Interesting that this disc should come along
for review so soon after Sir Roger Norrington’s very different
take on this core repertoire on Hänssler CD93.086 (see review).
It would be hard to imagine two more contrasted approaches to
the same basic text: Norrington intent on making the music seem
new, whatever the cost; Blomstedt firmly in the accepted mould of
the late 1970s, complete with large orchestra and safe, sometimes
stolid, tempi (a conception ideally suited to the resonances of
Dresden’s Lukaskirche, one could argue).
Blomstedt presents a very big-boned Beethoven,
hardly fleet of foot. Everything is safe, reassuringly so, some
might say. The present disc is available as part of a five-disc
Brilliant Classics box of all nine symphonies (99927: see Neil
Horner’s review), and on the present evidence I shall not be scampering
out to the shops. Talking of scampering, the double-basses in
the Trio of the Fifth’s third movement are remarkably well-behaved:
I wish the same could be said of the recording engineer(s). The
highlighting of string sections at this point and throughout the
Trio is most off-putting. This trait is also noticeable in the
finale, which does however finally manage to generate some excitement.
Alas, the climactic coda is merely ‘neat’.
After a dull, rhythmically deficient first movement,
the ‘Pastoral’ promises more in its ‘Szene am Bach’. This flows
nicely along, blossoming out at all the right moments. Here perhaps
he and Norrington are not too far away, whether in timing (Blomstedt
12’40; Norrington 11’32) or in intent.
However, Blomstedt does not capitalise on his
newly-found intimacy with the Master. The third movement is unsmiling
(neither are the horns the baying, off-the-leash hunting horns
they can and should be). Blomstedt and Norrington both share a
finale that sags (in Blomstedt’s case there is little or no sign
of the sun coming out). The symphony, and the disc, ends like
a damp squib. Definitely not recommended.