Review by drdanfee December 17, 2005 (7 of 8 found this review helpful)
|BRUNO WALTER + BEETHOVEN 6 = GENIUS, HEART, SOUL. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, NO MATTER WHAT.
By the time conductor Bruno Walter got around to recording this reading of the Beethoven Sixth Symphony, almost everybody who was anybody in classical music of that era agreed that he practically owned the contemporary performance rights to utter preeminence in this work.
The phrasing is sung, instead of snapped in the modern Beethoven style that owes so much to three or four decades we have spent in recreations of period instrument playing. The tempos are flexible, as if breathing. The flexibility of phrasing and tempos is always rooted, as deeply as possible, in the bedrock of the symphony's harmonic argument, and then to equal degree in the dramatic and narrative flow.
In short, people don't conduct Beethoven like this any more.
But no matter.
However much our own thought and period instrument experiences may have come to inform how we now think the composer is expressing himself, to hear this recording again is to appreciate with new zest and new heart that Beethoven's importance is inseparable from the kind of humanity that Bruno Walter and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra find in him, exactly through his music.
By the way.
All the comments about tape hiss being preserved make me wonder what kinds of equipment people are using to play this SACD.
Probably if you are listening on headphones, you will be that much more aware of the background noise inherent in the master tape. But the music is so staggeringly figural that I cannot believe anybody would fail to notice it, lost in favor of that (minimal) background tape noise.
I wonder how people manage, listening past all the other everyday noise that threatens to intrude upon our home systems? The miracle of listening to recorded music is part and parcel of the brain's miraculous abilities (bio-psycho-acoustically) to process the signals the ear is receiving, and to focus one empathic attentions on the point, which is the music.
Now, some musical training of some kind probably helps this kind of ability to focus or pay attention. But anyone who can manage to hear their friends talking to them on an outside, busy, noisy urban street, has the basic brain ability to shut out competing noise in favor of paying attention to the other person talking.
Listening past tape hiss or other (minimal) master tape residual noise ... well it is just like that.
In any case, this reading is a peak all its own in the mountain ranges of recorded Beethoven Sixth Symphonies. Anyone who can't hear the music yet should just take a break and come back later. No matter who else records this symphony,... and there have been and will be some deserving candidates;... this particular recording will continue to stand on its own, and can therefore be very highly recommended.
The rating says five stars. I say: there are too many stars to count. Get this SACD, and listen to Beethoven the humanist who plumbed and characterized all those joys and struggles we have come to call the human condition.
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