Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43
Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Georg Szell
recorded 11 / 1964 (Sibelius) and 11 / 1966 (Beethoven) in the Concertgebouw,
PHILIPS 464 682-2
Here is a classic coupling returned to the catalogue in a stunning new transfer,
which should bring it many more fans. Some of the 50 year celebration recordings
from Philips have been questioned by others for their inclusion in this series,
but make no mistake, this is fully capable of holding its own with any other
performance in the catalogue of either work, and fully deserves its place
in this series.
Apparently Georg Szell had a somewhat rocky time with the Dutch players on
most occasions when he guest conducted in Holland. This issue however proves
that you don't need to be loved by an ensemble to obtain thrilling results.
Over the years, this issue has had an uneven history as its first appearance
on CD was in a No-Noise transfer. This was advertised as the way to go for
elderly recordings, but it was generally held to be a failure with clouded
and dull sound quality due to the technology interfering with the recording
rather than enhancing it.
It was then released as part of a Georg Szell compendium by Philips, but
this, as many other releases these days, did not stay in the catalogue for
long, and was hampered by inappropriate couplings. Now we have it back as
a single disc re-issue with the recordings restored to their original glory
with performances that have not been bettered over the years since their
first release on two separate LPs.
You might have your own personal favourites of both, for me these are the
Kleiber V.P.O. Beethoven 5th, and the Monteux L.S.O Sibelius
2nd, recently available at long last from Australia. The current
performances can hold their own with both of these, and if you love either
of both these works, I do urge you to buy this issue of the two symphonies,
especially if you are unaware of their glories.
As you may imagine, the Beethoven has enormous drive and fire, but this is
tempered by the tone colour of the Amsterdam orchestra which enhances the
performance, and now can be fully appreciated through the improvements in
the recording quality. The first movement is almost as fast as Kleiber's,
so if you know this later performance you will know what you are in for.
Indeed, throughout, speeds are very similar, and the tragedy of record collecting
is that blinded by the latest, greatest performance, the impact of earlier
work is often forgotten. This is where we can be extremely grateful for issues
of this kind, where we have the opportunity to relive the experience of the
classic recordings, and re-assess the performances against current issues.
The Sibelius 2nd is another classic recording with Szell taking
the symphony for what it is - a relatively early work from a young composer,
starting out on his symphonic journey. Too often, this symphony is interpreted
as a great romantic work and is drawn out with the conductor making us aware
of the romantic elements to the fore with a great wallow in string tone and
the like. Here we have a lithe and highly exciting performance with the orchestra
on the edge of their seats throughout with the acoustic of the Concertgebouw
adding to the impact of the performance. One interesting fact is that the
orchestra is referred to as the Concertgebouw, this time the "Royal" is dropped
- quite correctly, in my opinion, as at the time of recording, this is what
Whatever you do, don't miss this issue - you will be repaid a hundred times
over in pure pleasure as a result of buying it. Congratulations Universal,
why not issue more of these classic recordings which you still hold, languishing
in your vaults.