Beethoven: Sämtliche Symphonien/Violinkonzert Box-Set
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Collector’s Edition präsentiert 6 neue Boxen mit den gesammelten Sinfonien von Beethoven und Nielsen, sämtlichen Haydn-Aufnahmen von Pinnock, sowie Klavierkonzerten und Sinfonien von Mozart, Rachmaninoff und Prokofiev. Ein Muss für jeden Klassik-Liebhaber.
Frans Brüggen erzeugt durch eine einmalige Klangfarbe des Orchesters und Raffinesse in seiner Interpretation einzigartige Aufnahmen der gesammelten Sinfonien von Beethoven.
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I got an idea of what he could do with Beethoven when he released a recording on original instruments of Mozart's Symphony 40 with Beethoven's Symphony 1. It was a recording of a concert, complete with applause. That recording of Symphony 1 is in this set, still with applause. Over the next 10-15 years he released further recordings of the symphonies until he had recorded them all. This set is the product of that work.
So here we have a set of the Beethoven symphonies, that was never intended to be a set. Then there are the extras, the decidedly light weight Creatures (Creations) of Prometheus, various overtures, and violin works. The symphonies remain the centerpiece of this set.
Here are some observation:
They share a remarkable consistency of sound. They are recorded closer than Gardiner's set, so you can hear bow slap; the brass players sound like they are sitting next to you. This is a good thing, as this is the most transparent recording of Beethoven I have ever heard.
Brüggen's early forays into conducting featured impeccable phrasing and a lilting sense of line. You see that here when Beethoven is at his most turgid, Brüggen will pick the instruments to receive the emphasis. You never lose the sense of line, or where Beethoven is going.
Brüggen's rendition of the finish of the 8th symphony is instructive in another sense. Many conductors take the finale for the loud hard charging movement that it is, but have a bit of trouble with the endless line of chords that mark the finish. It's hard to know what to do with them. Brüggen maintains tempo, and staccatos or slashes each chord, including the final one. It's the only finish to number 8 that I have found works.
The conductor Sir Thomas Beecham commented on the Scherzo movement of number 7, "What can you do with it? It's like a lot of yaks jumping about."[Wikipedia] Brüggen, working with the Orchestra of the 18th Century, turns them into impalas. Continuing with number 7; when you compare this set to Gardiner's very good original instruments recording, sometimes Gardiner is a little faster, sometimes Brüggen is. In the final movement of 7, Brüggen's rendition is over a minute faster. If the final movement is supposed to have elements of a Bacchanalia, Brüggen achieves the effect, taking advantage of the full range of overtones that original instruments can produce, and always with perfect phrasing.
Brüggen is not a romantic. You see his Baroque roots in his conducting, that combination of expressiveness, articulation and clarity that makes this the most satisfying set of the Beethoven symphonies that I have heard. Brüggen died in August, 2014. He lived a long life, and contributed tremendously to the life of the western musical tradition. The recordings he left behind are his monument.
Bruggen fans will want to hear (or own) both sets of recordings. The 2011 cycle has a somewhat fuller sound with more bass resonance, as well as very good performances; however, more than a few have complained about too much reverberation from the concert hall, as well as the need for better production.
In other words, Bruggen's original cycle still stands up. The sound is clean and concise, the interpretations spot-on. It's like listening to Beethoven's symphonies as the composer might have heard them. Some might be more accustomed to modern versions with bigger orchestras (and Beethoven works well with different-size ensembles). But a smaller orchestra, like the Orchestra of the 18th Century, scales better. And the Classical aesthetic, which values restraint and taste, is closer to Bruggen's strategy.
This cycle isn't flamboyant, and the sound is restrained (as you'd expect from a chamber orchestra in the Classical period). If you're looking for a Beethoven cycle on original instruments, this one may seem unsensational - but precisely that's the point. Classical music, played accurately, is unsensational. Bruggen hits the nail on the head. On repeated listenings, you may come to realize that - at least with this set of pieces - less is more.
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