Tuesday, January 15, 2008

CD REVIEW: Beethoven Symphonies 3 & 8


November 9, 2007

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major (“Eroica”), Op. 55; Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op.93. The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Paavo Järvi, conductor. 88697 00655 2 (recorded 2004 and 2005, released 2006).
I would never have imagined that I could get excited over any new Beethoven symphony recording at this point (unless conducted by the resurrected ghost of Arturo Toscanini and recorded by the resurrected ghost of Lew Layton). I was wrong. This is a unique disc. The Bremen chamber orchestra, consisting of 36 to 40 players, is a supervirtuoso group, more in the sense of an amazing string quartet than that of a large symphony orchestra. Their playing is totally transparent, meticulously inflected, very crisply accented, precise to the nth degree, and blazing with primary colors. It’s like the gutsiest period practice without period instruments. You have the impression that you are hearing the music the way Beethoven originally imagined it, since it would have been anachronistic for him to imagine it played by a 105-piece modern orchestra and unrealistic to expect a contemporary live performance this good. Paavo Järvi brings out tiny details in the score that I was unaware of before. It’s a welcome change from the tief Germanic interpretations of Furtwängler or Klemperer. Check it out; you’ll love it. The recorded sound is as vivid as the playing, a perfect match.

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