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Beethoven: Symphonies 2 & 3 / Jan Willem De Vriend , Netherlands Symphony Orchestra

Release Date: 03/13/2012 
Label:  Challenge   Catalog #: 72532  
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Jan Willem de Vriend
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Symphonies: No. 2; No. 3, “Eroica” Jan Willem de Vriend, cond; Netherlands SO CHALLENGE CC72532 (2 SACDs: 81:10)

This is the penultimate volume in the series of Beethoven symphonies in SACD multichannel sound performed by Jan Willem de Vriend and the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra. The set of the symphonies conducted by Philip Herreweghe on PentaTone has served as my primary source of comparison, though Paavo Järvi’s series on RCA with his Bremen chamber group has Read more also been useful in that capacity.

In the performance of the Second Symphony, the opening Adagio is stern but sharply punctuated, with the timpani especially effective; the Allegro con brio is exuberant without becoming driven too emphatically. In his booklet note, de Vriend writes that the Second is “a marvel, a cheerful symphony in D Major, the radiant key of power and grandeur.” That radiance and grandeur find expression in his Larghetto, within a comfortably accommodating tempo.

The Scherzo, repeats intact, is taken at a somewhat measured pace, with the Trio very jolly indeed. The finale has a deliberateness to its comedic nature that gives the movement an even more convincingly humorous character.

In the “Eroica,” de Vriend avoids the kind of breakneck speed employed by Emmanuel Krivine and Paavo Järvi and produces a first movement of power and grace. The measured pace of the Funeral March never drags and the sometimes peremptory string phrases avoid any maudlin tendencies; the hope-filled major-mode themes, however, are often too stentorian here—Herreweghe is more eloquent and no less forthright.

The lighter touch of the coiled-spring Scherzo provides a perfect foil for the heaviness of the second movement, and de Vriend doesn’t push the music into overdrive. The (presumably natural) horns of the Trio are nobly employed. The slightly different acoustic of the finale, with more precise instrumental definition, leads me to wonder if it was taken from a different session (the recording took place over a three-day period). Whatever the cause, the engineering assists in providing a very effective fourth movement with its irrepressible and ingenious variations on the “Prometheus” theme. The coda, however, is taken so fast that it verges on incoherence.

It is unfortunate that Challenge couldn’t manage to squeeze both of these performances onto one disc; as it is, at two discs for the price of about one-and-a half, this unusual pairing may not find the audience it deserves. Jan Willem de Vriend has produced an estimable Beethoven series, and those listeners who favor an airy, reverberant sound production will be pleased with this new volume. For those who want a weightier, more immediate sound, and HIP, I still recommend the Herreweghe for a set of the symphonies in SACD multichannel (unless you prefer a smaller ensemble in fast-paced and fresh interpretations, in which case it’s Paavo Järvi all the way).

FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Jan Willem de Vriend
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801-1802; Vienna, Austria 
Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 "Eroica" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Jan Willem de Vriend
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1803; Vienna, Austria 

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