Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Ludwig van Beethoven, David Zinman, Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra|
Beethoven: Symphonies 5 & 6 ("Pastorale")
"Readers who know the Tonhalle Orchestra only from likeable old records by Josef Krips, Otto Ackermann and Franz Lehar will be astonished at the brilliance and polish of these performances. David Zinman assumed the orchest... more »
"Readers who know the Tonhalle Orchestra only from likeable old records by Josef Krips, Otto Ackermann and Franz Lehar will be astonished at the brilliance and polish of these performances. David Zinman assumed the orchestra's Music Directorship for the 1995-6 season and his skill as an orchestral trainer has consolidated a dramatic improvement in playing standards. I fondly remember attending recent Argo sessions for a Honegger collection (the planned CD is as yet unissued) and noting Zinman's painstaking attention to details of phrasing. Here, as there, Chris Hazell was the producer, and the sound quality of these (1997) sessions is truly state-of-the-art. As to the performances, tempos are very fast, phrasing trimly tailored (sometimes even a trifle abrupt) and rubato kept well in check. In the Fifth Symphony, Zinman plays all three repeats (first movement, Scherzo and finale) and his handling of the Scherzo's double-bass Trio (track 3, 1'37'') - where the players keep up the pace without slackening - deserves a round of applause. The Pastoral's proto-minimalist first-movement development section flies off at a fair lick and the slimline peasants make merry with energy to spare...I would strongly recommend this CD to readers who know their Klemperers, their Toscaninis and their Furtwanglers backwards, who fancy investigating some scholarly emendations but who dislike period-instrument sonorities. Come to think of it, even the period-instrument brigade stand to learn a thing or two: Zinman's performances offer further illumination of a route that Norrington, Gardiner, Bruggen, Hogwood, Harnoncourt and others have explored with! such fascinating results. They also provide a peach of a bargain..." GRAMOPHONE
Zinman's Fifth Symphony Is Tops--and His Sixth Isn't Far Beh
M. C. Passarella | Lawrenceville, GA | 01/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm collecting Zinman's well-received Beethoven series piecemeal. I've already collected the Ninth, Third, and Fourth Symphonies, and I must say this disc of the Fifth and Sixth is the finest in the set (though not by far since the overall quality is quite high). Zinman's Fifth is simply one of the finest available, and I've heard lots of Fifths in my day. The tension in the first movement, with its famous "fate" motif is palpable, and the finale is thus a true celebration of the composer's--or anybody's--victory over fate. That last movement is wonderfully joyous and unbuttoned. Along the way are a truly patrician slow movement and a volatile scherzo, with a suitably menacing opening and quicksilver trio. Initially, I thought the end of the slow movement might be a little fast, but then I consider that I don't have access to the Barenreiter score, plus, Zinman is merely being flexible here. The speeding up at the end gives added drama to the slow movement and makes the whole seem like a scene from an opera, causing us to remember that opera, namely "Fidelio," was very much on Beethoven's mind at the time.
Zinman's orchestra, not always on top of every detail, is wonderfully "there" throughout this performance, from the blazing horns in the first movement (and the horns occasionally fail Zinman in other works) to the majestically guttural cellos and bases in the finale. Woodwinds are especially colorful and well captured by the engineers.
The Sixth is almost equally fine though maybe not at the very top of the heap as performances go. Zinman turns in a classical reading in the Toscanini manner. Tempos are quick, the textures lithe and lean throughout. As I would expect, Zinman really delivers in the fourth movement depicting the summer storm. And again, the finale is a true celebration that mounts beautifully to the radiant close.
As far as the Barenreiter version of the score is concerned, the most egregious differences, for me, lie in the Third Symphony, where the winds seem to have lots of special little curlicues to play and a solo violin makes a surprise appearance in the finale. There is less to remark on in the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, especially the Sixth, where the only differences I note are the fussy little filigrees in the exposition of the oft-repeated first melody of the first movement and tiny trills in the flutes in the dancing third movement. The one immediately obvious difference in the Fifth is the extended oboe cadenza in the first movement.
Unless you're a professional musician with access to the scores, you probably won't be interested in buying the Zinman performances because of the version he conducts from. But you will want to get this disc to hear two of the finest versions available of these beloved masterworks, in sound that is full, clear, and powerful without close miking or spotlighting. The price can't be beat, either.
Exploring the Beethoven Symphonies -- Nos. 5 and 6
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 10/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Beethoven composed his two most frequently performed symphonies, nos. 5 and 6 from 1805 -- 1808, and both works were premiered at the same concert in Vienna on December 22, 1808. These two symphonies are among the most beloved and inspiring works of music, and they will reward endless listening and comparison with each other. Both symphonies have been recorded many times, and the competition among the many different readings is fierce. David Zinman and the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich recorded the complete set of Beethoven symphonies on the budget-priced Arte Nova label in the late 1990s using a new performance edition by Barenreiter edited by Jonathan del Mar. Zinman is known for crisp, period-style performances.
I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting these two great Beethoven symphonies with Zinman. The performances more than served the music and brought it home, but in a crowded field of recordings they did not especially stand out. Perhaps this is because there are fewer surprises in the Barenreiter edition of the symphonies for the 5th and 6th than for some others. But this CD is still one of many excellent ways to get to know Beethoven. I liked the reading of the 5th better than the 6th because Zinman carefully observed all Beethoven's repeats, including the repeat in the finale which is frequently not taken. The "Pastorale" symphony seemed to me slightly quick and, more importantly, could have used more breathing room and flexibility in tempo. But it was lyrically and convincingly performed. On both symphonies, dynamic contrasts were brought out, and the winds are heard fully. For those new to the symphonies, I offer the following comments which I hope may be helpful.
In his still valuable study "Beethoven and his Nine Symphonies" (1898), George Grove reflected on the reasons underlying the great appeal of Symphony no. 5, in C minor. After observing the frequency with which the work was performed in London, Grove wrote that the Fifth "possessed a hold on the broad appreciative faculties of the human mind which no other work of its class possesses". Grove continued: "It is to the work itself, to the prodigious originality, force, and conciseness of the opening -- which, while it copied nothing, has itself never been copied; to the mysticism of the Scherzo, and to the truly astonishing grandeur, impetuosity, spirit, and pathos of the Finale, to the way in which, throughout the work, technicality is effaced by emotion -- it is to these things that the C minor Symphony owes its hold on its audience." (p. 138)
Even those listeners coming to the symphony for the first time will recognize the four-note motif (da-da-da-DUM) with which it opens. The symphony never fails to inspire in its drama and passage from the turmoil and anger of the opening pages to the triumphal character of the finale. Among many other things, listeners approaching this work might pay attention to how Beethoven creates an integrated whole by giving the opening motif a prominent role in each of the four movements of the work. The highlights of this grand symphony include the magical passage in which Beethoven literally pulls the finale out of his hat from the concluding pages of the third movement. Listen as well to the oboe solo when the principal theme returns in the first movement and to the reappearance of the third movement theme also in the oboe, for a brief moment in the finale. The slow, reflective second movement of this work, with its variations, is sometimes overlooked, but it constitutes an integral and rewarding part of the symphony. It gets a fine performance from Zinman.
The Sixth or "Pastorale" Symphony brings back some of my earliest memories with music. The Pastorale constitutes the best-known example of symphonic "program" music, with Beethoven writing that the work was intended to evoke a mood rather than to paint an exact picture. The work celebrates Beethoven's love of nature, and it evokes the feeling of wandering, of freedom and song, and of lack of confinement.
The musical themes of the work are lyrical and accessible. Beethoven creates his mood by repeating his themes with beautiful filigree and touches, by a stong rhythmic feel, and by a harmonic pattern which keeps the music most of the time close to its home key of F major. The first movement is the heart of this symphony as Beethoven sings of the joy of arriving for a walk in the country. The second movement is even more song-like with feelings of reflection occasioned by a country stream. (There is a famous passage at the end of this movement imitiating the sound of various birds.). The third through fifth movement are interconnected. The third is an earthy portrait of sometimes foot-stomping merry-making which is interrupted by Beethoven's great musical portrayal of a storm. The symphony concludes with a flowing movement of great serenity. This work never fails to move me but in a way markedly different from the Fifth. The Pastorale remains an ideal work with which to introduce children or other new listeners to the beauties of the symphony and of Beethoven.
Zinman offers excellent readings of these symphonies as part of his hearalded cycle of what George Grove aptly called the "Immortal Nine".