Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 2. Symphony No. 3,
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, cond; Saarbrücken RSO
OEHMS OC 522 (2 CDs: 82:12) Live: 2005
Skrowaczewski?s Beethoven Second is an outstanding account, with plenty of the sharp accents and droll wit that this work demands. The first movement, with exposition repeat observed, is swift but never sounds rigid. There?s lots of personality in the winds and the
Saarbrücken strings are very responsive. The conductor?s ear for internal balances allows everything to be heard in the right proportions. The Larghetto?s tempo is neither the hectic sort heard from period ensembles nor the ponderous affair that many traditional accounts have made of it. Here, the music sings with eloquence and a gentle forward motion. The Scherzo is delivered in a fairly strict tempo (there are none of those old-fashioned breath pauses before or after the trio) and the fleet finale is not so quick as to blur detail. Particularly effective are the antiphonal effects heard from dividing violins left and right. That practice strikes me as one of the indisputable advantages of stereo over mono?and most conductors fail to even utilize it.
Unlike the Second (a 2005 studio recording), the ?Eroica? is taken from a pair of live 2005 concerts. The two gunshot opening chords (heard here with hardly a breath between them) lead into a swiftly-propelled Allegro con brio that?s flexible enough to capture all the changes in scenery along the way. The funeral march (with a superb oboe soloist) is gravely serious without being in any sense maudlin, even though it doesn?t move me in quite the same way as Furtwängler?s live 1953 Berlin Philharmonic reading (IMG/EMI). The well-sprung Scherzo is excellent, with the horns especially fine in the trio (perhaps a dividend from all the Bruckner they?ve played under this conductor). The finale begins with scarcely a pause after the Scherzo?s end. Here the tempos are at their most flexible, with some rhetorical shifts that hearken back to an earlier generation of Beethoven interpreters. The coda is nobly affirmative and not strenuously overwrought. It should be noted that, at various points throughout the symphony, the conductor can be heard either humming or verbally exhorting his players (it?s more noticeable over headphones than through loudspeakers). Skrowaczewski takes the first movement exposition repeat, which I can normally live without, even though the very first ?Eroica? I ever owned also takes it (the 1953 Erich Kleiber/Vienna Philharmonic, currently in a six-disc Decca CD set). In 1962, I bought that Kleiber, a Richmond LP priced at $1.98, from a display rack at the checkout counter in my local grocery store (perhaps that?s a distribution channel worth re-examining in today?s world of lagging CD sales).
Because these readings have a combined total timing of over 80 minutes, Oehms has released them on two CDs, along with a copy of the 2005 Oehms CD catalog. A quick check with three large classical CD vendors indicates a retail price of about $22. That seems a little steep for just two Beethoven symphonies (there was plenty of room to include the First Symphony). By contrast, the excellent Kletzki/Czech Philharmonic set of Symphonies 1?3 (Supraphon) costs only about $16 (plus you get an
Overture). But pricing issues aside, these Skrowaczewski accounts are highly recommended. I look forward to hearing the remainder of what promises to be a complete Beethoven cycle under Skrowaczewski.
FANFARE: Jeffrey J. Lipscomb
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Written: 1801-1802; Vienna, Austria
Venue: Live Großer Sendesaal des SR
Length: 32 Minutes 36 Secs.
Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 "Eroica" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Written: 1803; Vienna, Austria
Venue: Live Kongreßhalle, Saarbrücken
Length: 49 Minutes 32 Secs.
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36: I. Adagio molto - Allegro molto
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36: II. Larghetto
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36: III. Scherzo
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36: IV. Allegro molto
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55, "Eroica": I. Allegro con brio
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55, "Eroica": II. Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55, "Eroica": III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55, "Eroica": IV. Finale: Allegro molto
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