Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 - 1827)
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36 (1807)
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (1802)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado
Directed by Bob Cole.
recorded in February 2001 live at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome (DVD).
TDK DV BPAB 25 [75 minutes]


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Abbado has recorded all of the Beethoven Symphonies on CD for Deutsche Grammophon. This series of DVDs is now being released and records a series of concerts given in Rome in 2001. They are using the same editions of the Symphonies (Jonathon Del Mar) as they did in the CD versions. These gave Abbado a chance to review his approach. The new edition goes back to the original manuscripts and subsequent corrections by the composer as well as to other published editions. Without comparing the new edition with the old, the changes appear to be of a relatively minor nature and an average listener will be unable to tell which edition is being used.

A far more important effect is that of the conductor’s approach to the music. Here we have interpretations so far removed from that of his Berlin predecessor, Herbert von Karajan, that there is no continuity of interpretation from the earlier era. There is none of the lushness beloved of Karajan and his army of fans. It is amazing that after a few years this approach is now sneered at as an anachronism. Listening to these earlier performances, I find that their strong points are still there. Abbado however supplies something which is more contemporary.

Abbado recorded a series of these symphonies in the late 1980s with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, also released on DG. At the time these older performances were not rated as great, but merely as a good run-through. If any of you are basing your response to this DVD upon these earlier recordings, you are in for a shock.

Abbado, evincing a wonderful rapport with his orchestra, is clearly thoroughly enjoying himself and this despite looking distinctly unwell as a result of his recent serious illness. The orchestra shares the pleasure with "on the edge of the seat" playing and complete commitment to their conductor.

With the new editions, Abbado has elected for a much reduced size of orchestra for the Second Symphony, using only three double basses and four cellos. This sparer sound produces a lightness in phrasing almost, dare I say it, like a period performance. It clearly is not a period performance but nowadays, many conductors are absorbing what has been learned without going the whole hog. Here we have modern instruments, steel strings and modern brass and woodwind driven superbly by their conductor.

The recording quality is extremely fine, capturing the tonal splendour of this very great orchestra to perfection. The closing in on individual instruments in good BBC fashion enhances the listening experience considerably.

Anyone choosing this release is in for a very rewarding experience. It gives one the chance to see a world class (if not the world class) orchestra thoroughly at ease with their Music Director, playing favourite Beethoven symphonies with maximum style and enjoyment. Its audience is both quiet and attentive and voracious in their reaction to them at the close, and this is well deserved.

John Phillips

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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