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Discussion: Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 - Vänskä

Posts: 5

Post by tream May 11, 2005 (1 of 5)
I just read the favorable review of this release. I acquired it a few months ago, and found it to be one of the best Beethoven recordings I've heard. I worried that I had "happy ears"-I was thrilled to hear that Vanska, an excellent conductor, was doing a Beethoven cycle in Minnesota with Bis for SACD, and multichannel to boot-so I decided to acquire a few other SACD recordings of the Fifth-Karajan, Kleiber (have owned it on RBCD for many years, but used this as a motivation to upgrade to SACD), and Masur - I have many reasons why I decided on these and skipped some of the others, which I will elaborate on later-and to write a comparative review.

The review is almost done, although due to other time pressures I haven't made progress over the last month, so let me get to the bottom line and say that after intensive listening (with and without a score, and in stereo and multichannel), the Vanska scores the highest for both performance and sound. The performance of the Fourth is excellent as well. I urge anyone who loves Beethoven to acquire this SACD.

Post by flyingdutchman May 11, 2005 (2 of 5)
tream said:

I just read the favorable review of this release. I acquired it a few months ago, and found it to be one of the best Beethoven recordings I've heard. I worried that I had "happy ears"-I was thrilled to hear that Vanska, an excellent conductor, was doing a Beethoven cycle in Minnesota with Bis for SACD, and multichannel to boot-so I decided to acquire a few other SACD recordings of the Fifth-Karajan, Kleiber (have owned it on RBCD for many years, but used this as a motivation to upgrade to SACD), and Masur - I have many reasons why I decided on these and skipped some of the others, which I will elaborate on later-and to write a comparative review.

The review is almost done, although due to other time pressures I haven't made progress over the last month, so let me get to the bottom line and say that after intensive listening (with and without a score, and in stereo and multichannel), the Vanska scores the highest for both performance and sound. The performance of the Fourth is excellent as well. I urge anyone who loves Beethoven to acquire this SACD.

I was one of the lucky ones who got the Pentatone recordings with Masur for about $14 shipped. I don't know if I want to invest in another series.

Post by tream May 12, 2005 (3 of 5)
flyingdutchman said:

I was one of the lucky ones who got the Pentatone recordings with Masur for about $14 shipped. I don't know if I want to invest in another series.

Well, there are some interesting points of differentiation between Masur and Vanska. The Masur recordings are what I describe as a mid-20th century Central European style-sensible tempos, largish orchestra, a fair amount of interesting detail, etc (Masur brings out some things in the score that are there but others miss, without being too obvious). The Vanska feels swifter, better played (Masur's trumpet really lets him down in the Fifth), certainly better recorded (Masur's Fifth is a classic example of early 70's Phillips engineering-warm, and maybe a little tubby - lower midrange boost), and there are a few moments of questionable string intonation from the orchestra. Vanska splits his violins, firsts on the left, seconds on the right, while Masur groups the violins to his left. I have come to very much appreciate divided violins for the increased clarity of line. I don't dislike the Masur set at all-lots of virtues (and the orchestra plays better in some of the other recordings-I bought the entire set-cheesy packaging, though) and I like it a lot, but hearing Vanska was like a rediscovery of the music.

Post by Ken_P May 12, 2005 (4 of 5)
tream said:

I like it a lot, but hearing Vanska was like a rediscovery of the music.

In a way, it is. Vanska is using the new critical editions of the Beethoven symphonies edited by Jonathan Del Mar, which do, at times, differ substantially from older editions. These editions have been around for a few years, however, and may already be familiar to you if you've heard the recent recordings by Rattle, Abbado or Zinman (there may be more, but those are the ones I'm aware of). In any case, I would like to add another strong recommendation for this particular recording. I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the cycle. I believe I read somewhere that the 9th is next!

Post by tream May 12, 2005 (5 of 5)
Ken_P said:

In a way, it is. Vanska is using the new critical editions of the Beethoven symphonies edited by Jonathan Del Mar, which do, at times, differ substantially from older editions. These editions have been around for a few years, however, and may already be familiar to you if you've heard the recent recordings by Rattle, Abbado or Zinman (there may be more, but those are the ones I'm aware of). In any case, I would like to add another strong recommendation for this particular recording. I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the cycle. I believe I read somewhere that the 9th is next!

You are right about the new editions, as well. Do you know of anyplace that summarizes the differences?

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