Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies

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S Clark

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Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies
« on: 6 Dec 2017, 05:05 pm »
I thought it might be a good resource to discuss the "finest" performances of the great pieces in a series of threads.


Beethoven's great symphonies, 3,5,6,7,&9.

Starting with #3.  What is your favorite? 
I only have 2 copies, Suitner and Berlin on Denon and Steinberg with the Pittsburg on Command box set.  The Steinberg is my favorite of the two. 

richidoo

Re: Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies
« Reply #1 on: 6 Dec 2017, 05:34 pm »
Great post S Clark! I look forward to all the replies and trying some new versions.

My favorite cycle is Osmo Vanska on BIS, with Minnesota Orchestra. The SQ is excellent, there is minimal dynamic compression, so you have to crank it way up, and you need big speakers and amps to handle the occasional dynamic peaks if you want to avoid the volume control. The orchestra is extremely precise, everyone plays together like one person, tempo never slows during difficult passages, emotion and excitement is always appropriate to the music, no exaggeration. Vanska's interpretation seems very coherent when the symphony is taken as a whole, all the movements relate well to each other. I feel like I can enjoy the whole symphony as one performance. I like to think that's how it was intended.

I like the literal interpretations of Vanska, he does not insert phoney sounding ritardandos and self indulgent flourishes. He maintains tempo through the traditional tempo traps that other conductors think is mandatory for emotional expression. Thank you, no. Beethoven put all the emotional expression needed right in the score.

I like newer performances because the orchestra musicians of today are simply better and the recordings are much better now. They can play the harder passages without slowing down and they don't play out of tune. Most modern conductors still do the 1950s stylistic interpretations, but at least now there are some that stay true to the score.

I saw a new cycle on Tidal last weekend, Mikhail Pletnev, Russian National Orchestra on DG. The SQ is awesome, orchestra is one of the best (with Kreizberg, RIP) but Pletnev falls into the old sappy tempo traps. For those who like the traditional, "interpretative" style of conducting, it's seems like a good one to check out.

FullRangeMan

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Re: Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies
« Reply #2 on: 6 Dec 2017, 06:10 pm »
Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker are a reference that stand above all others, even the great ones>
http://www.sa-cd.net/showrelated/2089
After it one can choose and 3/5/6/9 of other conductors according to personal/regional taste. On these formers my favorites are Manze:
http://www.sa-cd.net/showtitle/5135
and Bertrand de Billy w/the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra both are great recordings:
http://www.sa-cd.net/showtitle/4357

dflee

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Re: Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies
« Reply #3 on: 6 Dec 2017, 10:38 pm »
While some refer to the work as a little bland I like Sir Neville Marriner's interpretation,
conducting and the Academy's works of these symphonies.

Don

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Re: Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies
« Reply #4 on: 6 Dec 2017, 11:58 pm »
For standard rez, I like the John Eliot Gardiner set.  It was one of the first 'period' based performance recordings and there's a real sense of excitement and danger in them. 

I also like Szell, probably because he has more emphasis on drama, vigor and discipline of execution. 

In hirez, I like Paavo Jarvi & the Deutsche Kammer PO Bremen, great recording.  I also like de Vriend & the Netherlands Symphony - another original instrument style performance, and maybe the best quality recording I've heard of the symphonies.

rotarius

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Re: Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies
« Reply #5 on: 7 Dec 2017, 02:37 am »
While some refer to the work as a little bland I like Sir Neville Marriner's interpretation,
conducting and the Academy's works of these symphonies.

Don

+1

Also, this one is superb and sounds nice on CD



rpf

Re: Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies
« Reply #6 on: 8 Dec 2017, 05:19 pm »
I love Beethoven’s Symphonies above all others as, to me, they communicate joy to an unparalleled extent.
I’ve heard a couple dozen complete sets and two or more individual symphonies by another couple of dozen conductors. Most of them are amenable to being played in different ways, primarily different tempi, either slowly or quickly. Extremes tend not to work for me however.

I don’t like those that use, or approach, Beethoven’s metronome markings. The result, to me, is uniformly rushed, unremittingly aggressive, and even angry sounding (Gardiner, Harnoncourt, Zinman).

This excludes most of the period instrument versions which also sound too thin and harsh due to the strings and bows used. I do like Norrington’s London Classical Players Nos. 2, 3 & 8 a lot though, as they are not that fast and only a bit thin on top.

On the other extreme, versions like Bernstein’s Vienna set, Giulini’s La Scala recordings or Bohm’s Vienna Nos. 1, 2, 4 & 8 are dull, plodding, portentous slogs. (Bohm’s Vienna Nos. 3, 5, 6, 7, & 9, although slow (sometimes very), maintain tension and flow well, and illuminate the structure of the compositions more than any other recordings I’ve heard.)

I have not heard a set that does every symphony well (successful sets get about half right) but Wand with the NDR almost succeeds, with only the 3rd failing. And that he re-recorded live a year or so later with excellent results. With the latter substituting for the set version, these recordings are all in the first rank of Beethoven Symphonies (in sound as well as performance).

For individual symphonies my favorites (in addition to the Wand above) are:

#1 - Jochum/Royal Concertgebouw; Monteux/Vienna;
       Mackerras/Scottish Chamber O.; Karajan/Berlin ’62

#2 - Karajan/Berlin ’77; Jochum/Royal Concertgebouw;
        Barenboim/Statskapelle Berlin; Szell/Cleveland

#3 - Slower versions: Bohm/VPO; Walter/Columbia Sym.;
       Klemperer/Philharmonia (stereo)

       Quicker versions: Karajan/Berlin ’62; Norrington/LCP;
       Szell/Cleveland

#4 - Bernstein/NY Philharmonic; Vanska/Minnesota;
       Karajan/Berlin ’77; Walter/Columbia Sym.

#5 - Reiner/Chicago; Bohm/Vienna; Szell/Royal
       Concertgebouw; Karajan/Berlin ’62; C. Kleiber/Vienna

#6 - Monteux/Vienna; Bohm/Vienna; Haitink/London S.O.;
       Walter/Columbia Sym.; Karajan/Berlin ’77

#7 - Reiner/Chicago; Bohm/Vienna; Karajan/Berlin ’77;
       Casals/Marlboro

#8 - Szell/Cleveland; Norrington/LCP; Monteux/Vienna

#9 - Bohm/Vienna; Furtwangler/Lucerne;
       Stokowski/London Philharmonic; Karajan/Berlin (’62
       or ’77)

I’m still working my way through some of the newer sets (Abbado/Berlin (Rome); de Vriend/Netherlands) so can’t comment on those.
« Last Edit: 11 Dec 2017, 02:46 am by rpf »

FullRangeMan

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Re: Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies
« Reply #7 on: 8 Dec 2017, 06:06 pm »
I would like suggest Bernard Haitink w/the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra recorded in that golden sound hall, maybe the best symphonic hall there is.

Beethoven and Shostakovich always sound better in that hall.

Elizabeth

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Re: Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies
« Reply #8 on: 8 Dec 2017, 06:47 pm »
The magazine "American Record Guide" has always included in each monthly issue an overview of a different group of 'most liked' recordings for .. say Beethoven symphonies. or Shubert, or Brahms
Sometimes quartets, or other performances.
I had access to the back issues at my local library, and made xerox of the ones I found interesting..

I think making a list of which are one's favorites is a noble cause.

(as for my own list? Sorry I have not paid much attention to Classical beyond listening to my already owed favorites.) most of the CDs of which I bought from the old lists in a Guide which was published back in the late 80's.. Forget the name of it.

On the other hand the Penguin guide sucks IMO. They just like anything done by some Brit. period.

dflee

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Re: Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies
« Reply #9 on: 8 Dec 2017, 07:26 pm »
Got the Solti W/ Chicago Symphony on London records out for a listen.
I think it's pretty good. Been a while since I've listened.

Don

S Clark

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Re: Finest Performance Thread- Beethoven Symphonies
« Reply #10 on: 8 Dec 2017, 11:27 pm »
Well, based on the responses here, I've got a bid on an early pressing of the '62 Karajan.  Somewhere I've got a MacKerras cd set, but damned if I can find it.  If it has been loaned and now lost, perhaps I'll get the BIS sacd set that Rich is fond of.  Discogs shows a couple for ~$35.

Next week,  the mighty 5TH!