Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770Ė1827)
Symphony no. 4 in B-flat major, Op. 60 [31:53]
Symphony no. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 [33:32]
London Symphony Orchestra/Yondani Butt
rec. Abbey Road Studios, 29 October 2011; Henry Wood Hall, London, 2-3 November 2011
NIMBUS CD NI6147 [65:15]
Recorded in late 2011, the 2012 release of Beethovenís Fourth and Fifth Symphony with Yondani Butt conducting the London Symphony Orchestra is the latest installment in a new cycle of the composerís symphonies.
Buttís ability to convey Beethovenís style is apparent in this recording, which juxtaposes two directions in the composerís efforts. The classical affinities emerge in the Fourth Symphony through Buttís attention to motoric rhythms and regular phrasing. The structure of the first movement is evident in the presentation of the introduction, and the clear-cut approach to the exposition. Here the orchestral balances support the content well, with the timbre audibly differentiated. This detail is the result of the solid engineering by Nimbus in successfully rendering the sound of the London Symphony. With the second movement, the introductory passage is nicely understated, so that its insistent reiteration at the conclusion of the first period makes musical sense. The accompanying figures play a strong role in this movement, and Butt allows them to sound as if he were playing the piece at a keyboard. The Scherzo is energetic from the start, with the momentum apparent in the clean entrances and crisp phrasing. The inner voices of the string sections are nicely textured, a quality that finds excellent expression at the beginning of the Finale. Butt gives an unflagging performance, which has the sense of being made in a single take. This is a solid interpretation of Beethovenís Fourth Symphony, which shows well the tight ensemble of the London Symphony.
The challenge of pairing this with the Fifth Symphony is distinguishing the works stylistically. Butt is convincing in this regard. Without overemphasizing the famous four-note theme, Butt allows the idea to infuse the first movement, with Buttís broadening of tempos matching well with his overall conception of the piece. The clear, articulations of the woodwinds reinforce the masterful string playing. At the same time, the brass fit nicely into the orchestral palette with grace. While some modern orchestras may allow the brass to overbalance in this movement, the controlled sound in this recording is welcome in terms of clarity and style. The second movement offers a welcome contrast through its implicit lyricism. The orchestral outbursts emerge readily in engineering, which captures the fullness of the sound and also the solo voices that Beethoven uses to contrast them. Effective as this movement is, the woodwind passages at the end of the movement sometimes seem overly extended. This is a minor quibble in an otherwise fine performance. Buttís Scherzo is relatively restrained, a quality which allows the sonorities to resonate. At the same time, the acoustic of the studio is useful, too, in supporting the contrapuntal textures that the London Symphony perform so well. Butt sets up the triumphant concluding section by sustaining the section that precedes it with chamber-music textures. The tuttis are warmly resonant, with intensity apparent in the rounded sounds of the horns and full-bodied string colors.
These are solid performances, which offer interpretations of these familiar works with an excellent modern orchestra. Butt achieves fine effects without using period instruments. Rather, Buttís interpretations belong to the performing tradition which keeps these works with the repertoire performed by modern symphony orchestras. With such lively interpretations as these, the music reflects the continuous tradition that exists for Beethovenís symphonic works.
James L Zychowicz
Solid performances of these familiar works with an excellent modern orchestra.