Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21 (1799-1800) [26:27]
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor Op. 67 (1807) [30:47]
Beethoven Orchester Bonn/Stefan Blunier
rec. 29-31 May 2012, Bonn
MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG 937 1756-6
How wonderful it is to hear these two symphonies which have been so
much part of my life over the years. My music teacher at school in Oxford
in the late 1960s introduced us to Beethoven 1 in our music class. I
was hooked, having previously only known the Pastoral
my favourite. Right from the opening the thirty year old Beethoven is
making a statement at the start of a new century. Heaven knows how many
versions I’ve listened to, from the exciting Mengelberg through
to Rattle, Most have been superb experiences. The only problem is that
there are just so many - never too
many - to chose from!
With most available recordings over the past sixty years in good sound
this newcomer faces fierce competition.
Stefan Blunier and his Beethoven Orchester were new to me. That said,
several of their recordings have been reviewed on MWI and I read these
accounts prior to listening to this disc. Their version of Number 1
is fine as it goes but some of the magic of this work was missing. The
recording is also not as good as expected yet it was made only last
year. Blunier seems to concentrate on detail rather than overall structure.
Turning to Klemperer live in Vienna (review
and in moderate sound - which I got
on the strength of my colleague
John Quinn’s review - or Karajan in his 1962 cycle on DG the playing
and the spirit was on a totally different level.
Blunier’s Beethoven 5 is a better performance and one which I
enjoyed. The Bonn orchestra are certainly fine players and hearing them
in the concert hall would be a joy. Disconcertingly Blunier doesn’t
take the recapitulation in the final movement and that just sounds wrong
here. For comparison I returned to Carlos Kleiber’s famous recording
on DG and was struck by the power and sense of occasion. The sound too
of the VPO from the 1970s is still excellent.
In the end even if the Beethoven market weren’t saturated it would
be difficult to be very positive about this record. Even so, I was very
pleased to hear this very good orchestra and these works again. The
performances are fine as far as they go and at budget price would be
worthy of a listen. Sadly, at full price they cannot be recommended.
David R Dunsmore