Notes and Editorial Reviews
What a surprising disc this is! Péter Eötvös' zeroPoints (yes, the spelling is correct) is another one of those puzzlingly-titled textural things that contemporary composers seem to be churning out these days. Brilliantly orchestrated, brief, and full of glistening sounds, it makes its points without overstaying its welcome, which is not the least of its qualities. As a prelude to Beethoven's Fifth, you might find it a little unusual, but then again this isn't just any Beethoven's Fifth.
Eötvös and his pals in Ensemble Modern have decided to go at the Fifth as with any other piece of contemporary music, freely amplifying strings and winds to achieve an alarming level of clarity and balance
between sections. Of course, this isn't an entirely new idea. Think of, say, Leopold Stokowski's experiments with acoustics and electronics, or the "multi-miking" habits popular in the 1970s and early '80s. Unlike Stokowski's approach, though, this effort involves electronic amplification of acoustic instruments in the actual performance space rather than manipulations at a mixing console. The result, however, is a sound that is no less a part of the interpreter's conception of the piece (and it also makes for one hell of an impressive home listening experience). And what is that conception? Simply this: play the living daylights out of the music. This is one of the most taut, exciting, driving performances of the symphony that you will ever hear. We're talking move over Toscanini and Kleiber--I kid you not.
Within the context of supremely high-caliber playing, Eötvös and crew treat each movement as a single musical span, revealing a perfect understanding of Beethoven's dramaturgy. Take the first movement development, for example, where the players bring an incredible passion and focus to sudden dynamic changes, and blast forward inexorably in a crushing assault on the recapitulation. Marvelous! The Andante really breathes, hugely benefiting from the long-limbed phrasing made possible by generous observance of the "con moto" qualification of its basic tempo. The grimly humorous scherzo leads to a finale of simply overwhelming energy: the fireworks just keep coming at you until the very last bar, with none of the loss of steam frequently encountered in other performances at the return of the scherzo, the beginning of the coda, or the calmer second subject.
Make no mistake: this performance is at once an astonishing achievement in its own right and a celebration of the perennial relevance of the great classics. In a time when everyone is asking the question: "Do we really need another performance of [fill in the blank]?" it's wonderful to be able to hold up this CD and say, "Yes!" The playing time is short, and there are cheaper versions by more famous people available. But if you haven't heard this recording, and you love the Fifth, you're missing something very special.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
ZeroPOINTS by Peter Eötvös
Period: 20th Century
Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria
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