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Barenboim's Staatskapelle Berlin Beethoven cycle - a set to polarise opinion,
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This review is from: Beethoven: Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
Having lived with Daniel Barenboim's 1990s Beethoven symphony cycle for some time, I have to confess that my opinion of it changes almost as much as the British weather. On balance, I think, this is an excellent set with the positives far outweighing the negatives.
The once authoritative "Penguin Guide" was consistently cautious in its opinion over the years the set appeared in its pages. "Barenboim, even more than most of today's conductors, has a lifelong devotion to the work of Fürtwangler, a point that is regularly reflected in his current readings of the Beethoven symphonies. Speeds tend to be broad in the Fürtwangler manner, often very broad, as in the first movements of the Eroica and Ninth, and he encourages a fair degree of flexibility within movements...what undermines most of these performances is a curious lack of tension...while still achieving creditable results, tends to fall short. The result is a series of run-throughs rather than genuine performances...this set, whether taken as a whole or sampled individually, can be recommended only to Barenboim devotees."
Ouch! That reads remarkably like the reviews in "The Record Guide" in the 1950s when many of Fürtwangler's BPO/VPO Columbia recordings were released Beethoven: Complete Symphonies.
Here, on the other hand is a view from the USA Classical Music: Third Ear - The Essential Listening Companion:-
"Barenboim...effort superb. Using the Berliner Staatskapelle, as underrated an orchestra as I can think of, he has pulled off the near-impossible and come as close as anyone to giving us the definitive set. The dark, mahogany burnish of these readings is the ultimate in finely graded, magnificently rich and robust sound. Interpretatively, 1 and 2 are on a par with any - gorgeously managed and conducted with finesse and suppleness; 3 is splendid, a large-scale performance with small-scale details and no lack of grandeur or emotion; 4 and 8 are similar in concept, too lithe and nimble for my taste, with 8 especially lacking in grandness and swagger. No.5 is fabulous, one of the best on disc, giving even Kleiber Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7 a run for the money; 6 is intense, too lacking in repose, though played beautifully. No.7 is again in the running for top honours in a very crowded field, the bravura of the horns and darkness of the sound combining for a thrilling effect, while 9 is one of the best around, full of nuance, a penetrating emotional ride that leaves you drained at the end. With a fully successful 7 of 9 symphonies (and the other two are in no way unacceptable), I will boldly say it: this is the best single collection of the nine symphonies on the market today." (NB: written in, I think, 2000/01).
Well, I have to side far more with the American view of the set and pretty much entirely agree with the foregoing view. I must also mention the top-notch sonics, decent booklet and dreadful picture of Barenboim on the box!
In other words, highly recommended. Now, I wonder what his new set Beethoven For All: The Symphonies is like?
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Apr 2013 08:53:04 BDT
Tricky Tree says:
Excellent review. I have long given up using the Penguin guide as a reliable source of reference.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2013 14:42:57 BDT
Mr. Mark A. Meldon says:
Me, too, although very old Penguin Guides are quite useful, from time-to-time. Thanks for the compliment. Mark
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