Author Topic: Op 55  (Read 1327 times)

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Offline Holden

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #20 on: November 20, 2020, 12:57:29 PM »




Lenny's turn.  The aged New York recording launches with a tight Allegro con brio shorn of all excess weight and gesture, but with ample drive.  It's like a stylistically smoother Toscanini in some ways, though the sound lends a somewhat small-scale and scratchy sound, almost as if Lenny were proto-HIP, which he was not.  It's mostly high voltage excitement.  That's good enough.  The Funeral March keeps things tight and moves forward almost relentlessly, though not relentlessly fast.  It's like a less inspired Kleiber.  The Scherzo is taken at a slightly broad tempo, and Bernstein pushes it forward with the same relentlessness of the opening movement, making for a satisfying movement.  The finale starts off at a nearly frenzied pace before pulling back to something more conventional.  The speed, weight, and orderly dispatch of the music makes for an exciting listen.  It's a pity Bernstein's New York legacy wasn't as well recorded as the work of some other conductors of the day, that's for sure.  The Vienna recording is notably broader in tempo, and while it lacks the relentless forward drive of the earlier recording, Bernstein does a masterful job of keeping the music tight.  The Allegro con brio never even remotely sags in its nearly eighteen minute duration, and of course the Vienna band keep things sounding magnificent.  Bernstein takes his sweet time with the Funeral March as well, and it loses some grandeur and punch, but picks up some beauty and stateliness, and some more dynamic contrast.  Pick your stylistic poison.  The Scherzo likewise sounds a bit more stately but also has some nice contrasts.  The finale somehow manages to take almost twelve minutes yet still groove, like a big ol' dance in places.  Lenny does his thing, injecting personality and vitality and it sounds just swell, and marks a qualitative step up from the New York recording, even if it doesn't reach the same elevated heights as some other versions.

The Lenny NYPO is currently my top stereo Eroica. My mono hasn’t been mentioned but it’s similar in many ways. It’s the  Toscanini NBCSO from ‘49 which should have been the recording in the box set Todd reviewed, not the ‘52.
Cheers

Holden

Offline Jo498

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #21 on: November 20, 2020, 01:10:15 PM »
I have not recently listened to or compared recordings of the piece. But Bernstein/NYPO was also among my huge favorites and while I find his Vienna recordings a bit too "well-behaved" they are also quite good in their way. My other favorite stereo is probably Scherchen. I should relisten to the Kleiber recordings. I think I wanted to like them more than I actually did, maybe partly due to the sound that is not as good as could be hoped for early 1950s.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2020, 06:35:22 AM »




A pair from Eugen Jochum.  The mono Berlin recording opens at a slow pace in the Allegro con brio, which allows Jochum to speed up and build up intensity as the music progresses, but the piece never really seems to take off, and some chords sound a bit heavy, and some horn work could be tidier.  Jochum opts for a leisurely overall Funeral March, with some passages sound almost like something from the Pastorale, but that deceives as he again leads the band in such a way as to maximize musical contrasts.  It ends up faring better than the opening.  The Scherzo cruises along nicely enough, though again some horn playing does not sound ideally tidy.  The Finale ends up on the kind of slow and heavy side much if the time, a few passages and the blazing coda aside.  The performance isn't terrible or anything, but there are better versions out there, including from Jochum himself.  Like his LSO recording.  Even broader in tempo in the Allegro con brio, the obviously better recorded stereo version does a much better sense of creating a sense of scale and forward momentum while still allowing the music more space to breathe.  The Funeral March sounds even better.  Again, it's broad, but Jochum proves masterly at building up the tension until the orchestra pounds out a nearly Brucknerian tutti with trumpets tearing through the orchestra.  It's the highlight of the performance.  The Scherzo moves along at a nice enough pace, but sounds a bit too laid back in terms much of the time, while the Finale has more drive and weight than the earlier recording, but the coda, while still quite good, doesn't blaze like the earlier one.
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Offline Handelian

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #23 on: November 22, 2020, 12:04:22 AM »
The best recording all round imo is Karajan’s 1977 which is right up there almost with Beethoven’s first movement markings yet the virtuosity is such that one never feels any sense of rush, just propulsion

Offline Todd

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #24 on: November 22, 2020, 06:46:47 AM »




Two from Abbado with Berlin.  The Berlin in Berlin recording starts off with an Allegro con brio that sounds fleet, energetic, and reasonably well scaled.  It lacks the impact of other recordings, but the forward drive exhilarates.  Something else in short supply is textural transparency.  The recording sounds like one big blob of music.  Individual sections can be heard, of course, but there's something of a cloudy effect.  Still, it's none too shabby.  The Funeral March remains taut, and opaque, but here Abbado ratchets up the volume in the tuttis, and the trumpets cut through the cloudiness a bit, and there's ample drama.  Nice.  The Scherzo moves along at a nice clip, and here the horns and trumpets sound burnished but pronounced enough to satisfy fully.  Abbado then delivers a super crisp Finale, blasting the music to start, then bopping along at an accelerated pace.  It sounds sort of abstracted, but the sheer vitality and dynamic punch make up for that.  Not one of the greats, but extremely good.  Berlin in Italy doesn't sound significantly different in conception or execution.  Sonics are noticeably different.  More closely miked, there is more detail in all sections, and the cloudiness is gone.  Also gone are the extra-wide dynamic contrasts.  (The dynamics are one of the reason I so enjoy the Berlin in Berlin Pastorale so much.)  So it sort of depends on what one prefers, bigger apparent scale and more drama, or something smaller and more detailed.  Based on critical reception from so many years ago, assuming that means something (it does not, of course), connoisseurs should gravitate toward the Rome recording(s).  Yet Berlin is where it's at for me.  I'm fine being a philistine.

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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #25 on: November 23, 2020, 05:18:21 AM »




Fluffy time!  The famous '63 recording sounds flawless, of course, start to finish.  The Allegro con brio, trimmed up, is played at an ever so slightly broad tempo (by contemporary standards), but one that allows the maestro to build up scale and drama and a weighty, blended sound.  It is big.  It is beefy.  It is heroic.  The much slower Funeral March, with some playing sounding almost exaggerated, offers a wide contrast to start, and then slowly unfolds, dominated by strings (of course), but also possessing more than enough scale and drama.  The Scherzo comes off just splendidly, with ample drive combined with perfect execution.  The Berlin strings dominate the Finale, but when the first desk plays as well as here, it's hard to kvetch too much.  There's ample drive and scale and variation in approach.  Overall, this recording offers evidence, were it needed, that Karajan knew how to get what he wanted out his band.  The 70s recording kicks things up a notch.  First, Karajan tightens up the Allegro con brio quite a bit, driving it forward with more drive and, if anything, more precision.  Second, despite his reputation for string dominated sound, the winds and horns sounds more distinct here, and the whole thing does just jell, it rocks, especially in the doozy of a coda.  (Whew!)  The Funeral March, also tightened up considerably, sounds tauter and tenser to open, with more drama either immediately present, or just below the surface.  Karajan does a slow burn, waiting, building up tension, waiting some more, and then he hammers out the loudest passages nearly as fiercely as Kleiber, but with greater polish.  Karajan stretches the Scherzo out a bit compared to '63, but the extra breathing room allows him more contrast between sections, and the tuttis sound quite hefty.  Fluffy then tightens up things again in the Finale.  The strings sound more naturally balanced and recorded - and perhaps even better played - and everything else blends in quite nicely.  There's more rhythmic incisiveness, more drive, more musical goodness, and, like Jochum I, a blazing coda.  One for the ages.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Sterna

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #26 on: November 23, 2020, 06:31:15 AM »




Fluffy time!  The famous '63 recording sounds flawless, of course, start to finish.  The Allegro con brio, trimmed up, is played at an ever so slightly broad tempo (by contemporary standards), but one that allows the maestro to build up scale and drama and a weighty, blended sound.  It is big.  It is beefy.  It is heroic.  The much slower Funeral March, with some playing sounding almost exaggerated, offers a wide contrast to start, and then slowly unfolds, dominated by strings (of course), but also possessing more than enough scale and drama.  The Scherzo comes off just splendidly, with ample drive combined with perfect execution.  The Berlin strings dominate the Finale, but when the first desk plays as well as here, it's hard to kvetch too much.  There's ample drive and scale and variation in approach.  Overall, this recording offers evidence, were it needed, that Karajan knew how to get what he wanted out his band.  The 70s recording kicks things up a notch.  First, Karajan tightens up the Allegro con brio quite a bit, driving it forward with more drive and, if anything, more precision.  Second, despite his reputation for string dominated sound, the winds and horns sounds more distinct here, and the whole thing does just jell, it rocks, especially in the doozy of a coda.  (Whew!)  The Funeral March, also tightened up considerably, sounds tauter and tenser to open, with more drama either immediately present, or just below the surface.  Karajan does a slow burn, waiting, building up tension, waiting some more, and then he hammers out the loudest passages nearly as fiercely as Kleiber, but with greater polish.  Karajan stretches the Scherzo out a bit compared to '63, but the extra breathing room allows him more contrast between sections, and the tuttis sound quite hefty.  Fluffy then tightens up things again in the Finale.  The strings sound more naturally balanced and recorded - and perhaps even better played - and everything else blends in quite nicely.  There's more rhythmic incisiveness, more drive, more musical goodness, and, like Jochum I, a blazing coda.  One for the ages.

In most reviews, it's Von Karajan's first DG cycle that gets the praise, but I find his 2nd one at least as attractive, with nos. 3 and 7 as the highlights.

Offline Handelian

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #27 on: November 23, 2020, 10:44:27 PM »
It's indeed weird that he does not give 'everybody's war hero' Wilhelm Furtwaengler a witty nickname.

In this particular review, it doesn't add anything substantial.

But, hey, 'Good Music Guide' and 'politics'. On this board, the combination already is a proven joke.

Mengelberg has never been everyone's favourite.
And he wasn't a true Nazi, but a spineless and ignorant opportunist.

Compared to some other conductors, who acted much more as ideological Nazi's (like Karl Böhm), Mengelberg was heavily punished after the war.
He must have felt miserable when he saw how quickly others were 'forgiven' and could carry on as if nothing had happened.

Your statement does show somewhat of an ignorance of the situation in that while other conductors were German, Mengelberg happened to be Dutch and was conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra since 1895. His biographer, Fritz Zwart writes (for Radio Nederland) of an "interview Mengelberg had given with the Völkische Beobachter, the German Nazi newspaper...the gist of it was that, on hearing of the Dutch surrender to the German invaders on May 10, 1940, he had brought a toast with a glass of champagne [and] had also spoken about the close bond existing between the Netherlands and Germany." Zwart also notes that Mengelberg conducted in Germany and in German-occupied countries throughout the war, and was photographed in the company of Nazis such as Arthur Seyss-Inquart. As my Dutch relatives and people like them were risking their lives hiding Jews and some of them were actually wanted by the SS for working in the resistance during the war, also going through a horrendous famine having to eat tulip bulbs, then you cannot wonder that they did not particularly approve of the actions of a collaborator like Megelberg, even if he was only a spineless and ignorant opportunist. Somewhat akin to the idiotic Reginald Goodall who supported Hitler during the war and denied the Holocaust after it. Megelberg was not ‘heavily punished’ as he still received his pension.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2020, 10:52:47 PM by Handelian »

Sterna

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #28 on: November 23, 2020, 11:17:07 PM »
Your statement does show somewhat of an ignorance of the situation in that while other conductors were German, Mengelberg happened to be Dutch and was conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra since 1895. His biographer, Fritz Zwart writes (for Radio Nederland) of an "interview Mengelberg had given with the Völkische Beobachter, the German Nazi newspaper...the gist of it was that, on hearing of the Dutch surrender to the German invaders on May 10, 1940, he had brought a toast with a glass of champagne [and] had also spoken about the close bond existing between the Netherlands and Germany." Zwart also notes that Mengelberg conducted in Germany and in German-occupied countries throughout the war, and was photographed in the company of Nazis such as Arthur Seyss-Inquart. As my Dutch relatives and people like them were risking their lives hiding Jews and some of them were actually wanted by the SS for working in the resistance during the war, also going through a horrendous famine having to eat tulip bulbs, then you cannot wonder that they did not particularly approve of the actions of a collaborator like Megelberg, even if he was only a spineless and ignorant opportunist. Somewhat akin to the idiotic Reginald Goodall who supported Hitler during the war and denied the Holocaust after it. Megelberg was not ‘heavily punished’ as he still received his pension.

Before we start to invade this topic entirely with a Mengelberg debate: I think he was punished for good reason. He was a coward during an extremely dark time. He betrayed his Jewish musicians and he betrayed his love for (and former friendship with) Mahler. But, as soprano Jo Vincent once stated in an interview, he also openly said to Seyss-Inquart, when they first met: "so you are the man who wants me to fire my Jewish musicians?" Which he eventually did, by the way. (Jo Vincent stopped performing after 1943, if I recall correctly.)
Again: I don't think that Mengelberg was a supporter of the Nazi ideology. He was pro-German, yes, and he was a spineless opportunist.
But he wasn't and isn't "everybody's favourite Dutch Nazi conductor".
And Paul van Kempen, a Dutch conductor - and a very good one - who kept on conducting in Germany during the war, and no doubt bowed for and was photographed with regional and local Nazis, was punished much less after the war. He lost his chances of becoming Mengelberg's successor in Amsterdam, but he was still allowed to conduct in the Netherlands and to make recordings.

Offline Handelian

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #29 on: November 24, 2020, 02:45:30 AM »
Before we start to invade this topic entirely with a Mengelberg debate: I think he was punished for good reason. He was a coward during an extremely dark time. He betrayed his Jewish musicians and he betrayed his love for (and former friendship with) Mahler. But, as soprano Jo Vincent once stated in an interview, he also openly said to Seyss-Inquart, when they first met: "so you are the man who wants me to fire my Jewish musicians?" Which he eventually did, by the way. (Jo Vincent stopped performing after 1943, if I recall correctly.)
Again: I don't think that Mengelberg was a supporter of the Nazi ideology. He was pro-German, yes, and he was a spineless opportunist.
But he wasn't and isn't "everybody's favourite Dutch Nazi conductor".
And Paul van Kempen, a Dutch conductor - and a very good one - who kept on conducting in Germany during the war, and no doubt bowed for and was photographed with regional and local Nazis, was punished much less after the war. He lost his chances of becoming Mengelberg's successor in Amsterdam, but he was still allowed to conduct in the Netherlands and to make recordings.

I think it’s very easy for those of us who were not in the war and he didn’t suffer in any way to make judgements on the attitude of those who suffered through the war. It’s also interesting how you appear to be far more concerned with people like Megelberg rather than the millions who were ill treated by the Nazis. I’m just writing a piece on a Dutch woman who was brutally murdered by the Nazis. It doesn’t give one a lot of sympathy

Offline Todd

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #30 on: November 24, 2020, 06:00:38 AM »




Wanted to slow things down.  No one better for that than Carlo Maria Giulini.  I've long had a fondness for this Los Angeles recording.  Slow, slow, slow, it nonetheless hits the spot.  In the context of a shootout, though, things may not fare so well.  And in the opening Andante Allegro con brio, which here takes over twenty and a half minutes, one loses any sense of urgency or drive.  Instead, one gets a sense of weight, gravity, and inevitability.  Giulini holds the musical line and moves things forward with slow but unstoppable momentum.  The thing that makes this superior to Klemperer's likewise slow stereo effort is that there's sort of a cumulative effect in the movement.  Whenever Giulini commands the entire orchestra to roar, it does, and it all leads to a grand and imposing and thundering coda.  There was always a goal in mind.  The Funeral March is of the heavy duty, solemn, and seriously funereal variety, and here Giulini cranks up the band to playing of even greater volume and power than in the opening movement, only to execute spectacular diminuendos that have nearly the same impact as the fortissimo blasts.  Nice.  The broadly paced Scherzo comes closer to normal timings, which, when combined with Giulini's heft and command, yields nice momentum, even though the horn calls are too soft.  The Finale lacks the rhythmic snap and drive of other versions, but Giulini's approach yields greater scale and heft, some really nice variation not just in thematic material, but also in texture and weight, and the coda sounds grand and weighty.  There are better versions, to be sure, but this really hits the spot.  The La Scala recording is likewise slow, and it feels much slower in the Finale, but overall it sounds warmer, gentler, and less grand, though if anything it sounds more serious and magisterial.  The LA performance has better orchestral playing, while the La Scala recording has weightier, better sound.  I prefer the LA recording, but the La Scala one is nothing to sneeze at.
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Offline André

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #31 on: November 24, 2020, 06:28:33 AM »
Thanks for that analysis, Todd. I love both Giulini versions. They are radically different from what we usually hear or expect in this work.

Sterna

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #32 on: November 24, 2020, 07:25:01 AM »
I think it’s very easy for those of us who were not in the war and he didn’t suffer in any way to make judgements on the attitude of those who suffered through the war. It’s also interesting how you appear to be far more concerned with people like Megelberg rather than the millions who were ill treated by the Nazis. I’m just writing a piece on a Dutch woman who was brutally murdered by the Nazis. It doesn’t give one a lot of sympathy

Yes, I was talking about Mengelberg, compared to other traitors and people who acted like cowards during the war, and the way they were treated after the war. I also agreed that he was punished justly. I only said that I could imagine that he felt punished more heavily than others who were as cowardly as he. Mind you, many people from occupied countries behaved spineless, including many artists, for their own sake and survival. And nevertheless many of them cheered when the allied forces came to free them. If we refer to the Netherlands only: the former Queen Beatrix has apologized for this behaviour towards Israel already many years ago. Because, in general, the Dutch civil service, which was very well organized, cooperated rather smoothly with the occupiers. Which led, in the Netherlands, to an enormous exodus of Jews.

In casu the rest of your message: I have not said anything sufficient about the victims of the Nazis in either one of my earlier posts, because that was, in my opinion, not the subject. I was mostly not happy with the, imho, rather tasteless description "everyone's favourite Dutch Nazi conductor". I did explain why.

You don't know anything about me, my family, my ancestors, my past and my family's past concerning the 2nd World War. You don't know anything about my concerns, sympathy or compassion with victims of the Nazis, or about victims of any other dirty war or genocide. I find your words towards me rather offensive, and also worrisome. I only suggested something about the treatment of Mengelberg compared to others, and you draw conclusions about me that are way out of line. For your information: in 1993 a well-known Dutch Christian newspaper, which was founded as an illegal resistance newspaper against the Nazis during the war, suggested that it might be a good idea that some streets were named after the great conductor Mengelberg. It was former Concertgebouw director Marius Flothuis who ended that discussion with a rather fierce (and justified) protest. But it shows how, in the Netherlands, even almost 50 years after the war, people were still divided about Mengelberg's behaviour and legacy.

Wilhelm Furtwaengler did bow for 12 years for the Nazis, and did not want to mix up politics and art... well, by bowing for the Nazis he did mix them up. He became the Nazis artsy fun toy. Nevertheless he was punished rather mildly. To me, it doesn't matter whether he was German or Dutch. He was as spineless as Mengelberg. The same goes for Böhm and Von Karajan, to mention just a few.

End of the 'discussion' about this sensitive topic here, as far as I'm concerned.

For more overheated conclusions and balderdash about opinions concerning politics, either nowadays politics or politics from the past, I advice you to move to the fun part of our forum called The Diner. Maybe you can find other interesting people there, who, according to your swift judgment, are far more concerned about spineless cowards than about war victims. Have fun.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2020, 07:47:32 AM by Sterna »

Offline Handelian

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #33 on: November 24, 2020, 08:04:12 AM »
Yes, I was talking about Mengelberg, compared to other traitors and people who acted like cowards during the war, and the way they were treated after the war. I also agreed that he was punished justly. I only said that I could imagine that he felt punished more heavily than others who were as cowardly as he. Mind you, many people from occupied countries behaved spineless, including many artists, for their own sake and survival. And nevertheless many of them cheered when the allied forces came to free them. If we refer to the Netherlands only: the former Queen Beatrix has apologized for this behaviour towards Israel already many years ago. Because, in general, the Dutch civil service, which was very well organized, cooperated rather smoothly with the occupiers. Which led, in the Netherlands, to an enormous exodus of Jews.

In casu the rest of your message: I have not said anything sufficient about the victims of the Nazis in either one of my earlier posts, because that was, in my opinion, not the subject. I was mostly not happy with the, imho, rather tasteless description "everyone's favourite Dutch Nazi conductor". I did explain why.

You don't know anything about me, my family, my ancestors, my past and my family's past concerning the 2nd World War. You don't know anything about my concerns, sympathy or compassion with victims of the Nazis, or about victims of any other dirty war or genocide. I find your words towards me rather offensive, and also worrisome. I only suggested something about the treatment of Mengelberg compared to others, and you draw conclusions about me that are way out of line. For your information: in 1993 a well-known Dutch Christian newspaper, which was founded as an illegal resistance newspaper against the Nazis during the war, suggested that it might be a good idea that some streets were named after the great conductor Mengelberg. It was former Concertgebouw director Marius Flothuis who ended that discussion with a rather fierce (and justified) protest. But it shows how, in the Netherlands, even almost 50 years after the war, people were still divided about Mengelberg's behaviour and legacy.

Wilhelm Furtwaengler did bow for 12 years for the Nazis, and did not want to mix up politics and art... well, by bowing for the Nazis he did mix them up. He became the Nazis artsy fun toy. Nevertheless he was punished rather mildly. To me, it doesn't matter whether he was German or Dutch. He was as spineless as Mengelberg. The same goes for Böhm and Von Karajan, to mention just a few.

End of the 'discussion' about this sensitive topic here, as far as I'm concerned.

For more overheated conclusions and balderdash about opinions concerning politics, either nowadays politics or politics from the past, I advice you to move to the fun part of our forum called The Diner. Maybe you can find other interesting people there, who, according to your swift judgment, are far more concerned about spineless cowards than about war victims. Have fun.

If that is the case, I cannot see how you answered my comment about Megelberg in the way you did. Then try this self-righteous justification of it.

Offline Todd

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #34 on: November 25, 2020, 05:54:57 AM »




A pair from Pierre.  Starting with the Vienna recording, Monteux shows his good, old-fashioned approach with an Allegro con brio without repeat that comes in at a comfortable overall tempo, starting with slow-ish opening chords.  He generates ample excitement throughout the movement as he speeds up from the slow open.  The Funeral March sounds slightly broad, and it certainly has moments of drive and intensity, aided by piercing trumpets in the climaxes, but it comes off as almost light in a few places, too, as though some of Monteux's fine ballet conducting makes an appearance.  Monteux then pulls off a nice trick of taking the Scherzo at a tempo that sounds faster than it is, with ample weight and pronounced horn work, to boot.  A bold opening announces the Finale, which Monteux brings home with more of that lighter direction, at least at times, with an almost springy feel.  Nice.  Overall, very good - it's Monteux - but not a top choice.  The Royal Concertgebouw is strikingly similar in overall tempo choices and interpretation.  It varies by having slightly less pronounced but more tightly focused trumpets and horns, tighter ensemble overall, and slightly better sound.  As such, it rates slightly more highly.  Nice.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2020, 06:06:39 AM by Todd »
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #35 on: November 26, 2020, 05:54:03 AM »






A triple-shot of Bruno Walter.  For the 1941 NYPO recording, I compared the United Archives remastering to the Bruno Walter Edition remastering, and the Sony set sounds so much better that that was obviously the way to go.  Walter starts with terse opening chords in the Allegro con brio, and then moves to a well paced - not at all to slow, not rushed - where the music unfolds in dramatic fashion, and ultimately builds up to a powerful, weighty, but driven coda.  The Funeral March benefits from Walter's dramatic approach - one can almost hear an operatic component - with ample intensity in the climaxes.  The Scherzo is weighty and quick.  The only minor reservations come in the Finale, which starts a bit heavy and sounds less than ideally heavy in a few spots.  But any quibbles are ephemeral piffle.  The 1949 recording, not too surprisingly, sounds quite similar.  It feels just a bit broader, but it also sound better played and has better sonics.  Dig the clarity of winds and horns for something from the 40s.  The Finale sounds a bit peppier, which is good.  Overall, it's qualitatively interchangeable with the earlier one, which of course means that it's best to have both.  Or really, all three.  The stereo recording, from 1958, sounds slower, less forceful, less energetic, less dramatic, but more magisterial and weightier.  That applies to the entire symphony.  While not as good as the earlier two recordings, it has a sense of finality to it.  This is the last take, the final recorded monument.  It's hard not to enjoy end of career Walter, because he cannot and does not commit any major blunders.  This is what he wanted and got from his band.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #36 on: November 27, 2020, 06:31:19 AM »


After so many old-fashioned, large-scaled, at times heavy Eroicas, something modern and sleek seemed appropriate.  And why not go with one of the newest of the new with Thomas Adès and his recording with the Britten Sinfonia.  Adès is of course a triple threat, being a pianist and composer of no little accomplishment, as well as a conductor of no little accomplishment.  This performance is all about speed, agility, bold dynamic contrasts, and playing verging on the spiky.  I suppose one can hear HIP influences, but one can more easily hear modernist influences.  Adès blows off the cobwebs and pushes through the Allegro con brio.  The band is so well drilled that the nearly reckless approach stays in bounds at all times, generating oodles of excitement.  The small forces and superb sound - offering exceptional transparency and weight belying the forces involved - enhancing the experience.  Adès slows things down in the Funeral March, lowers the temperature a bit, but with the low string attacks, one senses something afoot.  He keeps things tense and mostly under wraps, only really letting the horns and trumpets belt out with extra terseness on his way to speedy and taut tuttis.  If the timps lack heft, man do those microphones pick up every thwack on the skins with ear teasing detail.  If the bands of Beethoven's day played the work like this, the audience likely wouldn't have known what to do.  And that sonic transparency allows one to hear every little thing the strings do even in the midst of an orchestral thumping.  Unsurprisingly, Adès places a premium on rhythmic acuity, punchiness, speed, energy, and excitement in the Scherzo.  It works.  Splendidly.  And some of the timp thwacks startle, in the most pleasant way.  The focus on speed, agility, and dynamic contrasts returns as Adès pushes through with maximum energy.  It is not subtle, but it adds gravity to the movement, and makes for an eminently satisfying closer.  This is not big band Beethoven of weight and gravity so much as small scale, fiercer, bolder Beethoven bent on smashing right through boundaries, with a menacing smirk while doing so.  Kick-ass.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2020, 06:54:50 AM by Todd »
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #37 on: November 28, 2020, 06:35:54 AM »


Keeping it light and tight with another chamber orchestra version, Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmie Bremen follow.  Like Adès, Järvi goes for a swift reading, and he generates plenty of energy.  The playing sounds smoother and more refined, but less transparent, and dynamic contrasts sound less striking.  There's less intensity, less urgency.  It's more like a scaled-down, if tense old-school version than the more modern take like the Brits deliver.  The same holds true in the Funeral March, though here, even if the apparent dynamic range is not as wide, the timps sound fuller and weightier, and the drive with which Järvi pushes the fastest music forward reminds the listener of Kleiber a little.  The Scherzo zips along with much pizazz and splendid horn playing, while the Finale sounds light and sweet and playful and more dance tune inspired.  It also comes with the added bonus of the concertmaster playing some passages in a pseudo-concerto manner.  For a good while, this was my go to chamber set, but Adès is the man, now.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #38 on: November 29, 2020, 06:39:09 AM »


Sticking with small(-ish) forces, the Orchestra of St Luke's - though it sounds augmented - MTT's first recording seemed logical.  MTT attempts to have his cake and eat it, too, while having more cake in reserve.  More distantly recorded than the prior two recordings, and in a generous acoustic, the recording has more comparative scale than Adès or Järvi, though it has less low frequency weight than Adès, and MTT goes for a broad overall tempo in the Allegro con brio, in which he plays with a nice degree of relaxation in the slower passages and more than ample drive in the faster passages.  It sounds un-HIP, and more like a scaled down big band approach.  One thing definitely missing is the superb clarity of the prior two recordings.  The movement moves along nicely, though it lacks the ultimate drive of other versions.  The Funeral March is solemnly paced and played, and the while MTT ratchets up the tension in the right place, the movement often, if not sags, then kind of moves along in an not particularly inspired way, though one does get some nifty wind playing, from the clarinets especially.  The Scherzo has a nice degree of pep and scale and bounces along quite nicely.  MTT saves his best work for last.  Perfectly paced, punchy when it should be, and possessed of a snappy rhythmic sense and ample variation in the variations, he plays the movement comparatively light and the lean string textures help things.  Were that the whole thing as good as this movement. 
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 55
« Reply #39 on: November 30, 2020, 05:45:02 AM »


Gonna go small, might as well go HIP.  John Eliot Gardiner and his Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra go swift, sound lean, especially in the violins, but generally deliver a high voltage Allegro con brio.  Gardiner keeps things ship shape in terms of ensemble and he does not let the metronome defeat him, that's for sure.  The Funeral March gets the light and tight treatment, too, and while Gardiner is too good a conductor to not crank out the music when needed, the pressing speed throughout the less than ear-shattering music does detract just a bit.  No quibbles with the Scherzo which flies by, nor really with the Finale, which has more than ample verve.  There's quite a bit to like here.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General