The booklet of this CD gives a link to a dedicated website -
expired or not yet set up at the time of writing - for a "Masterworks
of Giants" series. This release is the first of an intended
complete cycle of Beethoven's symphonies in that series. It
follows Chinese conductor Yondani Butt's recent recording of
the Brahms symphonies, reviewed here.
In that review, the label is given simply as "Nimbus",
but Nimbus Alliance ought really to be considered a separate
entity, despite the fact that Nimbus itself is clearly involved.
To quote the company that deals with its PR: "Nimbus Alliance
is a new classical record label created to offer international
distribution to recordings licensed to Nimbus Records but not
originated by the company. Nimbus Alliance will consider projects
from new artists trying to find a home for recordings they have
made privately or from mature artists who find that their back
catalogue is no longer available due to changing fashion or
industry mergers." An almost complete discography of the
Nimbus Alliance series, with links to reviews, can be found
What category the present release falls into is not entirely
clear, but it is difficult to see how any full-price recording
like this of Beethoven's Symphony no.3 can compete, without
a big name conductor or huge advertising budget, in a market
that resembles a Biblical mob scene, with perhaps 400 commercial
recordings already available.
In its favour, on the other hand, can be counted the ever-reliable
London Symphony Orchestra, the packed-to-the-rafters timing,
and the fact that Yondani Butt, despite his low profile, has
a lot of experience conducting major (and minor) orchestras
and in making recordings, not to mention a good knowledge of
the core symphonic repertoire. There are few works more core
than Beethoven's magnificent 'Eroica'.
A comparison with other recordings would take a year, and ultimately
prove pointless: some, perhaps many, will not take to this version
mainly because it does not sound how they expect it to sound
on the strength of familiar, favourite recordings or live performances.
For those without preconceptions, newcomers to the Third Symphony
in particular, there is certainly nothing here to dislike. Whilst
there is no great personality in Butt's reading, neither is
the result bland. He guides the LSO through an intelligent,
relaxed, neutral account, even if the LSO at times sound more
professional than passionate. The same can be said of the four
overtures that follow, one of which, King Stephen (or
Stephan) is a relative rarity in recordings of Beethoven.
The sound quality is very good, as one might expect, although
to say there is little atmosphere would be an understatement
- these are dry, almost academic recordings. On the bright side,
at least there are no coughers or traffic rumbles.
The booklet is a bit 1980s in design, but supplies about the
right amount of detail to suit both first-timers and those considering,
however fleetingly, an umpteenth purchase. The notes do however
begin by presenting as truth and whole truth the apocryphal
story from Ferdinand Ries that Beethoven scratched out his dedication
to Napoleon because he felt "betrayed". Some may also
find it a bit of an annoyance that the date of recording is
not given; when will some labels learn that most collectors
really want to know the when? Finally, the picture on the front
cover is one of those many of Beethoven disguised as someone
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk