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. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55, Eroica (1803)
Symphony No. 9 in D Minor Op. 125 Choral (1824)
Karita Mattila (soprano), Violetta Urmana (mezzo-soprano), Thomas Moser (tenor) and Eikke Wilm Schulte (bass) with the Swedish Radio Choir and the Eric Ericsson Chamber Choir.
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
Directed by Bob Cole.
recorded in February 2001 live at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome (Eroica) and May, 2000, also live, in the Philharmonie, Berlin. (DVD).
TDKDV BPAB39 [122.00]


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Here we have a real bargain for all music loving DVD collectors. This issue couples Beethovenís two longest symphonies on one disc; a feat impossible on normal CDs. It is the latest in the series of live recordings of Beethoven Symphonies from Santa Cecilia in Rome played by the Berlin Philharmonic, under their then Music Director, Claudio Abbado. This time we have two venues, with the Ninth being recorded in 2000 in the Philharmonie, Berlin.

As before, the editions of the scores are those from Jonathan Del Mar who over the past few years has been annotating the music from original manuscripts, corrections from Beethoven himself, and other editions. I am sure that these will be of tremendous interest to music students and the like, but I am not so sure whether the general music lover will notice that much difference. When changes of this kind are lauded it is generally in relation to what they inspire in performers rather than the actual printed notes.

Claudio Abbado has rethought his attitude to Beethovenís symphonies. In these two works, the orchestra is larger than before, but the tempi are still fleet of foot compared with his earlier CD cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic on DG. This is said by many commentators to be a reflection of period performance practice, but I am not so sure.

Older collectors might like to remember a famous older performance of the Eroica from the Vienna Philharmonic under Erich Kleiber. As with Abbado, there is the first movement exposition repeat, and the timings of both performances are almost identical, as is the phrasing and weight of each. Rather than period performance practice, I believe the differences between many modern performances and older ones are to do with the basic tempo. Many modern issues are slow and romantic when compared to performances of the 1950s and 1960s of which many listeners are totally unaware. It is therefore no surprise when a conductor, looking back to older conductors to find inspiration, is treated as wonderful by critics who were not around when these earlier performances were available.

These performances are very similar to those issued by DG recently on CD.

As before, in previous issues in this series, the Berlin Philharmonic play as if their very lives depend upon it. Abbadoís leadership is clear and concise, and the orchestra gives the impression of working closely with their Music Director through co-operation, rather than direction.

The soloists in the Choral are first rate, with Karita Mattila turning in her usual very high class performance, ably supported by the other somewhat less well known artists. The choirs are magnificent, and greatly enhance the overall pleasure to be obtained from Beethovenís final symphony. Abbado often works with these two choirs and one can hear why. Surely there must be choirs of a similar standard in Berlin, but these visitors turn in a performance of sheer magic.

There are two venues on this disc and of the two the recording done in the Philharmonie (The Choral) has the better sound quality. It is only marginal, and if you have been happy with the quality of previous issues in this series, it is well up to the standard of the earlier releases. You should be delighted.

In the Eroica, there is also the "Special Feature," which has been used before. If you push your "Angle" button, you can follow the entire work watching the conductor, with no other views in the frame. You could say that this feature would have made Karajanís day. Switching back, you get these conductor shots, mixed in with shots of the other members of the orchestra. Fascinating if you want to watch the conductor at work.

Donít hesitate with this issue Ė it is a gem.

John Phillips

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