A Beethoven a Day: The cycle query

Welcome to the 12th work within the Slipped Disc/Idagio Beethoven Version.

Many readers have written in asking for a advice for recorded cycles in Beethoven, particularly the symphonies.

Sorry, I can’t assist.

In all of my listening, I’ve but to come across a boxed set with out flaws. Not simply minor lapses, however elementary, stagnant black holes just like the indeterminate Pastoral in Hebert von Karajan’s in any other case imposing first Berlin cycle of 1963 (he went on to file seven or eight extra), or the far-too rushed Eroica in Nikolaus Hanoncourt’s refreshing 1990 set with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.  Boxed units, I’ve at all times understood, are for Christmas. Beethoven is for the opposite 364 days of the 12 months.

Maybe the one exception I’d ponder is the set that Rafael Kubelik recorded for DG within the 1970s, every symphony performed by a distinct orchestra and knowledgeable by a distinct sensibility – the first with the LSO, the 2nd with the Concertgebouw, 4th with Israel Phil, fifth with Boston and so forth. Discover it when you can. It’s rather more than the sum of its components.

My reticence in respect of field units will not be shared by the group of specialists I’ve assembled to information me on this Idagio trawl, so let me offer you just a few of their suggestions by means of comfort.

Stephen Rubin, ex-head of Holt Macmillan: Klemperer/Philharmonia and Toscanini/NBC

Leonard Slatkin: George Szell/Cleveland

Peter Alward, former head of EMI Classics and Salzburg Easter Pageant: Karajan/Philharmonia, or John Eliot Gardiner

Richard Bratby, Spectator critic: Karajan 1963

Allan Kozinn, ex-NY Occasions critic: Szell

Tim Web page, ex-Washington Put up, writes: You’ll disagree with me — and I’m positive that a few of my love for this set is sentiment — however the 1962-63 Karajan nonetheless appears the golden imply within the symphonies.  I’d rank Cluytens, Haitink and the final Abbado extremely alongside the identical strains.   Furtwängler was great after all and I’m newly smitten with the Lucerne Ninth…  And — as you talked about — Schmidt-Isserstedt.   

Schmidt-who? Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt was chief conductor of the Hamburg State Opera through the Nazi period, having despatched his Jewish spouse and son to England for security. After the struggle, he grew to become an advocate of English music in Germany (particularly Tippett) and of German music (particularly Beethoven) in Britain. His son, Erik Smith, was a producer with Decca which, having the Vienna Philharmonic underneath contract, booked Schmidt-Isserstedt to file the Beethoven symphonies. Attempt some right here.

If ever there was a cheerful medium in Beethoven efficiency, it’s this cycle. The conductor has no radical concepts, however his momentum is safe and he commendably inhibits the orchestra from imposing its native methods on the repertoire. Relistening to the set, I’m struck by the stability Schmidt-Isserstedt strikes between steadiness and fleeting inspiration. He’s a grasp of his craft, an old-world Kapellmeister, and the orchestra reply with what would possibly simply be mistaken for enthusiasm. It’s nearly sufficient to make me hand over my suspicion of cycles.


Oh you continue to need a Beethoven of the day? Let it’s the Septet, opus 20
It’s not sure that Beethoven invented the septet type, however he definitely established it with this 40-minute work for clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello and double-bass. Quite than miniaturizing the sound of an orchestra, he creates another sonority, directly astringent and interesting, during which every instrument has its personal palette of colors inside the ensemble. First heard on the live performance the place Beethoven premiered his first symphony, the symphony was an prompt hit, his most regular earner for the remainder of his life. Schubert took it as a mannequin for his indelible octet, whereas the much less scrupulous Hummel and Spohr produced slavish imitations. The third motion (of 6) shares the minuet of his 20th piano sonata.

A 1959 efficiency by the Vienna Octet appears incontrovertible when it comes to tempo and environment.

The Berlin Philharmonic Octet are altogether extra muscular.

Joseph Silverstein leads a very frisky model in 1994 upstate New York

Leonidas Kavakos and Munich mates in 2019 seem, by comparability, undernourished.

The Berlin Philharmonic Octet have taken possession of this work in such emphatic vogue that tempi and intonation over three recordings starting from 1964 to 1994 are nearly an identical.

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