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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.1 in C major op.21 (1800)
Symphony No.2 in D major op.36 (1802)
Heidelberger Sinfoniker/Thomas Fey
Recorded April-May 2000 at the Gesellschafthaus, Heidelberg-Pfaffengrund. DDD
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD 98.375 [55:10]
CD available for post-free online mail-order or you may download individual tracks. For some labels you can download the entire CD with a single click and make HUGE savings. The price you see is the price you pay! The full booklet notes are available on-line.

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This is the mouth-watering first release by Maestro Thomas Fey and the Heidelberger Sinfoniker in his projected cycle of the complete Beethoven symphonies for Hänssler Classics. Left with eager anticipation for the remaining symphonies I cannot wait to hear his readings of my two particular favourites the ‘Eroica’ and ‘Pastoral’.

I recently reviewed the first Fey/Heidelberger Sinfoniker CD from their projected cycle of the complete Haydn symphonies. This featured the ‘Surprise’ and ‘London’ symphonies on Hänssler Classic CD 98.340. This was as perfect as I thought humanly possible to hear. The present disc is another sure-fire winner and Fey proves himself as one of the premier conductors of the day with an orchestra which he has cut into gemstones of superior quality. Although not clear from the booklet notes I understand that the Heidelberger Sinfoniker play on period woodwind, brass and timpani using modern strings with minimum detectable vibrato and utilise a pragmatic approach to their performances based on historical performance practice.

In his first symphony from 1800 Beethoven demonstrates a full control of symphonic technique anxious to explore areas of self-expression. The work broke new ground widening the symphonic form for its unorthodox harmonic procedure. Maestro Fey easily manages to convey a complete control over Beethoven’s requirements and provides a vibrant and personal interpretation which comes-off impeccably. Hear the exceptionally fine orchestral playing in the final movement on track 4 (point 3:26) where the horns and oboes lead the joyous march through the symphony’s closing pages supported by flutes, bassoons and clarinets.

Composed in 1802, Beethoven’s second symphony is music abundant with fertile ideas and a sunny disposition. Maestro Fey’s expansive and energetic reading really brings out the richer orchestral colours and the serenity of mood while impressively maintaining the elegant components of classical design. In the opening movement on track 5 (point 0:00) Fey and his players give the slow introduction which opens the symphony particular eloquence. The Sinfoniker are on top form in the finale on track 8 (point 0:00) with the joyful outburst of the first theme on the violins.

My favoured alternative versions of these symphonies have been the period instrument performances from John Eliot Gardiner with the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique on DG Dig. 447-049-2 and also from David Zinman with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra on Arte Nova Dig. 74321 63645-2.

These are sterling performances from Hanssler Classics of such wonderful music from the pen of the great master. Thomas Fey and his Heidelberger Sinfoniker persuasively combines joyful lyricism with dynamic momentum. Maestro Fey is continually alive to the dynamic constraints of the works displaying total control of the episodes of dignity and grace with the required vigour and an intense energy. The Heidelberger Sinfoniker are extremely accomplished however on a couple of occasions they fall slightly out of line and momentarily loose their concentration; which is a minor drawback only to be expected from fallible human beings. Unfortunately this slight reservation prevents me from awarding the recording the premier-rating of six Ludwig points.

Thomas Fey’s reading reaches exceptional heights and takes the listener with him all the way. The recorded sound is excellent and the booklet notes are interesting and largely informative. Highly recommended and my first choice for these two symphonies.

Michael Cookson


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FREE SOUND SAMPLES
(minimum 30 secs)

Symphony No. 1 op. 21:
Adagio molto - Allegro con brio

Andante cantabile con moto

Menuetto. Allegro molto e vivace

Finale. Adagio - Allegro molto e vivace

Symphony No. 2 op. 36:
Adagio - allegro con brio

Larghetto

Scherzo. Allegro

Allegro molto





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