I'd been waiting for this one! In my college freshman English composition class, for our first essay, we were asked to write five pages on something we knew very well. It took me one nanosecond to decide to write on the Felix Weingartner recording of Beethoven's Third Symphony. I'd first heard it on a 78rpm set (as I recall it was twelve discs!) that belonged to my aunt. Then I bought my own LP of it in the early 1950s. I remember I wrote fifteen pages and even then had to pare it down somewhat. I remember my comp teacher wrote in the margins, 'Whoa, boy!' I wrote two pages alone on the 'false' horn entry against shimmering string tremolos ushering in the first movement recapitulation.
You get my drift. This is a great performance of the 'Eroica.' It is not idiosyncratic like some, and it is not stodgy or self-aggrandizing like others. There is great subtlety - for instance, those initial E flat chords don't hit you upside the head; rather, they announce that something of great import is to follow. And it does. The funeral march is not played as a pompous dirge, but as a heartfelt song of mourning and consolation. The scherzo is fleet but also full, partly because of those wonderful wide-bore Viennese horns. The finale variations have an overall line that doesn't fall apart into the individual variations, but builds to a stupendous climax. Weingartner was one of the most amazing moulders of orchestral sound. His sforzandi, for instance, are always gauged exactly to match the surrounding orchestral dynamic; they don't punch you, they energize you.
The Fourth, called a 'slender Greek maiden between two giants' by Schumann, is gentle, dancing, full of genuine but slightly hesitant feeling. Listen to how the ending of the first movement reaches an almost transcendant intensity. And I dare you to try to keep still during the lively third and fourth movements. Ah, yes.
The sound in both these performances is simply amazing for recordings from the 1930s. Mark-Obert Thorn, the producing engineer, has done it again. And then there is Naxos's budget price!