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Beethoven: Symphonies No 2 & 7 / Vänskä, Minnesota Orchestra

Release Date: 08/21/2008 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1816   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Osmo Vänskä
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Minnesota Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

See all the titles in Osmo Vänskä's Beethoven symphony cycle.

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

A triumphant final instalment in Vanska's acclaimed Minnesota Beethoven cycle

For my money, Vanska's has been the most thought-provoking Beethoven symphony cycle since David Zinman's (much as I also loved Jos van Immerseel's). In this last instalment he again offers a Beethoven reforged for today's world. There is a pace - a push to his readings -that feels 21st-centurty hectic. But he also knows
Read more when to throttle back - when, as it were, to appreciate life.

-- Gramophone [1/2009]

This has been an astonishing time for Beethoven lovers, and particularly for fans of the Seventh Symphony, what with excellent recent releases from Paavo Järvi (RCA) and Ivan Fischer (Channel Classics). Now Osmo Vänskä weighs in, completing his already outstanding Beethoven cycle with what may be the best version of them all. It has all of Järvi's vitality, rhythmic edge, and transparency of texture, and it supplies in abundance the one element missing from Fischer's version: sharply etched bass lines. This is a critical factor at such points as the first movement's recapitulation, with its galloping lower strings, or the codas of the outer movements. Indeed, I'll bet you've never heard the cellos and basses grinding away to more powerful effect at the conclusion of the finale. The effect is beyond thrilling, and it's all the more so for being exactly what Beethoven's markings prescribe.

As you can already see, Vänskä's Seventh has one of the prerequisites for a great performance: unique interpretive details that no one else matches, at least to quite the same degree. I could cite many more: the characterful (but never mannered) accentuation of the Allegretto's principal theme; the witty articulation of the scherzo, proving that "Presto" is as much an expressive indication as it is a measure of sheer speed; the same movement's ideal tempo for the always problematic trio; the amazingly varied and crystal clear articulation of the first movement's various dotted rhythms; and a finale whose volcanic energy and sense of power barely leashed is perhaps matched only by Toscanini's famous New York Philharmonic recording. Again, here is a classic case of maximum excitement generated less by playing fast than by forceful accents and incredible ensemble discipline.

In this last respect, it's impossible to over-praise the Minnesota Orchestra's horns, woodwinds, and especially its strings, whose ensemble matches the best of anything out there today, including Järvi's amazing Deutsche Kammerorchester Bremen. Even tremolos and normally perfunctory accompanimental figures tingle with life and energy. This also makes Vänskä's take on the Second Symphony special. The coupling with the Seventh turns out to be inspired, as the works have much in common: the vivid woodwind scoring, the lengthy first-movement introductions, and the sheer masculinity of the tuttis. Of course these pieces have appeared on disc before, but in these performances we really can hear both the similarities as well as Beethoven's stylistic growth from one symphony to the next. Brilliantly engineered, utterly natural sonics in all formats provide the finishing touch on a Beethoven cycle that stands with Barenboim's as a modern reference edition, and that features a Seventh that just may top them all.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Osmo Vänskä
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Minnesota Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801-1802; Vienna, Austria 
Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Osmo Vänskä
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Minnesota Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1811-1812; Vienna, Austria 

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