An interesting concept,
brought off with real élan. All
of these arrangements are contemporary
with the composer (all within Beethoven’s
lifetime). The snag is no-one’s quite
sure who did them. The Pathétique
arrangement was published in 1807 (or
thereabouts) by Tobias Haslinger, who
may have been the arranger himself.
Actually, it is remarkably effective,
once the shock of the opening chord
is over. Instead of a hard-edged piano
accent, the strings are more cushioned,
taking away some of the visceral nature
of the moment. The performance by the
Locrian Ensemble is alive, if curiously
somewhat distanced. Part-writing is
by the very nature of the beast clearer
and a C-minor energy does flow throughout
the first movement.
The famous slow movement
is very lyrical and restful (when one
plays it there is a tendency to think
in terms of the string quartet, anyway
– it is even notated to imply a quartet
of some description!). The finale has
a relevant feeling of forward motion,
unfortunately sagging in the middle
(as the players seem to get a little
The Eighth Symphony
is next in playing order (the listed
playing order on the front cover is
exactly in reverse!). It’s amazing how
much energy the Locrian Ensemble brings
to the first movement; even the very
opening is the requisite explosion of
joy! This is furious and zesty playing
- it really sounds as if they went for
it in the studio! The diminuendo in
the opening bars of the ‘mechanistic’
second movement may raise eyebrows (it
demeans the tick-tock element) and the
third movement is perhaps not as muscular
as it could be. The finale too suffers
from a low-voltage approach.
The First Symphony
is more consistently charged and alive.
While certain elements are certainly
demeaned by the reduced scoring, cheeky
exchanges work remarkably well. The
brisk tempo for the slow movement is
perhaps surprising, but it actually
exactly reflects the designation. It
is the finale that is the highlight
here, definitely comedic and rhythmically
on-the-ball. It’s just a little bit
tame towards the end; this is a young
man’s music, after all.
This is a superb, thoroughly
enjoyable disc. Michael Ponder’s recording
(he is both Producer and Balance Engineer)
is superb, with just the right mount
of space, yet letting through all the
Well worth investigation.
The Locrian Ensemble excels itself.
Do try and hear this disc.