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Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7 / Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Beethoven / Orpheus Chamber Orch
Release Date: 02/25/2014 
Label:  Orpheus   Catalog #: 1  
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Symphonies Nos. 5 1 and 7 2 Orpheus CO OCO 001 (73:07) Live: Carnegie Hall 1 10/11/2012; 2 12/4/2010

This is an astonishingly successful CD. My ears did a slight double-take, as the deep rich sounds of Beethoven in Carnegie Hall first came through the speakers. Where is the Bärenreiter Read more Edition phrasing? Where are the metallic violins? Did I put on Giulini by accident? Karl Böhm? Thielemann? Chamber orchestras this small (35 players) aren’t supposed to project so much velvet and gold, or are they? We have become accustomed in recent years to a miniaturization of the Beethoven sound-journey, with the early music movement to thank for it. It is as if the elegant old sedans have been chopped down to economy size and given sports suspensions with all the charm of shopping carts. We expect to be jarred and jerked and hurled into door frames as we corner. Bounce and aggression and a certain edgy excitement substitute for the noble ride and serene purring we knew and loved. But not here.

These are totally traditional performances, aiming always for weight, beauty of tone, and the long bass line. The opening moments of the Beethoven Fifth are the hardest to pull off this way, with so few players, and one becomes aware that the motto would sound better with more musicians onstage. But even here, the Orpheus players diphthong their chords and spread out their sonority as seamlessly as possible. Numerous bits of portamento along the way and a beautiful sense of blending for horns and woodwinds eventually trick the mind, until one accepts that this is big rich Beethoven. This unanimity of purpose is all the more remarkable for being achieved without a conductor. But everything is fluid and beautiful, with an especially serene and drawn-out oboe solo in the Fifth. And the Seventh Symphony performance is, if anything, even more traditional. The way the music is voiced allows for fewer moments where one would notice the absence of more violins. Even so, the rich legato and burnished weight achieved is remarkable. And excitement in the Scherzo and Finale is palpable, without that manic tempest-in-a-teapot quality so common in HIP performances. Readers should note also that the repeat is taken in the Finale of No. 5 but that the exposition repeat in No. 7 is omitted. This, too, is the way it used to be done.

This CD is a fine antidote to the irritations of revisionism. If you ever wondered what Giulini or Karl Böhm might have sounded like in front of a chamber orchestra, this is your moment.

FANFARE: Steven Kruger
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1811-1812; Vienna, Austria 
Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  4 Customer Reviews )
 Unusual Beethoven 5 & 7 January 4, 2015 By Gail M. (Goleta, CA) See All My Reviews "The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra give us two popular Beethoven symphonies in vivid, very well played live performances. The style avoids the extreme tempos of many historically informed performances, and these musicians produce the powerful sound of a full-size symphony orchestra. But in this recording the brass instrruments are somewhat covered by the strings, reducing the dramatic impact of the score, particualrly in the Fifth Symphony. And unfortunnately the editing left the audience applause right after the last notes of each symphony." Report Abuse
 Acceptable Beethoven, but something is every so s May 13, 2014 By Warren Harris See All My Reviews "This recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 and No 7 is interesting, and has a lot to offer. The musicians do a fabulous job, and the recording quality is excellent. But the pacing was slightly disturbing for me. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 appears first, and I expected great things from the first movement and was not disappointed in the slightest. It was in the second movement where I felt that some of the spacing and pacing – holding rests just a hair longer than is typical, and rather than adding to the dynamic tension of the piece I found this to be rather distracting. The 3rd movement is very well played and each melodic line has great clarity. Unfortunately, the 4th movement doesn’t quite flow in a way that is comfortable for me. However, each note is articulated clearly and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is clearly giving their all. And in all fairness, if this was the first recording of this symphony that I had ever heard, I would have been thrilled. The other work on the disc is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. And while I did find the first movement to also linger a bit here and there, the 2nd movement is very well played (and the crystal clear string work is laudable) albeit just a touch slow near the end of the movement. As for the 3rd movement, I felt that there were a few places where things were just a bit rushed and that just a hair more lingering on a note would have added so much. The 4th movement, though, is wonderful and filled with all of the excitement that it should be. The liner notes are fairly basic, but with the background on the Orpheus being of the most value. As for this recording as a whole, I found the interpretation to be slightly uneven, but I have no doubt that many will fall in love with it. As for me, I’m afraid that I am most definitely in love with Karajan’s interpretations, and if you are in that camp then this performance may hit you the same way that it did me. But if you aren’t, then it is definitely worth exploring as there is so much here to drink in." Report Abuse
 The Great Orpheus March 29, 2014 By Harold C. (Walnut, CA) See All My Reviews "Great sound and great intonation. Orpheus is the top of great orchestras." Report Abuse
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