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There are very few dissenting voices amongst the many previous reviews - well, perhaps one here and there, but that's inevitable - and I'm not going to spoil the party; this an "Eroica" that thumbs its nose at pared-down, frenetically-paced Beethoven and plays in the Big Band tradition.

I have been understandably cautious about deifying Dudamel too soon; he is still relatively young for a conductor and not all his recordings have been wholly successful - yet his is the kind of mission one wants to succeed and the fairy-story of the Simon Bolivar (Youth - dropped in 2006) Orchestra goes on. Only a curmudgeon could fail to hear the drive and energy this orchestra brings to their playing under him and my only mild reservation is that occasionally the very rawness and attack of the strings results in some moments of faintly dubious intonation; the BPO under Karajan they ain't but that isn't necessarily a criticism...

The approach here is not monumental like that of Klemperer or Furtwängler but it's decidedly brash and confident - there is a kind of exultancy in the Dudamel's interpretation as if our hero has returned from the battle, greaves flashing in the sunlight and bells jingling on the harness. Sheer enjoyment pulses through this reading so the Scherzo dances, the horns whoop ecstatically, and Dudamel dances his way through the movement.

Tempi are brisk but not rushed and the slow movement has weight and pathos without dragging. This is a version which is all of a piece and doesn't signal its intention or let you "hear the joins" (if you see what I mean); there is a coherent artistic vision and a momentum which carries through all four movements, indicating that this is a conductor who has reached maturity.

I have an especial fondness for the "Egmont" and it's got to be paced just right for me to express enthusiasm - if that sudden forward rush after the slow introduction doesn't give me the chills it's not working - but here it is. The other overture makes a good link with the symphony by virtue of the last movement having borrowed an unpromising theme from it on which to weave some thrilling variations; again, it's beautifully played.

So what about a complete set to rival Thielemann's?
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on 15 March 2013
Without a vision, the people perish. World War 2 turned much of Europe into a car-park but the damage it inflicted on the spiritual fabric of the realm was incalculable. In response, Europe went post-modern in a colossal failure of nerve. In the flotsam and jetsam, the production-line which had produced so many great conductors ceased altogether. When did the last comet appear? I cannot recall any in my lifetime. Minor talents such as Christian Thielemann, Claudio Abbado, Nikolas Harnoncourt and Sir Simon Rattle now rule the rostrum, accompanied by many a wraith-like practitioner of Period Practice. Surely we have reached a point lower than the Dead Sea where the current conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, empurpled though he be, cannot authoritatively conduct Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven or Schubert? Sic transit gloria mundi.

Thankfully the provinces, as I will call them, were spared. They are repositories of hope. Sure, Russia copped it in WW2 but catastrophe is its norm with madness in train. It continues to march to the beat of its metaphysical drum. It's hardly surprising that the most promising conductors and classical musicians of today are Scythian. Just as pertinently, period-practice has failed to take root in the land of Ivan the Terrible and Uncle Joe. Hell: Russians want to play Mozart as if he is a great composer and not glorified wall-paper!

Equally, Latin America was not caught up in the calamity. It too has something to say.

On the basis of this recording, Dudamel is the real deal. What a glorious account of the Eroica! With the sole exception of the wind threnody before the apotheosis of the finale (which could be both more hushed and lusher) I cannot fault this performance. His pacing and sense of drama are exemplary. Nor is Dudamel afraid to evoke the metaphysical payload of the score: it could almost be time to build another Cathedral and dedicate it to the Blesed Virgin. Whoever in the hell this orchestra is, it puts to shame many an ensemble from the Old World.

I would not necessarily prefer this account to the Herbie Gold from 1983 (Beethoven: Symphony No.3) or Kna's `Attack of the Stegosaurs' from 1951 (Knappertsbusch Conducts Beethoven's Eroica)) but it is a barnstormer with Real Presence. Imagine his Eroica in twenty year's time!

Viva la Dudamel!
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on 25 March 2013
What a wonderful recording. Therefore five stars.

I have since many years liked classical music. Beethoven is one of my favourite composers. Mr. Dudamel and his Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela gave me a new expereince of Eroican-
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on 28 June 2014
I must say from the outset I prefer the Utube version of Dudamel's 'Eroica' Symphony.
For me it exudes freshness and passion. That performance shows a primacy for wind and strings that engenders a 'storming of the barricades' moment in every listener.
However this DG recording is altogether more low key. Although admittedly with better overall symphonic sound it relies heavily on brass and percussion, pushing wind and strings well into the background.
The performance of the four movements is also pretty even keel with no great lift or outpouring of emotion in the scherzo or finale movements.
In conclusion, I would say this is a safe performance recorded as such and pretty consistent throughout.
A good effort nonetheless. 4 stars.
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on 22 August 2012
There were thrills and certainly some spills when the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela visited London in June. Nobody can doubt the excitement of seeing Dudamel on the podium, working with one one of the zestiest bands on the block. Yet rather than delivering their usual colourful fair, Dudamel and his team had decided to step up to the plate and tackle one of the toughest challenges in the repertoire, namely Beethoven's 'Eroica'. But rather than the expected heroics, the Venezuelans took a slightly backseat approach to the piece. Would things improve in the recording studio?

Comparisons can be cruel, but with Chailly's recent punch-to-the-gut renditions fresh in the memory and Barenboim's new West-Eastern Divan Orchestra recordings just out, there's something oddly slack about the opening of Dudamel's rendition. He takes a much broader, more romantic view than Chailly, but the Venezuelan strings lack definition. Other departments may redress that balance but broad shouldn't mean vague - as Klemperer more than ably demonstrates.

As in concert, Dudamel's slovenly Marcia funebre is unconvincing. Neither the notes nor the silences between them have the requisite electricity. Even in the third movement, which impressed live, there's an irritating slackness to the ensemble. Things galvanise in the tutti and the swagger of the final movement suits the orchestra well, but such flashes hardly constitute a thoroughbred reading of this seismic symphony. Only in the innately theatrical 'Prometheus' and 'Egmont' overtures - included as fillers - do you feel the requisite verve for which this orchestra is famed. A disappointment.
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on 1 August 2012
Beethoven's Third Symphony, "Eroica", intended initially as a homeage to Napoleon, broke the world of classical symphony and built a landmark of innovation in music. It started a brand new language, using the classical forms but using a intensity of expression near to the romanticism. The music transmits those feelings of heroism, struggle with destiny, redemption and glory that were so much dared by Beethoven. The musical ideas are clear and impressive, generating melodies and rhythms that are brand new, intense and unforgeteable. This version by Dudamel helps to keep on building the path towards a definitive Eroica. It seems difficult to find the landmark version. Some may point out the mono version by Klemperer, but that is too old. Karajan is a seminal reference with the Philarmonia Orchestra and the Berlin Philarmonic. Other big names are those of Bernstein, Giulini, Monteux and Szell. On original instruments, Harnoncourt and Savall are huge. Chailly gives a modern reading after deep musicological research. Now, in 2012, two important young orchestras go for the Third: Orquesta Simon Bolivar with Dudamel on the baton and the West-Eastern Divan with Barenboim. The Simon Bolivar version reviewed here has the energy that you shall expect in the fast movements, specially the Allegro con Brio that opens the Symphony. However that energy turns properly into solemnity in the Marcia Funebre of the Second Movement, where drama and pathos reach a critical moment in this work. The remaining two tempos leave behind the apocaliptical sense and bring redemption. I always thought of this symphony as a cronique of the French Revolution in Europe: first movement is the quest for freedom and glory, second movement shows pain and death in war, third the uncertainty of transition to peace and fourth the freedom and joy of the new order. Apart from these speculations, the reading by Dudamel and the Venezuelan Orchestra is quite good, plenty of musicianship and the orchestra is tight, in proper shape and in solid dialogue. Strings outshine and the evolution from their recording of the Fifth and Seventh Symphonies by Beethoven is clear. The reading of the Third is elegant and fulfills the expectations with this Orchestra that is no longer simply a Young Orchestra after 7 years with the DG label. They are now musicians that must compete with the best orchestras in the world and have a reputation to defend. They certainly do here. In addition to that, the overtures are quite good. I find this is a good start for anyone interested in the Symphony and updates the quality of sound. The Chailly reading is also contemporary with commitment to the metronomic marks used by Beethoven, which adds interest for a realistic reading. The Barenboim set is comparable to this one by Dudamel, though the musicians under Barenboim are somehow younger and have recorded the whole set of Symphonies in a CD-box. The Orchestra led by Dudamel has the point of working with musicians of a suffering country under repression and violence and those of Barenboim include people from both Israel and Palestina, so that both formations have an intense and vivid reading of this struggling symphony, built on and for hard and revolted times. For those seeking the nearly perfect Eroica, Klemperer reading with the Philarmonia in mono is a holy grial, Karajan and Bernstein coming close in their readings with the Philarmonia and the NYC Philarmonic respectively. Sound in this one and its musicality set it as a reference in the birth of the 21st century.
I add this closing after reading the review by BBC Music Magazine: the sound of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra is at its best. The choice of tempi are a little bit idiosincratic and Dudamel seems to give a Mahlerian touch to the "Marcia Funebre" (second movement). The winds and brass sections are remarkable. BBC Music gives 4 of 5 stars.
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on 2 November 2014
Good quality
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on 31 December 2013
A complete contrast to the Karajan or Solti readings, and none the worse for it. Everyone should have this recording.
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on 11 June 2014
Bought this to replace old tape version of 3rd movement and certainly was not disappointed. love the music, good service.
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