The Fourth Symphony
is given in front of what almost looks
like a half-audience. A shame for this
is a very good reading indeed. Despite
some teething problems in the slow introduction
to the first movement (it is also just
too fast to maintain the requisite tension),
it's nice to hear the end of the introduction
exactly in tempo, and the ensuing allegro
vivace has plenty of vim.
‘Nice’ seems to describe
Gielen’s view of the Fourth, a slender
but ever so slightly plain Grecian maiden.
It is easy to admire the woodwind contributions
to the flowing Adagio, but how far do
we really enter Beethoven’s world. Far
better is the way the generally gentle
third movement contrasts with the busy
finale, replete with thunderous fortes.
Something of a missed
opportunity on the visual side at the
beginning of the Fifth, recorded two
years earlier. Just how to conduct that
opening has been a subject of heated
debate for conductors. A pity we shall
never know Gielen’s take; it is a different
kettle of fish on the repeat, of course,
with the tempo already well-established.
We get a nice shot of the double-basses
Gielen’s is a strong
reading, if not grippingly involving
along the lines of a Carlos Kleiber,
for example. There is nevertheless a
tensile strength that underpins the
experience and contrasts with the nicely
shaped if slightly superficial slow
movement. Again the third movement proves
to be a turning point, here robust and
with a good sense of drama. There is
distinct energy about the finale given
complete with repeat. The coda does
work, the feeling of the live event
no doubt contributing.
Gielen’s idea of ‘Áwakening
of Cheerful Memories’ is clearly different
from mine. No hanging about, this first
movement of the ‘Pastoral’ is as brisk
as they come. There is a nice use of
camera angle, so that one can watch
Gielen as if one were a back-desk violinist.
A good idea, as sometimes someone who
appears clear from the audience view-point
may be anything but from the players’
aspect, and vice-versa, of course. Gielen
appears expressive and clear, in the
event. However, the emotion conveyed
is determined rather than happy.
The ‘Scene by the brook’;
is a leisurely, eloquently-conducted
four-to-a-bar. Woodwind again impress
in the ‘Merry Gathering of Country-Folk’
third movement, with a lovely, perky
oboe although horns could be more from
the chase. A dramatic storm leads to
a structural miscalculation though.
The finale is not the release of some.
Good that the trombones are visually
highlighted as they represent an important
aspect of the progressive scoring of
Overall, not the follow-on
1 of Gielen’s cycle I had hoped
for. There are not enough moments of
beauty, not enough sections of real
grit and above all not enough vision
from the conductor to merit a recommendation.