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Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7 / Jaap Van Zweden, Dallas Symphony

Release Date: 06/26/2012 
Label:  Dallas Symphony Orchestra   Catalog #: 1   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Jaap van Zweden
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Symphonies: No. 5; 1 No. 7 2 Jaap van Zweden, cond; Dallas SO DALLAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA 1 (66:35) Live: Dallas 1 11/1–4/2007, 2 11/8–11/2007

This is Jaap van Zweden’s first recording with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra since his appointment as music director beginning with the 2008–09 season. Read more Performances aside, which I’ll come to in a moment, I have a thing or two to say about the DSO’s proprietary label, which it’s hoped will learn to observe the niceties of producing classical CDs for future releases.

First, no catalog number is given. I’ve assigned this disc the number 1 simply because ArkivMusic, which isn’t listing this release at the time of writing, does list two Tchaikovsky CDs, reviewed elsewhere in this issue, as numbers 2 and 3. Where ArkivMusic got those numbers, I don’t know because they’re not on my copies of the Tchaikovsky discs either, but if they’re numbers 2 and 3, and this Beethoven CD was the first to be recorded, then by default it must be number 1. If the label intends to continue putting out recordings, it needs to come up with a numbering scheme pronto and print the numbers on its discs and album spines.

Second, total disc timing is not provided, which puts this critic in a cranky mood when he has to add up the timings of the individual tracks, and it’s not a good thing for the critic to be in a bad mood before listening to the recording.

Third, for the serious-minded classical-music audience and record collector, the album note is a collection of gushes from Dallas newspaper reviews and orchestra members which, in my opinion, are patronizing to a musical organization that traces its beginnings back to 1900 and that has been led by podium luminaries such as Leopold Stokowski, Antal Doráti, Paul Kletzki, and Georg Solti, to name just four. If the Dallas Symphony wants to be taken seriously as one of America’s premier musical institutions, it needs a cosmetic makeover of its in-house label.

A fourth and final point I’ll make is that in 2004, just three years before these recordings were made, Philips released a five-disc set of the complete Beethoven symphonies with Jaap van Zweden leading the Hague Residentie Orchestra in multichannel SACD. For fans of the conductor’s Beethoven, that set is now selling at ArkivMusic for $49.99, just under $10 per disc, compared to this standard two-channel single stereo CD, selling at Amazon for $17.52. The current Dallas disc might have been a bit more competitive had it at least been released in SACD format.

All of which brings me finally to the performances at hand. They’re actually quite good, and they’re enhanced by what seems to be the exceptionally well-balanced recording and responsive acoustic of the McDermott Concert Hall of the Meyerson Symphony Center. There’s clarity of texture with instrumental voices separated and highlighted in a way that sounds natural rather than engineered.

Van Zweden’s tempos are brisk, his rhythms crisp and pointed, but he doesn’t drive his Dallas forces as hard or flog them to the point of scoring flesh, as David Zinman does with his Tonhalle Orchestra performances. One doesn’t get the feeling that van Zweden is trying to elicit the sound of period instruments from his Dallas players, though his readings are clearly informed by knowledge of period practices.

All but the last movement of the Fifth Symphony seems well judged to me. It’s a credit to van Zweden’s control and the Dallas orchestra’s technical proficiency that the symphony’s finale doesn’t sound frantic or come unglued, but in my opinion, the tempo really is too fast. Carlos Kleiber, in his classic account with the Vienna Philharmonic takes 10:49 to van Zweden’s 9: 13.

Which brings me finally to the point that many critics, myself included, have long considered Kleiber’s Deutsche Grammophon recordings of both the Fifth and Seventh symphonies—the very two with which van Zweden here launches his recording career with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra—to be the near-definitive modern-instrument readings of these scores. Obviously, much has transpired in Beethoven interpretation since then, mainly in the area of period-instrument performance and more recent, corrected editions of the scores, but Kleiber’s intensely powerful and dramatic readings retain a special place in the catalog.

Van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra make a strongly positive impression with this, their first outing together on record; if, by some happenstance, you find yourself wanting or needing a new recording of these two Beethoven symphonies, they make an excellent choice.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Jaap van Zweden
Period: Classical 
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Live  McDermott Concert Hall, Meyerson Symphon 
Length: 28 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Jaap van Zweden
Period: Classical 
Written: 1811-1812; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Live  McDermott Concert Hall, Meyerson Symphon 
Length: 37 Minutes 23 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 defective recording June 12, 2014 By Paul Rechnitzer (Sagle, ID) See All My Reviews "The CD is composed of two works.The 1st half is Beethoven'5th which is great as a recording. The other half is his 7th which while a great work the recording varies from the sound as it should be to inaudible with many fluctuations that are not compatible with the way the music is usually performed. In short I would like to return this CD for one that is more nearly correct. Thanks" Report Abuse
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