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Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8

Beethoven Audio CD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 6.58
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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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By J Scott Morrison TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
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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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superior Performances In Problematic Transfers July 10 2004
By Jeffrey Lipscomb - Published on Amazon.com
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! I have to say that I was quite happy with the Naxos transfers until I heard the fuller-sounding Opus Kura issues - so the choice is yours. The Opus Kura issues come "warts and all" and have much higher hiss and surface noise. And the 78 sides each have a different character (some of them, however, are so good that they are the aural equivalent of the sun coming out from behind the clouds). Also, the side joins are not as smoothly handled as they are on Naxos: some have a slight pause, while others have a mild deviation in pitch (I don't have perfect pitch, but that might bother some of you who do).
So much has already been written about the special qualities of these Weingartner performances that I feel there is little for me to add. This 7th belies the conductor's reputation as a straight and literal interpreter - there are numerous subtle tempo fluctuations that, to my ears, really give this reading a quality of organic growth. The slow mvt. is very expressive, and the Scherzo has wonderful energy (despite a rather slowish Trio). The finale is a marvelous excercise in gradual acceleration. I think the Opus Kura may be using a different 78 side (an alternate take) for the opening of the 1st mvt. that is more persuasively grand and rhetorical. If I sound rather equivocal, it's because the sound is so much fuller and three dimensional than on the Naxos that I can't be absolutely certain.
Weingartner's 8th is extremely good-natured and moderate in tempo. Its speed is midway between two extremes: the breathtakingly uptempo (and exciting!) Scherchen/Royal Phil (EMI) and the VERY stately Knappertsbusch/Munich (Ermitage). The reverberance of the old Grosser Musikvereinsaal is more noticeable here. One blemish, to my mind, is the slightly unsteady start to the Allegretto scherzando - perhaps it was Weingartner's way of adding to Beethoven's jibe at Maelzel's infamous metronome. Here and there are a few other minor imprecisions in the VPO's playing, but none of them diminish Weingartner's genial mixture of drama and warmth.
I am almost embarrassed to admit to owning 25 recordings of the 7th and 15 of the 8th. Some are involuntary: I only own the pedantic Ferencsik/Chicago and ponderous Fricsay/BPO 7ths because they are part of large, multi-disc sets. Several are on old LPs that I keep for reference: the 1927 Stowkowski/Phil. (with its perfumed slow mvt. and ridiculously exaggerated portamenti in the finale), the 1936 Toscanini/NY Phil. (which now repels me with its excessive tension and clipped phrasings), and the mono Klemperer/Philharmonia which, like both Erich and Carlos Kleiber, opts for pizzicato instead of arco strings in the last measure of the 2nd mvt. The most perfect realization of the 7th I have ever heard is the 1930's Rudolf Schulz-Dornburg Berlin Radio recording (CDC 880455, coupled with a massively thunderous and rhytmically unsteady Bruno Walter/NY Phil 8th). If you are curious to hear it, there are copies available at Berkshire Record Outlet (broinc.com) for only $5. Scherchen's 8th leaves me grinning from ear to ear every time I hear it; there is also a very fine Rosbaud 8th on Hanssler. But make no mistake: these wonderful Weingartner readings of 7 & 8 will also get loaded when I depart for the proverbial desert island.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Notable Weingartner Beethoven Series Continues May 20 2003
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
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. It is notable that uncharacteristically he makes the changes of tempo within the movement abruptly, so obviously it was his intention, not some oversight on his part. Throughout both symphonies one is aware of the singing line and the underlying dance rhythms. I suspect that is precisely what Beethoven had in mind.
I have always valued both of these performances and am glad to have them in the refurbished sound provided by Mark Obert-Thorn, one of our best transfer engineers. They are not, as I've said, in modern sound, but for recordings of their era they are exemplary. Many thanks to Naxos for bringing these exceptional performances back to us in good sound and at budget prices.
You probably already own performances of these pieces in modern sound, but you also might want to give this issue a listen, too, because Weingartner has something genuine to say about them and the price certainly won't raid your wallet.
Scott Morrison
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Beethoven Conducting and Playing July 22 2003
By Ralph J. Steinberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
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!!!! BUT THE OPUS KURA IS EVEN BETTER!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weingartner's Beethoven Feb. 11 2010
By Phillip Sorensen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The review of this disk by Jeffrey Lipscomb of Sacramento is one of the best I have read on Amazon. It is precise and very knowledgeable. It also distinguishes helpfully between the recent Naxos and Japanese Opus Kura transfers of these recordings by Weingartner.
However, I think I may be able to offer an even wider perspective on recordings by this very greatest of Beethoven conductors. Perhaps, actually, just greatest of conductors since his handling of the works of other leading composers is just as remarkable. Just off the top of my head I think of Mozart 39 from 1928 and Berlioz's Trojan March from ten years later.
It is important to appreciate that Weingartner's achievement in being the first to create 'a complete set' of the Beethoven symphonies by 1938 was ad hoc in that the 'set' consists merely of the last recording of a given symphony where more than version was made together, obviously, with the only recording where only one was made. Discounting a private recording of the Eroica Symphony made in 1935 which never seems to have seen the light of day and bearing in mind that there are no radio recordings available (unlike Toscanini) there are in fact 17 recordings of Beethoven symphonies by Weingartner, 3 acoustic and 14 electrical. If the acoustic Pastoral from 1924 of which only the first two movements had been recorded had been completed there would have been 18, an average of two recordings per symphony.
Because I like Weingartner's Beethoven so much I have CD recordings of all 17 available, initially mainly French LYS recordings but also Virgin France and a 5th and 7th with the old RPO from 1927 on the BBC 'Vintage Collection' but more recently from Naxos and Opus Kura. But for completeness, and in particular to gain access to the three acoustic recordings of the 5th, 7th and 8th from 1923/24 I have purchased all missing symphonies from the EMI Japan complete edition which may still be available given Weingartner's popularity in Japan.
For the record there was altogether one recording of Symphonies 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6, two of Symphony 9 (the first with the choral movement sung in English), three of Symphonies 7 and 8 and four of Symphony 5.
The effect of having nearly twice as many performances to consider, instead of the final 9 'complete set' is to change one's opinion about certain features of the 'last' performance. For example, the CD under review contains a Seventh that is not typical of Weingartner judged in the light of the other two extant performances, the acoustic recording with the LSO in 1923 and early electrical recording with the pre-Beecham old RPO in 1927, the latter made as part of a group of 4 recordings to commemorate the centenary of the death of Beethoven.
First, Weingartner wrote years before that the Poco Sostenuto introduction to the first movement of the Seventh must be performed very rapidly for the best effect because the Vivace tempo of the main section of the movement is only 'a little sustained'. This occurs consistently in 1923 and 1927 but by 1936 the tempo of this section has been a little curtailed and it is not so different from that of other conductors, albeit a little more rapid. Second, Jeff Lipscomb refers approvingly to the gradual accelerando in the final Allegro con brio movement as if it was Weingartner's intention to effect that accelerando. Actually, the accelerando is not marked in the score and the best effect in this movement (described evocatively as the 'hoppity skippity' movement by my late Aunt Ethel!) is achieved if the tempo is held completely steady while the decibels rise to the quadruple forte at the close of the movement. Few conductors actually achieve this difficult feat although Toscanini did so in 1936 at a much slower tempo than Weingartner and Karl (Carlos) Kleiber comes close in his modern recording as Karajan did not. However, Weingartner evidently had a marvellous ear which was the basis of his conducting mastery. And, despite the very primitive recording conditions in 1923 and 1927, my listening has shown that he brilliantly maintained a fairly rapid initial tempo on both occasions to wonderful effect. I venture to suggest, therefore, that that was what Weingartner really wanted except that by 1936, when he was already in his 73rd year, he no longer found it possible to hold his tempo and match the two 78 sides required originally for the movement in that respect.
These differences are not enough, however, to cause me to downgrade my assessment of this CD from five stars although I would urge listeners to try to collect all 17 Weingartner Beethoven symphony performances and not just the usual 9. It would no doubt make Jeff's desert island back pack a little heavier!
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