start of the slow movement of the Ninth Symphony. Chailly’s tempo is swift. But just as Toscanini’s marginally slower tempo never loses a sense of forward impulse, so Chailly’s never seems hurried. There is also a lovely Italianate cantabile which period strings would find it impossible (and possibly undesirable) to match, and which you will look for in vain in Simon Rattle’s Vienna Philharmonic account, where the orchestra suffers the double burden of an inordinately slow tempo and the imposition of an astringent “period” sonority on its own natural sound. Under Chailly the Leipzig players never sound less than their eloquent selves.

Chailly has used the old Peters edition as the basis for his own performing version. Before too many eyebrows are raised, I should point out that much of this affects how the music is delivered rather than what we hear. The odd retouching apart, there is no reversion to the wholesale bolstering of orchestral lines or shearing of repeats: quite the reverse in fact.

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Two private reference points Chailly has cited in interview, alongside Toscanini and John Eliot Gardiner, are Karajan and Szell, conductors who were less concerned with “interpreting” the symphonies as realising these rhythmically and dynamically complex works with accuracy and expressive force on their own fabulously schooled instrumental ensembles. Chailly’s specially created sound palette is even sparer and more classically ordered than Szell’s or Karajan’s c1962. Flutes, oboes, bassoons and sharp-edged trumpets create the cycle’s distinctive tinta, underpinned by strings that marry high-wire virtuosity with an exemplary fineness of tone and touch. Chailly is, however, rather more dispassionate in his dispatch, not of the selection of programmatically derived overtures but of the symphonies themselves.

The extreme here is a performance of the Eroica that is stripped bare of most of its expressive content. Bracing as Szell or Gardiner are, they allow significantly more agogic freedom than Chailly. The absence of expressive nuance is the more noticeable given the many internal clues the work itself and its creator (“I was Hercules at the crossroads”) have offered. The distilled pathos of the Seventh Symphony’s Funeral March is clearly more to Chailly’s taste than the picturesque brooding of the Eroica’s Marcia funebre, which he dispatches in a mere 12 minutes. Gardiner’s revelatory performance is similarly swift but, in its distinctive sonority and gait, has the true reek of revolution about it.

Happily Chailly is too good a musician to put into practice his reported assertion that he performs everything at “precisely Beethoven’s metronome mark”. Despite a speed that is noticeably slower than Beethoven’s absurdly optimistic metronome=69, his fast tempo blurs the opening measures of the Eighth Symphony. Even where Beethoven’s metronomes are entirely plausible they can cause problems. The first two movements of the Fifth Symphony are brilliantly realised here but the lack of a consistent pulse in the Scherzo and finale makes for broken-backed transitions (Klemperer played the two movements in a single pulse, one bar of the Scherzoequalling half a bar of the March at Beethoven’s metronome=84, conferring a sense of sublime inevitably on the whole).

These, however, are my only reservations. Chailly’s account of the First Symphony is a tour de force of wit and subversive joy, and the performance of the Second Symphony is almost as good. There is a fine account of the Fourth Symphony, that fiery aggregation of the spirits of Apollo and Dionysus which Mendelssohn loved to conduct, and a gamesome rendering of the Pastoral that doesn’t entirely rule out a sense of the numinous in its final pages. After which we get a distinguished account of the Seventh Symphony and an occasionally uneven but generally electrifying account of the Eighth. The Ninth gets a predictably swift reading, compact and powerful, which, like everything else in this cycle, is of a piece with itself.

The recordings, I should add, are superb. These are proper studio recordings, not concert paraphrases. There is space around the sound, as there needs to be in Beethoven, complemented by an immediacy and clarity of detail that derives in large measure from the playing itself.


A set like this reveals tellingly the beneficial side of the period-performance movement. There are things that Riccardo Chailly does that likely never would have occurred to him, especially with this orchestra, absent current research into early 19th-century sonority and practice, particularly regarding tempo. I’m thinking of the scherzo of the Fifth, quicker than usual and wholly convincing, or the slow movements of the Sixth and Ninth symphonies, which flow with expressive purpose but never sound rushed (unlike many actual period-instrument versions). The Allegretto of the Seventh also really lives up to its designation, but then, so did Szell’s.

On the other hand, there are some “traditional” touches that also make a lot of sense, most obviously, for example, Chailly’s excellent decision to let the trumpet play the entire main theme in the coda of the Eroica’s first movement (but he leaves the bassoons alone, as written, in the Fifth’s first-movement recapitulation). In other words, Chailly, like Vänskä, takes what he needs from modern scholarship and assembles a distinctive interpretive take on this music. The result is brilliant, personal, and consistently convincing.

The one huge advantage that Chailly enjoys over any period-instrument performance, however, is the playing of Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra. Obviously, these folks know their Beethoven, but more to the point, it’s ludicrous in the face of playing of this quality to suggest that any period-performance group, using modern copies of old instruments, can approach the ensemble quality on display here. Consider the bite and weight of the strings at the start of the Coriolan Overture, or in the trio of the Fifth’s scherzo. You also won’t find any band of “authentic” instruments with woodwinds whose parts tell with such clarity or personality. Check out the numerous solos in the “Pastoral”, or the squealing piccolo atop the tuttis in the finale of the Fifth. The sheer excitement that Chailly generates in the virtuosic finale of the Eighth, or the coda of the same movement in the “Eroica”, has to be heard to be believed. Really, there’s no comparison.

More to the point, this telling admixture of traditional and novel gives Beethoven’s music a range of expression and bigness of vision that period-performance purists can’t hope to match. The Ninth really is the cosmic experience that it ought to be, aided by a fine lineup of soloists and a magnificent, large chorus. Is it all equally fine? Well, everyone will have their own preferences. I’d prefer a slower tempo for the tenor solo march in the Ninth’s finale, and there are one or two other moments that might raise an eyebrow, but in the face of such general excellence they really don’t matter. This is great Beethoven.

Finally, a consumer note. Universal was not providing promotional copies of this set to critics (at least, not to those they consider less important) because of the alleged cost of the packaging. So I purchased my set at full price. What you get is a slipcase with five CDs bound into a hard-backed booklet. It’s a nice design, but you can download the entire set for about two-thirds to a half the price, and that might well be a better option for most listeners. Certainly it’s pointless to pay markedly extra for cardboard, plastic, and a useless essay on Beethoven, Chailly, and the Gewandhaus. Either way, the sound is excellent.


Disk 1

  • 1 1. Adagio molto – Allegro con brio
    08:00 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 2 2. Andante cantabile con moto
    06:27 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 3 3. Menuetto Allegro molto e vivace
    03:13 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 4 4. Finale Adagio – Allegro molto e vivace
    05:29 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 5 Prometheus Overture, Op.43
    04:54 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 6 1. Adagio molto – Allegro con brio
    11:36 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 7 2. Larghetto
    09:14 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 8 3. Scherzo Allegro
    03:28 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 9 4. Allegro molto
    06:10 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 10 Overture “Leonore No.3”, Op.72b
    12:27 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL Beethoven, Ludwig van

Disk 2

  • 1 1. Allegro con brio
    15:11 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 2 2. Marcia funebre Adagio assai
    12:11 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 3 3. Scherzo Allegro vivace
    05:29 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 4 4. Finale Allegro molto
    09:29 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 5 Overture
    06:35 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 6 1. Adagio – Allegro vivace
    10:28 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 7 2. Adagio
    07:42 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 8 3. Allegro vivace
    05:10 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 9 4. Allegro ma non troppo
    06:19 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL

Disk 3

  • 1 Overture “Coriolan”, Op.62
    07:00 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 2 1. Allegro con brio
    06:39 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 3 2. Andante con moto
    08:25 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 4 3. Allegro
    04:24 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 5 4. Allegro
    10:37 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 6 1. Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande: Allegro ma non troppo
    10:18 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 7 2. Szene am Bach: Andante molto mosso
    10:46 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 8 3. Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute Allegro
    04:57 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 9 4. Gewitter, Sturm Allegro
    03:38 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 10 5. Hirtengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm: Allegretto (Original Version)
    08:50 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL

Disk 4

  • 1 Overture “Egmont” Opus 84
    08:10 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 2 1. Poco sostenuto – Vivace
    13:24 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 3 2. Allegretto
    07:50 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 4 3. Presto – Assai meno presto
    08:11 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 5 4. Allegro con brio
    08:48 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 6 Overture (Original Version)
    04:37 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 7 1. Allegro vivace e con brio
    08:12 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 8 2. Allegretto scherzando
    03:42 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 9 3. Tempo di menuetto
    04:17 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 10 4. Allegro vivace
    06:18 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL

Disk 5

  • 1 Overture Maestoso-Allegro assai (Original Version)
    06:05 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 2 Overture Adagio-Allegro molto con brio (Original Version)
    06:02 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 3 1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
    13:32 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 4 2. Molto vivace
    14:16 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 5 3. Adagio molto e cantabile
    12:51 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL
  • 6 4. Presto –
    22:12 Chailly,Riccardo/GOL



Beethoven – Symphonies 2 & 8

GTIN13: 0843183072125
Verschijningsdatum: 14. oktober 2014
Aantal discs 1
Aantal tracks: 8
Speelduur: 56:56

Sir John Eliot Gardiner directs a more or less exemplary account of Beethoven’s Second Symphony. The outer movements are swift-moving without being overdriven; textures are lean, detail is pertinent. An exquisitely judged account of the lyric slow movement and a properly weighted reading of the Scherzo complete one’s pleasure. The reading is similar to Gardiner’s earlier one with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (Archiv, 11/94). The principal difference, aside from extensive changes of orchestral personnel, is that the performance was recorded live in Cadogan Hall. This boasts a cleaner, less reverberant acoustic than the Great Hall in Blackheath which was used for the 1991 studio recording. The end of the Cadogan Hall performance electrifies as the earlier one didn’t quite do and there is a marginally more easeful way with the introductory Adagio.

Gardiner’s high-speed performance of the Eighth Symphony is less of a success. The players gabble the quavers in the opening four-bar summons, to which Gardiner now adds an unmarked diminuendo on the final uprush – as odd as an actor dropping his voice at the end of the opening line of John Donne’s ‘Busie old foole, unruly Sunne’. Such details notwithstanding, the outer movements show Gardiner at his most remorseless. The second movement is wittily done but elsewhere there appears to be scant recognition of the fact that this mighty symphony is essentially a work of comic genius, the Dionysiac Seventh’s jesting stablemate. Having given this hard-driven affair a couple of hearings, I took down from the shelves Sir Thomas Beecham’s 1951 RPO recording of the Eighth (Columbia, 9/53). Now there’s a performance.



Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7

TIN13: 0843183071722
Verschijningsdatum: 01. oktober 2012
Aantal discs 1
Aantal tracks: 8
Speelduur: 72:16

So palpable is the excitement of these live performances that it almost comes as a shock that the applause has been excised. I was out of my seat at the end of the Seventh and I can only assume that a patch was made of the final pages, because no audience could conceivably have contained itself. From the very start, the cut-to-the-bone immediacy of the sound puts you up close and personal to the performance, lending a granite strength to the crunch of those chords and the rosiny resilience of those striding string scales. The dancing flute theme is really up-tempo and the blare of natural horns at the tutti brings an earthiness, a rawness, to the proceedings. The dance starts here, the ‘apotheosis’ comes later.

John Eliot Gardiner and his resplendent Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique rejoice here in the sheer physicality of the music, the bounding rhythms, the stomping accents. There’s an implicit delirium in this music that would culminate in a dance of death were it not so life-affirming. Gardiner’s tempo for the second-movement Allegretto is significantly slower than the metronome (as witness Chailly) but the relationship between the wind and strings (period instruments far more equal in the balance) and the give and take between subject and countersubject lends an expressive mobility. There’s still an air of slow dance about it, breathlessly superseded by the scherzo with its whiplash reflexes (so much speedier with a leaner, meaner ensemble) and the excitement of sustained natural trumpets in the Trio. The hair-raising reiterations of the finale, driven to the point of exhaustion – the most exhilarating kind of exhaustion – are accentuated by the immediacy of the sound, and the penultimate piledriving climax and coda are absolutely thrilling, with brazen horns again dominating.

The Fifth registers marginally lower on the Richter scale but is again characterised by a propulsive energy. The plangency of that isolated moment of reflection for solo oboe in the first movement is eerily poignant here and I love, too, the way Gardiner brings home the unforgiving militarism of the piece, the way the martial brassiness of trumpets and drums pompously interrupts the homely variations of the second movement. The roar into the light of the finale is tremendous, still more the mounting jubilation as a gruff, overfed bassoon signals the C major home stretch.

These are the kind of performances that remind us of what a revolution of reassessment period-instrument bands provoked. The shock of newness in Beethoven prevails.



GTIN13: 0028944740028
Verschijningsdatum: 23. januari 1996
Aantal discs 1
Aantal tracks: 8
Speelduur: 72:24

It is interesting to reflect that in 1974 there was not a single entry under the name ‘Kleiber, Carlos’ in The Gramophone Classical Record Catalogue. ‘Kleiber, Erich’: certainly. Among other things, he had recorded a famous Beethoven Fifth in 1953 (Decca, 9/87—nla). I still remember the sinking feeling I experienced—a mere tiro reviewer on Gramophone—when I dropped into the post-box my 1, 000-word rave review (they had asked for 200) of what struck me as being one of the most articulate and incandescent Beethoven Fifths I had ever heard.
In Germany, they would probably have spiked the review. There is, after all, more than a hint of triplet-rhythm in Carlos Kleiber’s conducting of the opening motto, a point—eagerly seized on by some German reviewers—which I had omitted to mention in my 1, 000-word encomium.
The performance doesn’t stale, though it is the first movement that stays most vividly in the memory. I had forgotten, for instance, how steady—Klemperer-like, almost—the Scherzo and finale are. (Early Klemperer, that is: the Klemperer of the famous 1956 Philharmonia Fifth or his even earlier Vox recording—5/93, nla—of which The Record Guide—Collins: 1955—wrote, ”Klemperer treats the work as if he had just discovered its greatness”. )
The recording of the Fifth, always very fine, comes up superbly in the new transfer. What, though, of the Seventh Symphony, an equally distinguished performance though always perceptibly greyer-sounding on LP, and on CD? Well, it too is superb. What the Original-Image Bit-Processing has done to it, I wouldn’t begin to know, but the result is a performance of genius that now speaks to us freely and openly for the first time.
In some ways this is a more important document than the famous Fifth. Great recordings of the Seventh, greatly played and greatly conducted, but with first and second violins divided left and right, are as rare as gold-dust. Freshly refurbished, this Kleiber Seventh would go right to the top of my short list of recommendable Sevenths.
It is wonderful to have these two legendary performances so expertly restored and placed together on one disc for the first time. ‘

Disk 1 (CD)

  • 1 1. Allegro con brio
    07:28 Kleiber,Carlos/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 2 2. Andante con moto
    10:00 Kleiber,Carlos/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 3 3. Allegro
    05:10 Kleiber,Carlos/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 4 4. Allegro
    11:00 Kleiber,Carlos/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 5 1. Poco sostenuto – Vivace
    13:38 Kleiber,Carlos/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 6 2. Allegretto
    08:09 Kleiber,Carlos/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 7 3. Presto – Assai meno presto
    08:16 Kleiber,Carlos/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 8 4. Allegro con brio
    08:43 Kleiber,Carlos/WP Ludwig van Beethoven



Beethoven – Symphony no. 9 

GTIN13: 0028947903581
Verschijningsdatum: 24. juli 2012
Aantal discs 1
Aantal tracks: 7
Speelduur: 77:42



Beethoven – Symphony 9

Historically informed though it may be, Roger Norrington’s 1987 performance with the London Classical Players of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor is not an especially enjoyable listening experience, let alone a moving or edifying one. The crucial problem of this rendition is its schizophrenic tempi, which are sometimes alarmingly fast, and at other times plodding and unnecessarily drawn out. The first movement’s pathos, majesty, and mystery are compromised in Norrington’s ultra-fast reading, and his impatient and undignified dashing through the movement does not adhere to Beethoven’s marking: Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso. The Scherzo goes at about the right clip, but it otherwise seems inadequate in tension, and falls apart in the rather insipid Trio, one instance where Norrington really drags the beat. The Adagio molto e cantabile is neither very slow, nor particularly songful, but strangely cast as an Andante with a kind of Rococo prettiness that falls short of real Classical beauty. Last of all, the Finale is an astonishing mess of variable pacing, incoherent phrasing, rushed vocal solos, and paradoxically weighty choruses. In sum, Norrington’s interpretation has no overarching, unifying scheme or trajectory, and the symphony’s grandeur is lost in the confusion. The recorded sound is decent, but it lacks resonance and depth.



GTIN13: 0028944550320
Verschijningsdatum: 06. september 1994
Aantal discs 1
Aantal tracks: 6
Speelduur: 79:02
  • 1 1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
    18:44 NORMAN/DOMINGO/BERRY/BÖHM/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 2 2. Molto vivace
    13:22 NORMAN/DOMINGO/BERRY/BÖHM/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 3 3. Adagio molto e cantabile
    18:19 NORMAN/DOMINGO/BERRY/BÖHM/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 4 Presto – (4. Presto)
    07:30 NORMAN/DOMINGO/BERRY/BÖHM/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 5 4. Presto – “O Freunde nicht diese Töne” – (4. Presto)
    21:07 NORMAN/DOMINGO/BERRY/BÖHM/WP Ludwig van Beethoven
  • 6 Symphony No. 9 in D minor (“Choral”), Op. 125~O Freunde, nicht diese Töne (Final chorus from Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”)  Ludwig van Beethoven







Ludwig van Beethoven / Jessye Norman / Brigitte Fassbaender / Plácido Domingo* / Walter Berry / Wiener Philharmoniker / Karl Böhm – Symphony No. 9 In D Minor, Op. 125

Label: Deutsche Grammophon ‎– 427 802-2
Series: 3D Classics – 427 802-2
Format: CD, Album
Country: US
Released: 1981
Genre: Classical
Style: Romantic


Symphony No. 9 In D Minor, Op. 125
1 1. Allegro Ma Non Troppo, Un Poco Maestoso 18:38
2 2. Molto Vivace 10:50
3 3. Adagio Molto E Cantabile 18:15
4 4. Presto 7:29
5 Presto – “O Freunde, Nicht Diese Töne!” – Allegro Assai (Final Chorus From Schiller’s “Ode To Joy”)

Lyrics By – Friedrich Schiller




Benjamin Zander has been making his reputation by examining the correct tempos for familiar works, as in his pioneering recording of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. Here, on a bonus disc, which is longer than the performances, he offers the most illuminating commentary on music since Leonard Bernstein. Whether you agree with his thoughts on proper Beethoven tempos derived from the composer’s metronome markings, if you have any interest in this music at all, you’ll find his discussion fascinating. He also has a gift for making poetic analogies to music–a dangerous undertaking–that are utterly convincing. As Zander admits, his performances of the symphonies are not as necessary as his tempo discoveries (he recommends Carlos Kleiber’s Deutsche Grammophon recordings, as do we), but they are remarkably fine ones, taken at those controversial tempos and making them work. Telarc, which usually provides such exemplary sound, has let Zander down a bit. These recordings sound somewhat opaque, and you occasionally have to strain to hear the detail that the conductor wanted from the orchestra. But the combination of performance and discussion will still show you new aspects of Beethoven’s familiar music, and that’s an experience worth having. –Leslie Gerber

GTIN13: 0089408047121
Verschijningsdatum: 28. september 1999
Aantal discs 2
Aantal tracks: 18
Speelduur: 139:09
Product Type: CD

Disk 1 (CD)

  • 1 1. Allegro con brio
    06:26 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 2 2. Andante con moto, Più moto
    08:45 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 3 3. Allegro
    04:21 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 4 4. Allegro, Tempo I., Presto
    10:45 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 5 1. Poco sostenuto, Vivace
    13:55 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 6 2. Allegretto
    07:46 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 7 3. Presto, Assai meno presto
    08:05 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 8 4. Allegro con brio
    08:57 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van

Disk 2 (CD)

  • 1 Introduction
    03:39 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 2 Discussion and Performances of Mondscheinsonate
    08:51 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 3 Wt 01
    15:43 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 4 Wt 02
    08:41 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 5 Wt 03
    07:17 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 6 Wt 04
    06:11 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 7 Wt 01
    10:44 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 8 Wt 02
    05:32 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 9 Wt 03
    01:38 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van
  • 10 Wt 04
    01:53 Zander,Benjamin Beethoven, Ludwig Van



GTIN13: 4010276011842
Verschijningsdatum: 29. april 2002
Aantal discs 1
Aantal tracks: 9
Speelduur: 70:53

Nearly two years after launching a projected Beethoven cycle with the First and Second Symphonies, Thomas Fey follows with numbers Four and Six. Superlatives are dangerous, yet I gladly risk them on behalf of this stunning release. Put simply, these are the most arrestingly detailed, vibrantly executed, emotionally generous, and utterly alive performances of Beethoven’s Fourth and Sixth Symphonies I’ve heard in many a moon. The sense of foreboding and mystery in the Fourth’s Adagio introduction is heightened by the conductor’s pinpointed attention to Beethoven’s careful dynamic gradations. Pungent brass chording vivifies the transition into a fleet Allegro Vivace that drives home the combative uplift suggested by the composer’s biting accents and syncopated phrasings. In the slow movement, listen to how the various two-note phrases are treated not like accompaniments but accomplices, while the poignant, lyrical violin theme gains back its long-eroded edge. To be certain, other conductors have taken the Finale at a precipitous clip with no notes garbled or lost (Zinman, for example, and Abbado with the Berlin Philharmonic), but Fey’s punchier bass lines, more characterful wind/brass dialogues, and touch of vermouth in the string tone take top honors.

Similarly, the Pastorale’s bucolic subtext is underlined by the earthy tints conjured up by the string section’s minimum vibrato policy. Its sustained lines shimmer like woven glass against the beautifully played wind solos in the Szene am Bach. Notice also how Fey obtains grittier-than-usual accentuation in the trio, and folksier solos. Many conductors plow through the Storm, leaving orchestral details to fend for themselves. By contrast, Fey plays the Allegro so that its component parts can be sensibly shaped, and, more importantly, to establish an insidious, organic transition into the Finale. When the latter sounds harmonically static and sloshy in performance, that’s not Beethoven’s fault. Here Fey’s prismatically balanced orchestral choirs are akin to a restored painting, where the old suddenly becomes not just new, but meaningful again. Even if you already own one or more recorded versions of these amazing scores, seriously consider Thomas Fey and his crackerjack musicians. A revelation!

Disk 1

  • 1 1. Adagio: Allegro vivace
    10:26 Fey,Thomas/Heidelberger Sinfoniker Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 2 2. Adagio
    08:01 Fey,Thomas/Heidelberger Sinfoniker Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 3 3. Allegro vivace – Trio : Un poco meno allegro
    05:24 Fey,Thomas/Heidelberger Sinfoniker Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 4 4. Allegro ma non troppo
    06:27 Fey,Thomas/Heidelberger Sinfoniker Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 5 1. Angenehme, heitere Empfindungen, welche bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande im Menschen erwachen: Allegro ma non troppo
    10:35 Fey,Thomas/Heidelberger Sinfoniker Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 6 2. Szene am Bach: Andante molto moto
    11:56 Fey,Thomas/Heidelberger Sinfoniker Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 7 3. Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute: Allegro
    04:58 Fey,Thomas/Heidelberger Sinfoniker Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 8 4. Donner, Sturm: Allegro
    04:01 Fey,Thomas/Heidelberger Sinfoniker Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 9 5. Hirtengesang. Wohltätige, mit Dank an die Gottheit verbundene Gefühle: Allegretto
    09:05 Fey,Thomas/Heidelberger Sinfoniker Beethoven, Ludwig van



Symphonie No. 9
Leonard Bernstein a.o.
Int. Release 15 Jan. 1990
1 CD
0289 429 8612 1
CD DDD 0289 429 8612 1 GH
Konzertmitschnitt: 25. 12. 1989

Vor 25 Jahren – “Ode an die Freiheit”Bernstein dirigiert in Ost-Berlin

Es war ein musikalisches Denkmal für den Mauerfall: Am Weihnachtag 1989 dirigierte der Amerikaner Leonard Bernstein im Ost-Berliner Schauspielhaus Beethovens 9. Sinfonie. An dem berühmten Finalsatz “Ode an die Freude” nahm er dabei eine Textänderung vor.

Leonard Bernstein dirigiert am 25. Dezember 1989 das mit einem internationalen Ensemble besetzte Ost-West-Konzert in Berlin.

Leonard Bernstein, der amerikanische Dirigent und Komponist, war ein Bewunderer der deutsch-österreichischen Kultur und ihrer Musik: Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Mahler – das waren seine Götter. Bernstein dirigierte, wenn er nach Europa kam, am liebsten die Klangkörper in Wien und München – nach Berlin reiste er eher seltener.

Aber der Fall der Berliner Mauer am 9. November 1989, Deutschlands historischer Augenblick, das ging ihm unter die Haut. Bernstein dirigierte ein paar Wochen später in Berlin gleich zwei Konzerte: in der Philharmonie West-Berlins und, am ersten Weihnachtstag 1989, im Ost-Berliner Schauspielhaus am Gendarmenmarkt. Beide Male Beethovens Neunte Symphonie.

Leonard Bernstein besaß ein fragiles Lebensgefühl, er spürte die schwindende Zeit. Einem Berliner Radioreporter erzählte er von seinen Zeitängsten, auch seiner Zerrissenheit zwischen zwei Berufen – Dirigent und Komponist.

Leonard Bernstein: “Ich muss komponieren. Ich werde jetzt alt und ich bin sehr eifersüchtig auf meine bleibenden Jahre. Wie viele sie sind, weiß ich nicht – Aber mit sechzig fängt man eifersüchtig zu sein an.”

Komponist der “Westside Story” und begnadeter Dirigent

“Der populäre Charismatiker der Musik” – so wurde Leonard Bernstein auch genannt. Zu Recht. Er verstand es wie kein anderer, beide Sphären der Musik zu verteidigen, sie zu leben – die klassische ernste und die leichtere, eben populäre. Der Komponist der “Westside Story” war der erste Dirigent, der alle Symphonien Mahlers auf Platten aufnahm. Und der die klassische Musik auch in Fernsehserien und Büchern für jedermann verständlich machte.

Leonard Bernstein: “Die Musik ist der tiefste Ausdruck von Humanität, den es in der Welt gibt … – ein Menschenrecht – alles ist mit Musik verbunden.”

Ein Musiker der spontanen Eingebung, der seiner Gefühlswahrheit vertraute – das war Leonard Bernstein, der Visionär, der auf seine Intuition horchte. Der Grenzen überschritt. Genau das wurde bei seinem Berliner Konzert am Weihnachtstag 1989, übrigens ein Jahr vor seinem Tod, greifbar.

Der Klangkörper wurde zum Symbolträger der historischen Situation

Was passierte da? Bernstein hatte sich für eine Textänderung im berühmten Finalsatz von Beethovens Neunter entschieden, Schillers Ode “An die Freude”. Der befreiende Moment des Berliner Mauerfalls war es, der Bernstein dazu antrieb, das Wort “Freude” zu ersetzen durch “Freiheit”. Also “Ode an die Freiheit”. Und der Klangkörper wurde zum Symbolträger der historischen Situation: Bernstein hatte die Symphoniker des Bayerischen Rundfunks mit Orchestermusikern aus Paris, London, New York und Leningrad erweitert – mit Musikern also aus Ländern der alliierten Kriegsmächte gegen Hitler-Deutschland. Schillers “Götterfunke” hatte gezündet, der Mauerfall wurde plötzlich zur künstlerischen Tat.

Leonard Bernstein wurde wegen dieser Verwandlung von Freude in Freiheit auch angegriffen. Aber gerade Beethoven, verteidigte er sich, hätte die Eroberung der Freiheit in diesem Augenblick verherrlicht, die Textaktualisierung gewiss anerkannt. “Musik die offene Frage” hatte eines von Bernsteins Büchern geheißen. Sein Musik- und Lebensbegriff war allumfassend.

Leonard Bernstein: “Alles im Leben ist eins, auch die Liebe, auch Hamburgers, Beefsteak tartare, Mahler, Beethoven, Spaziergänge, Alles, Natur – das ist alles Freude. Und das Leben ist das Leben.”

1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso 18:05
2. Molto vivace 10:44
3. Adagio molto e cantabile 20:14
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Members of the Staatskapelle Dresden, Members of the Kirov Orchestra, Leningrad, Members Of The London Symphony Orchestra, Members Of The New York Philharmonic, Members of the Orchestre de Paris, Leonard Bernstein
4. Presto – Allegro assai 28:57
June Anderson, Sarah Walker, Klaus Konig, Jan-Hendrik Rootering, Members of the Staatskapelle Dresden, Members of the Kirov Orchestra, Leningrad, Members Of The London Symphony Orchestra, Members Of The New York Philharmonic, Members of the Orchestre de Paris, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Leonard Bernstein, Bavarian Radio Chorus, Berlin Radio Chorus, Members, Dresden Philharmonic Childrens Chorus


It is good to see that there are now a reasonable number of versions of the Triple Concerto available for, as I have found after browsing over several of them, it is a haunting work; yet if only because of the expense of engaging there soloists, it is one we can hear only very seldom in the concert hall. And it does demand first-class players who can play well as a chamber ensemble and also as soloists of great skill (the cellist, in particular, has to spend a lot of his time in the highest reaches—Beethoven’s answer to the problem of keeping him audible; and he must sing out with fine tone and as if intonation up there were no problem whatever). All the cellists on the records listed above are extremely capable in this way, as also in their general interpretations.
The American soloists on this most recent version are extremely gifted and, backed by an excellent accompaniment from the ECO and Sir Alexander Gibson, they take their place among the best of recorded teams. I particularly enjoyed the clear staccato of the orchestral second violins soon after the work’s start (from bar 52) and the way Joseph Kalichstein a bit later (bar 201) emphasizes the lower notes in the left hand, so that the changes are clear. Sharon Robinson has so many high passages throughout the concerto and she plays them all with impeccable intonation and admirable artistry. The work also needs careful balancing and this has been done with the skill we have come to expect from Chandos. I would only suggest that occasionally the woodwind might have been clearer, from bar 278 in the first movement, for example, in spite of Beethoven’s pp marking, surely an understatement.
It is particularly difficult to suggest a recommended version of this particular work for, as DJF wrote in his review of the Masur/HMV record, ”it may be indicative of the Triple Concerto’s rather formalistic invention that all four performances are so similar in conception—there is simply less room for interpretative genius to manoeuvre”. Nevertheless, one can make a few observations. The obvious one is that a work that lasts only about 37 minutes is short measure for an LP; and the only modern recording that has any other music on it is the Masur, which has the not very exciting Beethoven Romances, Opp. 40 and 50 played by his violinist, Ulf Hoelscher: but the rather elderly HMV by the Oistrakh Trio remarkably gets the Concerto complete on to one side and on the other has nothing less than Brahms’s Double Concerto in which David Oistrakh is partnered by Pierre Fournier. The recording still sounds very well, if without the dynamic range of more recent recordings. If you are interested more in interpretation than in ‘hi-fi’ then it is well worth considering, especially as it is now offered at budget price on EMI’s Eminence label.
But if you want quality sound, then one of the newer ones must certainly be your choice. My own recommendation is based not only on the performance as a whole, but mainly on that of the finale. In the past I used to complain that this was usually played too slowly and with its opening tune given in a spineless sort of way without any hint of Beethoven’s direction alla Polacca. None of these present recordings disappoints in this way and all are played fairly swiftly and with a dance-like character. But the finest of all is the later Karajan (DG), where Yo-Yo Ma gives it a spring and zest that are incomparable, better even than Rostropovich on Karajan’s earlier HMV version.
But I wouldn’t mind owning any of the above, including this latest one. If you are able I would suggest trying the start of the finale on all versions.’


Het leven & de muziek van Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) op Compact Discs, DVD's en Boeken

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