Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony no.3 in E flat Eroica, op.55 [45:52]
*Leonore - Overture 'no.1' in C, op.138 [9:30]
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg/Sylvain Cambreling
rec. Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany, 14 February 2009; *Festspielhaus, Baden-Baden, Germany, 17 December 2004. DDD
GLOR CLASSICS GC 11451 [55:35]
With Beethoven's Third Symphony, French-born conductor Sylvain Cambreling and his elaborately-named Southwest Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg (SWRSO) face a Biblical mob scene of competition. There are perhaps 400 commercial recordings already available. This latest on German label Glor Classics is not helped by its short timing, and in some other regards it contrives effectively to marginalise itself - if not necessarily for those looking for an introduction to this magnificent symphony, then certainly as far as seasoned Beethovenites are concerned.
The experienced SWRSO plays with the sympathy virtually any German ensemble demonstrates performing Beethoven, marking it up, as it were, as their music. Textural clarity is impressive. Yet despite their professional application under Cambreling's accomplished guidance, some sections - the marcia funebre above all - seem to lack a little passion and spontaneity: perhaps rehearsals had gone on too long beforehand, or perhaps Cambreling had not entirely persuaded the Orchestra of his vision for the work. Nonetheless, they perk up well for the finale: neither listener nor musician can fail to be stirred by Beethoven's heroically sublime score.
For whatever reason, recordings emanating from Germany are surprisingly but frequently among the poorest in Europe with regard to 'lossiness', and these from Glor suffer from the same problem: a diminution of definition and slight distortion in fortissimo passages typical of high-quality mp3 rather than the depth of sound associated with WAV or FLAC technology, and reminiscent of the early digital recordings, like Karajan's Berlin Philharmonic on DG, all but ruined by their celluloid tinniness. It would be misleading to call audio quality here poor - to older ears especially it may sound perfectly fine - but it is not as good as it could or indeed should be, more so in the older Leonore recording. An additional matter is the miking, which leaves some parts of the orchestra somewhat in the background.
In other words, few familiar with the Eroica are likely to fancy this sometimes subdued version with its engineering flaws over established personal or critical favourites. Moreover, without even the benefit of a cheaper retail price, this release is likely to be lost in the media-led stampede for Gustavo Dudamel's recording for DG with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, which is scheduled for publication on the same day (4790250).
The CD booklet, housed in a digipak case, has a modern look through its glossy German-English pages. Though saying nothing new about Beethoven or the Symphony, the notes are fairly well written and informative, and almost matched in size by the biographical puffs of Cambreling and the SWRSO. As is de rigueur whenever the Eroica is discussed, the notes present as fact the apocryphal story from Ferdinand Ries that Beethoven scratched out his dedication to Napoleon because he felt betrayed.
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Some sections seem to lack a little passion and spontaneity.