Author Topic: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual  (Read 4743 times)

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Michel

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Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« on: May 01, 2007, 10:53:10 AM »
Well, today I got through the post a certain Italian man's interpretation of this great symphony recorded in 1936 and I can say without doubt it is a wonderful recording. Absolutely stunning.

I thought I would never love anything more than Karajan's from 63, then I heard Karajan's from 48. Then I thought nothing would beat Furtwangler's from just after the war, but now, in this wonderfully transferred Naxos disc, we have a winnner.

I have always appreciated Toscanini's audacity to alter tempi, to do things with the music and in this symphony that can sound stale and tedious, as it does with repeated listens of Karajan, or without power, as in the case of Klieber (what a waste of time, so called decent recording that is), Toscanini is a breath of fresh air.

So exciting without being vulgar is this interpretation it sounds light but but powerful, and easy to listen to. It sounds like, perhaps as it is supposed to, a dance! The famous Allegretto has never been better paced, the allegro never more varied and interesting. I seriously recommend anyone who is overcome with the bass strings of Furtwangler and the like, to give this a listen. Its so cheap too! Purchase of the month!

Steve

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2007, 11:15:52 AM »
Thanks for the wonderful reccomendation. Beethoven's Seventh has always been my favourite of his symphonies, and I'm in a similar place that you were in awhile ago - still smitten with Karajan '63.

I just logged on to amazon to try and pick this one up right away, and I'm not sure that I've found the right one. Is this the recording that you're referring to?



Steve

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2007, 12:15:14 PM »
I see, foolish mistake. I guess I had two windows open.  :)

Offline Holden

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2007, 02:40:16 PM »
aahhh.....but have you heard Monteux amd the LSO?
Cheers

Holden

Steve

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2007, 04:12:54 PM »
aahhh.....but have you heard Monteux amd the LSO?

No.... Should I?

Offline Israfel the Black

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2007, 04:17:44 PM »
I'll look into this recording, but Gardiner has always been the benchmark for me -- above even the Karajan recordings.

George

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2007, 04:43:30 PM »
No.... Should I?

I am rarely dissapointed with a Holden-approved CD.  :)

Offline val

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2007, 11:48:27 PM »
To me, Monteux with the LSO, Erich Kleiber with the Concertgebow are the best interpreters of the 7th. An extraordinary dynamic, an energy, that give all the force to this Symphony, perhaps the best of the nine.

Carlos Kleiber with the VPO and Reiner with Chicago, are, to me, excellent second choices.

Michel

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2007, 11:59:15 PM »
But Kleiber's allegro is utterely impotent....

Offline val

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2007, 01:42:42 AM »
Quote
Michel

But Kleiber's allegro is utterely impotent....

Are you talking about the father (Erich) or the son (Carlos)?
If it is Erich, I disagree completely. The enthusiasm, the energy, makes this a very powerful version (even if it has some imperfections). I am talking about his version with the Concertgebow (I believe he did one other with VPO).

Regarding Carlos, I wouldn't say "impotent". It seems to me that it is more a question of "control", trying to create a perfect articulation and discipline. But there is an inner tension during all this 4th movement. It is a version perhaps too serious and rigid, but has energy. Anyway, as I said, to me it is a good second choice. Not my favorite version. 

Offline dirkronk

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2007, 07:17:46 AM »
Regarding Carlos, I wouldn't say "impotent". It seems to me that it is more a question of "control", trying to create a perfect articulation and discipline. But there is an inner tension during all this 4th movement. It is a version perhaps too serious and rigid, but has energy. Anyway, as I said, to me it is a good second choice. Not my favorite version. 

I'd go along with this. If you want Carlos at his best in this symphony, you'll have to leave the DGG version with the VPO and opt for other live performances with other ensembles. You may give up the finesse of top instrumental players, but you gain greatly in energy and joy. I agree, too, with val's comments re the "control" issue.

For me, the critical thing about any performance of the 7th is the transition from the slow intro to the swift dancelike theme of the first movement--does it provide proper contrast? does the movement "take off" from that point? is there a sense of fun and fleetness, setting the stage not just for the rest of that movement but for the rest of the entire piece? Remember, this is the "apotheosis of the dance"...and for me, the dance must be fast and exciting. But of course, different strokes...

- Monteux/LSO does the trick beautifully, with plenty of mmph, speed, precision and articulate phrasing, not to mention a very fine recording. It remains my favorite in modern sound.
- The Erich Kleiber/COA is thrilling, without a doubt, but almost--dare I say it--TOO breathless in some of its passages; still, I understand val's enthusiasm and it's a performance I do return to.
- So is the Toscanini mentioned by the OP: since 1936 was mentioned, I have to believe that it's the NYPSO version. As a rule, I pick up EVERYTHING done by Toscanini with that group, and I have seldom been disappointed. His two Rossini overtures with them (were there more with New York? I can only recall two) are astoundingly good, and his other Beethoven symphonies with them (I only have the 4th and 5th) are in horrible sound, but the performances have a crafted precision and thrilling speed (yet without mania) that would sometimes become caricatures of the music in some later versions with NBC.
- Oddly enough, Mravinsky did a 7th that fails to take wing properly in the first movement (IMO), yet the rest of the symphony is remarkably well done. Recommended more as a curiosity or for diehard Mrav fans.
- For Furtwangler, I prefer his Berlin performances to those with Vienna. There's simply more energy and drive, yet with no loss of precision.
- Let me mention Mengelberg, too. As in any piece of Beethoven, his renditions act as an aural q-tip, making the listener essentially hear the work anew. His 7th may not be as dramatic an example of this as, say, his 5th, but I think the rule still applies. Both his 1940 AVRO radio broadcast version (available on several labels) and a different performance on Tahra demonstrate this.
- Karajan's from his 1963 cycle is still one I enjoy, though it no longer occupies top tier in my personal pantheon. Monteux replaced it there years ago, and many others challenge it as well. Still, a good one.
- Reiner's 7th never blew me away as it obviously did the critics...but when I acquired the CD, I reassessed it and now enjoy it. Ditto Szell. Others whose 7ths I recall as interesting (but whom I haven't listened to recently) include Leibowitz, Scherchen and Zinman; I should revisit them all.

BTW, this is just a sampling of my faves. Back in the late '80s, for a period of about two years or so, I went on a "find THE BEST version" binge with the Beethoven 7th and listened to several dozen performances before settling on the ones noted above. Funny, I still love the work a great deal, but it has since yielded to the 4th symphony (which has a similarly-structured first movement) as my current favorite Beethoven symphony.

Oh well, just rambling now...

Dirk,
who's gonna look for that Naxos Toscanini reissue

George

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2007, 08:31:46 AM »

Thanks for another chock-full-or-info post, Dirk!   :)

I look forward to another one for each of the remaining eight symphonies!  ;D


Steve

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Re: Beethoven's 7th and an Italian anti-intellectual
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2007, 09:41:58 AM »
Thanks for another chock-full-or-info post, Dirk!   :)

I look forward to another one for each of the remaining eight symphonies!  ;D



With more detail for my favourite, No. 3  ;D