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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No 2 in D major Op 36 (1801-02)
Symphony No 4 in B flat major Op 60 (1806)
Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra conducted by
Erich Kleiber (No 2)
Hans Pfitzner (No 4)
Recorded 1928-29 in Berlin
NAXOS 8.110919 [62.39]


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The German Gramophone Company’s salute to the centenary of Beethoven’s death, which fell in 1927, was a more problematic affair than their rival English Columbia’s edition. Not completed until 1933 the symphonies were apportioned to Pfitzner, Fried, Richard Strauss and Erich Kleiber. Pfitzner’s performance of the Fourth was with the Staatskapelle and recorded in 1928 and as with his other symphonies in the cycle he exhibits, even in this genial reading, strong credentials in the best subjective-romantic tradition. Immediately apparent is the strong weight in the basses; that said when it comes to the Sixth and Eighth Symphonies, in both cases with Pfitzner conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, their neighbours in the State Opera Orchestra yield in matters of internal balance and technical surety. Rather more than his discmate colleague, the younger Erich Kleiber, Pfitzner – as in the Pastoral recording – indulges in some expansive portamanti, within the broad outlines of a genial and affectionate reading. Rob Cowan’s detailed notes trace Pfitzner’s way with the Fourth, as he does with Kleiber’s Second. This was recorded in 1929, once more with the Staatskapelle but Kleiber insists on a more streamlined orchestral sound – portamenti are drastically reduced, the bass line is lightened and a sense of decisive amplitude is engendered. This is a clean-limbed, well-sprung performance in the then modern manner, alert to dynamic variance, canny over tempo relationships, but still broadly a generously spirited reading. It contrasts well with the more gruff and obviously romanticised Pfitzner.

The notes by Rob Cowan, as I suggested, are specific about performance practice as exemplified in these two mutually reflective recordings. The transfers in this issue have been carried out by David Lennick and do justice to the originals.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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