Top positive review
12 people found this helpful
DO WE NEED ANOTHER COMPLETE BEETHOVEN SYMPHONY CYCLE?
on 23 March 2003
The answer is in the affirmative, though with some minor reservations. No one interpreter has everything to say about this marvellous music, but I came to this set curious to hear what probably the greatest living conductor has to say about the greatest orchestral oeuvre, bar none. On reflection, the Abbado complete set (also with the VPO) treats each symphony as a single entity, but Rattle sees each symphony as a step on a journey, ending with the sublime 9th, which, he says, "comes from another planet". An interesting approach, though one I am not sure works; it is unlikely anyone will actually listen to all the symphonies together in one sitting, thus do individually-heard symphonies suffer as a result? Certainly some of the interpretations are more successful than others: the 6th is probably the most successful, it being seen by Rattle as one of Beethoven's most spiritual works, it certainly comes up to scratch compared with my old Bohm/VPO account, and the sound is that much better. The final pages of the 9th seem underhwelming to me, not as exciting and hair-raising as some. On the whole, tempi are faster than most (except the 1st and 3rd movements of the 9th, which are played much slower, making the symphony as a whole a little lop-sided), reflecting Norrington's influence on Rattle's performing style, and his interest in the whole 'period performance' aesthetic.
So, all in all a mixed bag. The sound itself (considering the sources to be live performances) is immediate and thrilling. Certainly most of the performances here will not be supplanting my older, treasured interpretations, but it is still a set to cherish, though one can't help thinking that Rattle, being still a relatively young man, has still much more to say in the future about this great great music.