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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Triple Concerto in C major, Op. 56 (1803-04) [34:35]*;
Septet in E flat major, Op. 20 (1799-1800) [39:23]†
*Yefim Bronfman (piano); Gil Shaham (violin); Truls Mørk (cello);
Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich/David Zinman
†Michael Reid (clarinet); Florenz Jenny (bassoon); Jakob Hefti (horn); Gil Shaham (violin); Michel Rouilly (viola); Truls Mørk (cello); Ronald Dangel (double-bass)
rec. Zurich Tonhalle, *20-21, †30-31 October 2004. DDD
ARTE NOVA CLASSICS 82876 64015 2 [74:21]

There’s nothing remotely routine about David Zinman, Arte Nova’s in-house Beethoven master. Remember the impact of his ‘new generation’ Eroica back in 1998, complete with ornamentation and string quartet in the finale? A seismic explosion. His performances enquire, cleanse, elaborate, and take risks. Rasping horns and natural trumpets attack. Hard-sticked kettle-drums sharpen the drama. Inner strings boil and pulsate, not a loose note within hearing. Tight rhythms and high speeds, pointed legato slurs and crisp staccato dots, drive the music onwards. Big dynamic range, phrases shaped to their apexes, climaxes thrillingly taken - the theatre aflame with passion, urgency and heroics. In the symphony and overture cycles [74321 65410 2; 82876 57831 2], Haydn’s ‘Grand Mogul’ goes rampantly on the charge, drunk on the wine of sound and beat. Zinman’s Beethoven is lean, post-Szell style, combining ‘period performance’ practice with romantic intensity and modern streamlining. Like Savall, he brings an urgent temperament to bear on this music – indulging a phrase, a dramatic delivery, with a freedom and conviction denied to the more regimented likes of a Hogwood, Marriner or Norrington. Founded in 1868, the Tonhalle Orchestra, which must count itself fortunate having him at the helm (his contract has been renewed until 2010), backs his ideas throughout, relishing every moment in the acoustic glow of their splendid late 19th century auditorium. Add a seasoned Decca partnership to the chemistry – producer Chris Hazell and engineer/editor Simon Eadon – clarity of image, physical presence, ringing ambience: magical formula – and a special event is promised. Each time. Guaranteed.

Less and less the Cinderella of Beethoven’s concertos, the Triple comes these days in a number of high-profile versions, as well as a variety of vintage readings going back to Böhm, Fricsay, Golovanov and Toscanini. None though can claim the shock value of this latest foray. Here we are, settling in to the great unharmonised cello/bass tune of the opening – resonances that first came my direction through the (similarly paced) 1958 Abbey Road Philharmonia recording with Oborin, Oistrakh and Knushevitsky under Sargent [HMV Classics 77 67796 2; Asi 69331]. Bar 8, less than 15 seconds in - and Zinman’s touch comes into play, cellos and basses starting their trill not on the customary principal note (A) but the upper (B), heightening the tension with the second violin and viola C a tenth above. A rude awakening. Subsequent sforzandi and crescendi maintain the full-throated approach, at the strings of the orchestra reduced only marginally from their normal strength.Ideally focused, the solo trio excels throughout, Mørk evidently enjoying the most taxing of the three parts, and Bronfman living a calmer, more self-effacing role than in his Sony period. A more intoxicating, lyrically poetic, elegantly mannered middle-period Beethoven you could not wish for. With a lingering Largo and aristocratically stepping Polacca, the orchestra contributing as much to the ‘solo’ picture as the concertino, this is a release at one with the composer’s vision.

The Septet, in which Shaham and Mørk join members of the Tonhalle, is more delightful than I can recall in a long while. A wonderful symmetry of late 18th century symphony, serenade and solo flight, harmoniously structured and affectionately phrased - 'the famous Herr Ludwig van Beethoven', 'son of the morning, glorying in his power', purveying music for public consumption with a charm and poise equalling the Mozarts and Wents of the Habsburg realm he was to dominate. Gracious melody, gracious playing, gracious recording, evocatively bloomed.

Ateş Orga



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