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Symphonies Nos. 5 & 8


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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A good Eighth and even better Fifth make HIP Beethoven sound convincing Jan. 4 2011
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I shy away from HIP versions of Beethoven, to the point of deploring their lack of passion and heroism, two qualities essential to Beethoven's greatest works. But then I was brought up short by Philippe Herreweghe's Missa Solemnis, which preserved the external traits of period performance (reduced forces, no vibrato, fast tempos, gut strings) without betraying the essence of that great work of spiritual aspiration. What could he do with an even more iconic piece, the fifth Sym.? The same externals are in place, although the microphone disguises how large or small the string body is; the prominence of winds isn't exaggerated but seems in natural balance with the whole orchestra.

Once again I have a positive report. In place of the superficial run through inflicted by Gardiner and Norrington (shudder), the far more musical Herreweghe captures the vitality and heroic intent of this symphony. He shortens the fermatas (held notes) in the opening motto, and the famous four notes are far from blows by the hammer of fate. Even so, nothing is raced along, and there's a coherent conception at work. Here, as in the second movement, one longs for more expression from the woodwind soloists -- since when is "authentic" the same as "bland"> -- but Herreweghe does as well, and in the same vein, as Osmo Vanska in his wildly praised HIP-flavored Beethoven cycle from Minnesota. the cellos and basses are too buzzy and thin at the beginning of the Scherzo; it would be advisable, in the name of building up their sound, is Herreweghe allowed some vibrato as a few other HIP conductors are starting to do. the Scherzo is rendered as a straightforward, vigorous march (no mysterious goblins as heard by E. M. Forster in his novel, "Howard's End"), and the blazing C major of the finale is quite martial, with clipped drums and fifes reminiscent of the battlefield. In all, an exciting, upbeat reading.

The Eighth Sym., a lighter work that suffers when too heavily trod upon -- even Furtwangler smothers it with significance -- has always been a showpiece for the HIP approach. Herreweghe, like Vanska, gives a quick, buoyant reading that is a touch impatient, the fault of strict timekeeping without expressive relief. You can revert to traditional readings that are just as ebullient but far more musical -- I'm thinking of the Aged Casals conducting the Marlboro Festival on Sony. As an overall picture, Herreweghe's Eighth is too slight and brisk. He's not in the flatlands of Gardiner, but there are no real ideas and therefore nothing memorable to hold on to.

For all my criticisms, I enjoyed this program and felt hopeful that the HIP fad, which shows no sign of abating, can merge with the kind of mature musicality that one turns to in the greatest music form Bach to the present day.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Splendid Beethoven/ravishing sound! Oct. 7 2011
By Hal Owen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Maestro Philippe Herreweghe's recordings of the Beethove Symphonies 5 and 8 with Royal Flemish Phil. from Pentatone represent the completion of yet another SACD symphonic cycle but ..... these performances are, (IMO,) anything but routine. There is a freshness to the familiar in these recordings that I find most enjoyable - made even more so by the warm acoustics found in deSingel, Antwerp. As I'm not a professional reviewer, my music references may seem simplistic but I must say how I admire Maestro Herreweghe's choice of generally brisk tempos, observed repeats and a generally grand ensemble approach to this music. The, (unknown to me until this series,) playing of the R.F.P. is most accomplished made even more so by the splendid sound achieved by Pentatone's recording team of Andreas Neubronner and Ruge. Comparasions to such previously successful SACD Beethoven Symphonic cycles such as Paavo Jarvi's wonderful survey with The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen from RCA Red Seal suggest to me that some things in this ever changing world are truely eternal to include a continuing affection shared by so many talented younger musicians for the music of Beethoven. Hopefully these splendid Pentatone performances will bring you much enjoyment as well, no matter what your age.
Full of panache April 30 2013
By John J. Puccio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Herreweghe's Beethoven Fifth comes over with vigor, with verve, with energy in abundance, as he takes dashing tempos and accents the music at every opportunity with a theatrical panache that never sounds breathless or exhausting. He'll have your blood racing, almost in the way we think of Kleiber (DG) or Reiner (RCA) or the new Barenboim (Warner) doing it but without quite the voltage. OK, maybe it's more like Zinman (Arte Nova), actually, or possibly Norrington (Virgin), which is still saying a lot. Anyway, it is anything but conventional, and I liked it.

That said, I didn't care as much for the accompanying Symphony No. 8. While the Fifth is all restive excitement and emotion, the Eighth should be a relative island of repose, replacing the Fifth's spectacle with outright charm. However, Herreweghe seems determined to prove that the Eighth is not as lightweight as some people claim, and I found his reading a little heavy-handed.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor


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