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Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8

Beethoven Audio CD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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1. Incidental music to Goethe's Egmont, op. 84: Overture - Beethoven
2. Incidental music to Goethe's Egmont, op. 84: No. 3 - Beethoven
3. Incidental music to Goethe's Egmont, op. 84: No. 7 - Beethoven
4. Symphony no. 7 in A major, op. 92 - Beethoven
5. Symphony no. 8 in F major, op. 93 - Beethoven

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4.0 out of 5 stars Superior Performances In Problematic Transfers July 10 2004
Format:Audio CD
To my ears, the Naxos series of Weingartner's historic Beethoven recordings has been something of a mixed bag (see my reviews of other entries in this series). Obert-Thorn's transfers of Weingartner's London-based recordings, Symphonies 2 and 4-6, strike me as the best we are ever likely to have. But the Vienna Phil. readings of 1, 3, and 7-9 have been taken from bass-deficient American Columbia 78s, and they have been subjected to various degrees of noise suppression. By contrast, the Opus Kura CD label (Japan) has taken a minimalist, undoctored approach using far fuller-sounding and more lifelike Japanese 78s (the original recordings of 7-9 were made by Nipponophone, a Japanese subsidiary of EMI). The result? Opus Kura has given us transfers of remarkable presence and immediacy that are simply astonishing in their sonic realism.
To make matters more difficult for the prospective purchaser, these superior Japanese transfers are coupled differently than the Naxos issues. Opus Kura 2038 has #1 and #7, whereas Naxos has #1 paired with its superb #2, and Naxos' #7 is coupled on this disc under review with #8. Opus Kura 2039 has #3 paired with #8 (while Naxos has #3 coupled with its excellent #4). Finally, Opus Kura 2040 has put Weingartner's legendary #9 with the Creatures of Prometheus Overture (the latter in a different take than the one used by Naxos). The Naxos 9th has as filler its magnificent Consecration of the House Overture.
The Opus Kura CDs cost fully twice as much as the Naxos issues, and I suppose you could call it yet another example of the old law of diminishing returns: the transfers are about 50% better and the cost is 100% higher!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Beethoven Conducting and Playing July 22 2003
Format:Audio CD
Weingartner's Beethoven Seventh was recorded the same year as Toscanini's Philharmonic account. No greater contrast can be imagined than between these two recordings. Weingartner succeeds where Toscanini fails, in giving the Symphony a buoyancy and grace that is completely destroyed by the Italian's characteristic metronomic haste. One very "individualistic" touch occurs in the First Movement Coda: Weingartner broadens the tempo at the very beginning of the Coda, applies quite massive rubati to the bass figurations, and holds to this slower tempo to the very end of the movement. By contrast, the Finale is a gradual and steady accellerando until the Coda is played with overwhelming Dionysian fury. The Eighth Symphony and "Egmont" Overture are likewise treated to supple and sensible tempo fluctuations which truly animate this "Vortrag." As in the Ninth Symphony, Weingartner shows himself to be a master of the Beethoven style, giving the music room to breathe, as well as maintain the structure of the work. The transfers are really superb. I love all the Naxos Weingarter reissues, but I must admit that the Vienna Philharmonic Beethoven series is especially precious to me. MORE WEINGARTNER, PLEASE!!!!
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A younger friend, otherwise fairly knowledgable about classical music, asked me who Felix Weingartner was. I was surprised that he didn't know of him, and it was then that I realized what a special service Naxos is doing by releasing this series of Beethoven recordings by a man I tend to think of as one of the first 'modern' conductors. I've raved previously about the Third, Fifth and Sixth Symphony releases, and here's another one that is a winner.
The Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, with Weingartner conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, are included here, as well as the familiar Egmont Overture plus two short excerpts from Beethoven's other incidental music for Goethe's play.
I had a music professor who always referred to the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies as 'the sunny ones,' and he was right. Although the Seventh is heroic in scope, it is unfailingly sunny in outlook and Wagner nailed it when he called the final movement 'the apotheosis of the dance.' The Eighth, which was written immediately after the Seventh, is in the same optimistic vein, although it is a slenderer (and perhaps more humorous) work. Weingartner apparently saw this connection, too, because he programmed the two together at times.
These recordings, from the 1930s, were famous in their day and should be well-known now as well. They would be, I suspect, if they were in modern sound. Weingartner's approach is fairly straightforward, but with subtle management of tempi and phrasing; there are no longueurs, no pushing and pulling tempi as some of his contemporaries did. The only obvious place where he departs slightly from Beethoven's markings (and it's really a matter of choice, I think) is the tempo of the trio and its repeat in the Scherzo of the Seventh; Weingartner takes it quite slowly.
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