BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.” Overtures: The Creatures of Prometheus; Egmont • Gustavo Dudamel, cond; Simón Bolívar SO • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DG B0016869-02 (67:16)
Gustavo Dudamel recorded a Beethoven program (symphonies Nos. 5 and 7) with his Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra as his inaugural disc for DG; that splendid ensemble has since dropped the appellation “youth”Read more from its name. In my review (Fanfare 30: 3), while admiring much of what I heard, I questioned the need for the cuts that Dudamel took in the finale of the Fifth and the opening and closing movements of the Seventh, as well as the extremes of tempo that were chosen for some movements.
This new program shares with its predecessor a big, brawny approach to Beethoven that might have been termed “old school” were it not for the recent proliferation of similar recordings. The opening allegro con brio of the “Eroica” is a moderately brisk one, and the phrasing is crisply executed by this always-impressive orchestra. The clearly delineated instrumental articulation is everything that we have come to expect from these musicians as well. The funeral march, though, is very broadly paced: at this lugubrious tempo, the musicians need to communicate a sense of deep emotions in conflict, as minor mode gives way to major, and then resumes its weary tread. There is melancholy here, to be sure, but not quite the depth of feeling that others, particularly Daniel Barenboim, have managed at this kind of tempo. Claudio Abbado, in his 2000 DG recording, at a timing over three minutes faster than Dudamel’s, brings more heightened contrast to this movement.
I have no reservations about the Scherzo: the exuberance of the performance is a tonic after the sluggish funeral march. The horns of the trio fairly chortle their joyous calls. The playful set of variations in the finale is carried off with aplomb, though conductors such as Mackerras and Järvi, in their very different ways, bring a cheeky sense of mischief to this music that Dudamel doesn’t quite match.
The overture to The Creatures of Prometheus is, of course, most appropriate as a companion to the symphony, and it receives a spirited performance. Egmont, the more substantial of the two overtures, opens in what sounds like a caricature of sinister menace, as Dudamel underlines each phrase with a very heavy hand. This performance provides a sense of “occasion,” but little else.
The sound production is impressive, with full-bodied stereo, very good bass, and decent instrumental definition, all within an expansive sound stage. Altogether, this is a highly entertaining and excellently performed version of the “Eroica,” and the two overtures are, at the very least, interesting for what they add to Dudamel’s Beethoven discography. Recommended.
Wonderful new July 24, 2012By Ed C. (Oklahoma City, OK)See All My Reviews"I find that Dudamel is one of our greatest young orchestra stars, and what he does with the "Eroica" is nothing less than brilliant! The only time I have heard Beethoven's 3rd symphony played with the masterful tempo and the clarity before are the old Toscanini recordings. Dudamel has full command of the Simon Bolivar Symphony and full command of the Beethoven score. This recording is percise, musical, and one of my choices for best CD of the year! The orchestra's dynamicas is beyond beautiful. I am looking forward to any new Dudamel recordings that come along."Report Abuse