Friday, January 04, 2008

CD REVIEW: Beethoven Symphonies 4 & 7

January, 2008

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Symphonies Nos. 4 & 7
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Paavo Järvi
RCA- 88697099952(CD)
Reference Recording - 4th: Haitink (LSO); Böhm (DG); 7th: Bernstein (DG); Szell (Sony)
This second disc from Paavo Järvi's complete Beethoven cycle is just as fine as the first (containing Symphonies 3 and 8). Once again the playing of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen is phenomenal. Has the Fourth Symphony's finale ever been more cleanly articulated at such high speeds? I don't think so. But it's not just a matter of execution. The virtuosity of the playing sustains brilliantly conceived interpretations of both works, full of idiomatic fire and athletic drive. The outer movements of the Seventh Symphony have an almost elemental force, and while some listeners might prefer a stronger presence from the horns, the prominence of the wind and trumpet parts is very welcome, particularly in the finale's refreshingly un-opaque main theme. You can really hear the colorful mosaic of timbres that comprises the first subject.
Similarly, you might feel that the small number of strings in the Fourth's Andante or the Seventh's Allegretto compromises some of the music's inherent expressiveness. But this is far from the cold, vibrato-free dryness typical of many period-instrument recordings. The players don't "squeeze" the notes one at a time, but rather phrase with feeling, and their intonation is so pure that it may give you chills. Try the Fourth Symphony's introduction for a sound so focused that it adds an entirely new dimension to our experience of the music. And if you aren't delighted by the rambunctious rhythmic snap of both symphonies' scherzos, then it's time to turn in your ears and take up knitting. Also as previously, the SACD sonics are pellucidly clean and clear, but also kind to the orchestra and excellently balanced in all formats. With performances of this quality coming out (let's not forget Vänskä's ongoing cycle on BIS, or some of the recent Haitink/LSO releases) the "Golden Age" of historical recordings in the first half of the last century is looking more bronze by the minute.
--David Hurwitz

No comments: