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Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 'Eroica', Leonore Overture No. 3 & Prometheus Overture

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Orchestra: Chamber Orchestra of Europe
  • Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (26 May 2003)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Warner Classics
  • ASIN: B000095IV4
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 443,903 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product description

Product Description

The composer, a champion of liberty and equality, intended to dedicate his Third Symphony to Napoleon, whom he saw as the standard-bearer of the republican movement. But when he learned that Bonaparte had proclaimed himself Emperor, he rubbed out the dedication. When the symphony was premièred in 1805, the audience found it too bold but for present-day listeners, Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ is one of the finest musical manifestations of the Romantic movement, looking forward to later programmatic works.
Beethoven’s overtures represent a turning point in the history of the genre: although written to introduce stage-works, they were often divorced from that concrete context even during their composer’s lifetime and performed on their own in the concert hall. Written in close collaboration with the choreographer Salvatore Viganò, the ballet music for The Creatures of Prometheus dates from 1800-01 and was premièred in 1801. The ideas behind Beethoven’s Prometheus are summed up in a review of the first performance: ‘Prometheus banishes the state of ignorance, civilising men through science and art and inculcating a sense of morality’.
Beethoven wrote four overtures for Leonore ensuring that his only opera occupies a unique position among the world’s great classics. The definitive version of the opera was finally unveiled in 1814, encountering an enthusiastic response, in part, perhaps, because Viennese audiences saw a link between the opera’s plot and their own deliverance from Napoleon’s tyranny. There are four different overtures to go with three different versions of the opera. The Leonore Overture No.3 was written for the 1806 revival. It is often heard today in the concert hall.

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Format: Audio CD
As a keen fan of the historically informed performance movement I was keen to lend Harnoncourt my ears to hear his paradigm shift versions of the Beethoven symphonies. I know and I understand that HIP in anything means hurry-up speeds and the rush-hour culture. As such there is a high chance that the HIP conductors and orchestras are trifling with the many profound utterances in the music of the likes of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. So their performances might make a circus of such serious music. However, I am still grateful that the many HIP conductors, in their own individual ways, have sought to de-stodge the music of the past in their performances and recordings.

In Harnoncourt's Beethoven cycle, he largely tries to keep to the original marked speeds, but he did not go the whole hog as Norrington or Gardiner did. So he could have alienated hordes of listeners if he had gone the whole hog. In any case, he elicits wonderful playing from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. I have some doubts about the playing, as I wished for a bit more vigour and exertion in the tuttis. I also wished that the violins could articulate their spiccatos more lightly. However, the winds and brasses get the chance to shine. The Teldec recordings are clear but I was unhappy that the orchestra was distantly balanced. So the sound is a bit airy and lacking in body.

Of the weightier Beethoven symphonies, I've felt that the Eroica is one of the stronger entries in the Harnoncourt cycle. I might say that this performance is one of the highlights in Harnoncourt's readings of the middle-period symphonies. This rendition is a fresh, less galumphing performance with clean, clear textures from the orchestra.
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When you're going to listen to stuff as old Beethoven's, the orchestra must be small by today's standards, even if the band needed to play his No 3 was, at time time, considered 'massive'. So the Chamber Orchestra of Europe is the right size to deliver the sound Ludwig Van meant you to hear.

And, as Harnoncourt was one of the pioneers of the 'authentic' sound movement, he's a good man to have in charge.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Harnoncourt's strong showing in his reading of the Eroica 4 Sept. 2016
By Yi-Peng - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
As a keen fan of the historically informed performance movement I was keen to lend Harnoncourt my ears to hear his paradigm shift versions of the Beethoven symphonies. I know and I understand that HIP in anything means hurry-up speeds and the rush-hour culture. As such there is a high chance that the HIP conductors and orchestras are trifling with the many profound utterances in the music of the likes of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. So their performances might make a circus of such serious music. However, I am still grateful that the many HIP conductors, in their own individual ways, have sought to de-stodge the music of the past in their performances and recordings.

In Harnoncourt's Beethoven cycle, he largely tries to keep to the original marked speeds, but he did not go the whole hog as Norrington or Gardiner did. So he could have alienated hordes of listeners if he had gone the whole hog. In any case, he elicits wonderful playing from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. I have some doubts about the playing, as I wished for a bit more vigour and exertion in the tuttis. I also wished that the violins could articulate their spiccatos more lightly. However, the winds and brasses get the chance to shine. The Teldec recordings are clear but I was unhappy that the orchestra was distantly balanced. So the sound is a bit airy and lacking in body.

Of the weightier Beethoven symphonies, I've felt that the Eroica is one of the stronger entries in the Harnoncourt cycle. I might say that this performance is one of the highlights in Harnoncourt's readings of the middle-period symphonies. This rendition is a fresh, less galumphing performance with clean, clear textures from the orchestra.

This reading of the Eroica is nicely sculpted and still highlights the novelty of the music. The first movement benefits from thrust, torque, pronounced sforzatos and the telling details (echo effects and the trumpet part that breaks off before hitting the high note.) At times it would be good if the note attacks could be firmer, notably in the first two crashing chords and at the discords half-way through the development. I particularly love the telling detail of the trumpet missing the high note at bar 687, when Beethoven treats the opening theme to a Rossini crescendo.

The funeral march has gravitas and is touching at the same time. It is a stately and measured reading that does not miss the heart of the music. There are some allargandos, but they aren't as intrusive as the allargandos that I hear in some of Harnoncourt's other Beethoven symphony readings. Although the movement starts off well, I did wish that some notes or lines could be a bit more assertive, notably the countersubject in the fugue and the brusque A flat in the double basses. However, at the end, after the ticking figure in the strings, I love the way that Harnoncourt teases out a touching quality in the music, as if Beethoven is commiserating with the bereaved.

The Scherzo and Trio bound along nicely. As with Harnoncourt's other Scherzos, he tends to take the Trio at a slower speed than the Scherzo, rather than at the same speed as other conductors do. The Finale gets off to a strong start and Harnoncrourt achieves a nice sense of momentum through the succeeding variations of the main theme. I particularly love the cavalry charge in the middle and the triumph in the trumpets when they play the main theme towards the end.

I like to think that this reading of the Eroica is an instance where Harnoncourt and Gardiner might be on par. For those of you who have seen my other Beethoven cycle reviews, you'll know I'm partial to Gardiner's robust HIP cycle as far as paradigm shift readings are concerned. However, Harnoncourt's reading is a fresh, bracing take on the symphony and amounts to one of his better Beethoven performances.
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