Beethoven: Symphonies 1 & 5 - Blunier
MDG Gold 937 1756-6
Classical - Orchestral
Beethoven: Symphonies 1 & 5
Beethoven Orchester Bonn
Finally! Following excursions into the late and very latest years of musical romanticism, highly decorated opera recordings, and a journey to Russia, the Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn returns to his roots. The Bonn musicians have selected two of the war-horses of the concert repertoire in the form of their patron’s first and fifth symphonies, and Stefan Blunier’s finely nuanced conducting endows them with surprisingly vital freshness and powerful imagination.
From its very first measures the opening of the first symphony heralds something new. Beethoven’s contemporaries were shocked: instead of establishing the tonic key, the slow introduction begins with dissonant seventh chords. Moreover, they are essentially presented by the wind instruments – a completely surprising move and one entirely untypical of those times – and then are resolved merely with light dabbing, with a hint of the mysterious. A striving process ensues, anticipating the romantic era, in which the reaching of a goal is merely of secondary importance, and Blunier and his musicians trace its path with fine intuition and breathless suspense.
Beethoven’s Fifth is certainly the most famous symphony of all, but here too, as the spirited Bonn musicians impressively demonstrate, new discoveries lie in store. The famous opening motif, with very precise rhythmic markings on the composer’s part, is bursting with vigor and charged with energy. A captivating development extends through to the finale with its C major orgy that could go on forever and is very suspenseful in its stringency.
The dazzling interpretation of these masterpieces in MDG’s 2+2+2 sound makes the listening experience all the more gripping. It is simply fantastic – the orchestra’s seemingly real presence in the living room, and the listener sitting in its midst, rendered breathless by the thrill of it all. Beethoven in 3-D – finally and at last!
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Review by John Broggio - February 26, 2013
This disc will please those looking for large forces playing Beethoven without any truck towards HIP practices and in need of a snooze.
The sound of this Beethoven band is large, its timbre wide and frequently the strings overwhelm the woodwind in climaxes; tempos too are relaxed. In some cases, the finale of Symphony No. 1 being the most glaring, the tempos are too relaxed and they miss the spirit explicit in the markings by some considerable distance. With the violins grouped together on the left of the podium, accents far less prominent than one is used to these days, it is almost as if a composite of middle-of-the-road recordings from the 1960's or 1970's.
Perhaps what is most irritating is that where Furtwangler, Karajan, Klemperer and the like all imposed far more on the music than is customary now, they did so with audible conviction and electricity - Blunier's conceptions sound all too bland by their side; if one is bored in the fifth symphony, something is badly wrong. Even more odd is that a city of Beethoven's birth seems to have an orchestra & conductor willing to purposefully ignore so much of our current knowledge about Beethoven's music - quite sad, really. The orchestra play nicely enough but are clearly uninspired.
The sound is good but not so good that it overcomes the reservations about the performances.
Copyright © 2013 John Broggio and HRAudio.net
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