Would love to have been in the front row for this one...
Pete | North America | 02/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A recording with a warm and festive atmosphere. (New Year's Eve in Berlin) Its a well chosen program of pieces performed spiritedly by some of the very best. I've owned this CD for many, many years and always enjoyed it. I am surprised it has never been reviewed here. Fantasie fur Klavier, Chor und Orchestra is one of my all time favourites by Beethoven. I would be curious to here from other reviewers what they think of this performance, and what other recordings of it are good."
The Egmont Incidental Music On This CD Is Not Complete!
dv_forever | Michigan, USA | 09/24/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a New Year's Eve concert in Berlin, so it should qualify as an event. The cover certainly makes the case to that effect. Nice looking cover and liner notes on this album, really. It's embossed with shiny, gold like print, I just wish the performances inside were like gold too, because I don't buy CDs for their damn shiny covers! This Claudio Abbado version of Beethoven's "Egmont Incidental Music" is cut, we are missing about six minutes of music. I'm very sure Abbado gave a full performance in concert but since CDs can't hold much more than 80 minutes of music, some of the Egmont stuff had to be cut in order to make more room for the other items on this disc. If you want to hear Abbado's whole recording of this music from this concert, ( this exact same performance extended and complete ), you can find it in the Complete Beethoven Edition Volume 3, entitled Orchestral Works and Music for the Stage. It's a 5CD Volume encompassing a wide-range of Beethoven's orchestral output apart from his Symphonies and Concertos. Abbado still omits much of the narration that George Szell left in on his classic Decca recording with the Vienna Philharmonic, however Abbado does keep all the music intact on that Volume 3 edition and the music is what really counts.
The performance itself is very good without being exceptional, overall I'll take Szell's version over Abbado, but Claudio does a fine job too. The sound is somewhat rounded and not expansive enough but it is acceptable. The final reprise of the Victory Music packs a wallop. Cheryl Studer sings the two songs very well and also gives a fine account of "Ah Perfido!", the scene and aria for orchestra, which is a different work all together. Speaking of other works, the Leonore Overture 3 is very uneventful under Abbado, please listen to Karajan's digital recording on Karajan Gold which will give you a Leonore 3 to die for!
The "Choral Fantasia", with the piano part played by superstar Evgeny Kissin starts out wonderfully. Kissin does magic with his piano but Abbado is once again uninspired and the chorus is not very good either. The recording doesn't have that sparkle and definition that would give the music a lift. If you want to hear some Choral Fantasias of note, try the old Slava Richter version on Melodiya with the chorus singing in Russian! It might have lousy mono sound but the performance is special, very moving. Also, Daniel Barenboim has recorded this piece, check out his performance. There is another version I like a lot too on an old Beethoven boxed set called Beethoven Masterpieces. The performance there is under the direction of Herbert Kegel with pianist Peter Rosel and the chorus members sing their hearts out. "
From Berlin On 12-31-91
Erik North | San Gabriel, CA USA | 08/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's not often that one gets to say there are things in Beethoven's expansive arsenal that are not played or heard all the time in public. But this recording is one of those times.
In a live recording made at Berlin's Schauspielhaus on New Year's Eve 1991, Claudio Abbado, into his third year as its music director (having succeeded the towering Herbert von Karajan), leads the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in material from Beethoven's output that is not often heard, either in the concert halls or on recordings. For one, there are plenty of recordings that feature the Egmont Overture, but far fewer recordings of the music (and, of course, the overture) which Beethoven wrote for the classic play by Goethe that deals with the struggle for freedom in desperate times. Cheryl Studer and Bruno Ganz are featured as, specifically, the heroine Klarchen and the Speaker. Ms. Studer also sings the early Beethoven concert aria "Ah! Perfido", with Abbado and the orchestra giving the right amount of accompaniment. In this recording, the best known piece is the third, and best known, of the three "Leonora" overtures that Beethoven composed for his only opera "Fidelio"--the work that, in his own words, gave him his greatest birth pains.
But perhaps the greatest thing on the album is the performance here by the young Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin of the composer's once-rare but now increasingly popular Choral Fantasy, which begins as a solo piano piece, builds into a serious of variations on the theme of his song "Gengeliebe", turns into a piano concerto, and then climaxes as a cantata for piano, orchestra, and choir. Often thought of as a dry run for the composer's Ninth Symphony, this work, through numerous performances dating back to Rudolf Serkin's celebrated 1962 collaboration with Bernstein and his New York Philharmonic, has more and more been seen as perhaps the most interesting hybrid in Beethoven's career, a companion piece to the Ninth. Mr. Kissin is joined by Ms. Studer and a host of other vocal soloists, along with the Radio In American Sector (RIAS) Choir, putting the cap on a 79 minute recording of works by one of the titans of Western music that deserve to be heard more often by the music-loving public."
A starry New Year's Eve, but the music-making is spotty
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 02/13/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The occasion should have been more memorable than it turned out. New Year's Eve 1991 gathered together some great names -- Abbado, Kissin, Cheryl Studer, and the Berliners -- for a Beethoven celebration of slightly unusual cast. The Choral Fantasy isn't often heard -- that arch-Beethovenian Herbert von Karajan never recorded it, or as far as I know the concert aria "Ah, Perfido!" The only masterpieces on the program are the Two overtures, to Egmont and Leonore #3.
What goes wrong is entirely Abbado's faualt. He seems uninspired and cautious throughout, with occasional flashes of life in the finale of the Egmont incidental music and the end of the Choral Fantasy. Kissin tries to inject more energy into the proceedings, pulling against the conductor's lagging tempos, but to little avail. As the other three-star reviewer says, the classic Szell account of Egmont on Decca remains supreme -- it's one of his best recordings outside Cleveland -- and for the Choral Fantasy one can turn to the equally classic Rudolf Serkin account with Bernstein on Sony."