Hermann Scherchen is one of my favorite conductors - if I ever sat down and made a list of my "Top Twenty," I know he would be in there somewhere. I own (or have owned) all of his studio recordings and most of his "live" offerings as well. I admire him in modern music, some of his Bach, and all of his Haydn. But his Beethoven was, shall we say, "uneven."
The "Eroica" and the "Pastorale" recordings featured on this well-transferred CD are pretty erratic. I recall with amusement a Fanfare critic's assessment that "this 3rd is the most insane reading of a Beethoven symphony ever recorded." Well, I wouldn't go THAT far - but it is highly eccentric to be sure. The concept is fascinating - apparently Constantin Silvestri did something similar with the Bournemouth Symphony (hopefully, a radio tape of that might turn up someday - Silvestri surely achieved a higher level of ensemble playing than what is heard here under Scherchen). But I sure wouldn't want this Scherchen as my only recording of the work.
In the case of the "Pastorale," I simply get the feeling that Scherchen may have lost his interest in the music. There sure isn't much about it that you could call pastoral - it's all rather hard-bitten and unsympathetic. But at least the orchestra doesn't get caught as unawares (or napping) as in the 3rd, where some of the ensemble work verges on the comical. Scherchen's earlier 6th (once on Westminster LP 5108) was far more sympathetic - it was also 5 minutes slower.
I would suggest that, if you want to hear what Scherchen was capable of in the 3rd, then you should seek out a copy of "Hermann Scherchen: The Ultraphon Recordings" on Tahra 283/286. That wonderful set, which includes delightful readings of Mozart's Symphonies 29, 35, 36 & 40 and a fine Haydn #48, has a VERY GREAT Eroica, a fine #2, and some exquisite German Dances. That magisterial 3rd ranks among my very favorite accounts, along with Furtwangler (1944 Vienna Phil and 1952 Berlin Phil., both live), Weingartner/Vienna (Opus Kura or Naxos), Schuricht/Berlin Phil. (Originals), and the fascinating Mengelberg (studio 1940 on Pearl or Andante and the live 1942 on Tahra).
If you are seeking a Beethoven 3rd that is more "fast and straight," then try Matacic/Czech Phil. or Kletzki/Czech Phil. (different Supraphon CDs). I once thought Toscanini/NBC '53 was a great reading, but nowadays I find the maestro's driven style pretty tough to take. I have tried for over 30 years to like the mono Klemperer/Philharmonia, but for me it remains well-played and rather impersonal.
There are many great 'Pastorale" accounts. My mono preferences are Furtwangler (the live 1954 BPO on Tahra in particular) and the apposite E. Kleiber/Concertgebouw (Decca). Among the finest stereo CD accounts are Konwitschny/Leipzig Gewandhaus (Berlin Classics) and Cluytens/Berlin Phil. (deleted EMI).
To hear "fast" Scherchen Beethoven at its well-played best, give his 8th with the Royal Phil. on EMI a listen - it's a real stunner. Hopefully, we will soon get more of Scherchen's best Beethoven on CD: the 5th, Wellington's Victory, the complete Egmont, and the various overtures, including his superb Consecration of the House.
[Update 4-15-08] While I still find this stereo Scherchen 6th to be a disappointment, a recent re-listening to this swift Eroica has persuaded me that it truly is, in a quirky and somewhat haphazard way, a uniquely exhilarating account. However, I prefer its earlier transfer on MCA, coupled with an excellent First, to what DG Universal has produced here].