When I came to write this piece, a glance at the review of the first issue
in this series of the “Eroica” by Byzantion to my surprise confirmed that it had already been written, as every word he says here equally applies to this recording:
“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 …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…”
I have little to add. These are restrained, civilised readings, generally treated to a light touch. The LSO strings are at times quite zingy, especially as they quite often play with little or no vibrato in a concession to modern performance practice. Butt makes no idiosyncratic departures from the norm unless you count the fact that in common with Cluytens and Knappertsbusch he favours a leisurely tempo in the opening movement and sides more with the likes of Karajan by taking the Menuetto
quite slowly and thus his overall timings is quite slow, but that chimes with his generally sensible approach.
Nonetheless, I could observe that in this “Little” symphony, Casals flows, Karajan insists and Kubelik dances, whereas Butt just … is.
The overtures are decidedly uninspiring in comparison with favourite versions by Furtwängler or Masur with the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester. My pulse is not set racing as it should in the Egmont
and the Coriolan
but all four overtures are equally decidedly well played. After all, this is the LSO, a great orchestra, faithfully recorded in a clear ambience.
That said, is there any reason to recommend this over a dozen or more other accounts?
Masterwork Index: Symphony 8