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Beethoven: Symphonies / Mackerras, Scottish Chamber Orchestra


Release Date: 09/11/2007 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 44301   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Janice WatsonStuart SkeltonCatherine Wyn-RogersDetlef Roth
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber OrchestraPhilharmonia OrchestraEdinburgh Festival Chorus
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Standing up for Beethoven: Mackerras’s marvellous Edinburgh cycle on disc.

In a witheringly funny piece on the current state of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Michael Henderson observed that “if Proust came bowling along George Street, arm in arm with Beethoven and Diaghilev, Nijinsky carrying their togs, Edinburgh’s scribes would still be yapping about the ‘fabulously imaginative’ lesbian jugglers they had seen the night before in the Gilded Balloon”.

I know what he means. Hearing Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony – just that, nothing else – at an early evening concert in the Usher Hall last August was both a joy and relief. A joy because the performance by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Sir Charles
Read more Mackerras was everything one could wish from mortal musicians; a relief because when it comes to comedy, Beethoven knocks spots off those ranting stand-ups who have become Edinburgh’s most fawned-over feature.

Hyperion’s set is that early evening Beethoven cycle caught in recordings of remarkable intimacy and focus. One decision notwithstanding, it is a set I would happily put into the hands of any aspiring young music lover, and quite a few older ones too.

Mackerras goes back a long way with Beethoven. He grew up with Weingartner’s Seventh and studied the Eroica with Talich. He was mastering the art of period performance when many latter-day gurus were in short trousers. Yet, like all the best old-school Kapellmeisters, he arrived at Beethoven slowly while doing other things.

His super-budget RLPO set was the first to use Jonathan Del Mar’s work for the new Bärenreiter Edition. “A blend of period consciousness and traditional classicism” was how Stephen Johnson described the approach. That remains the case, though Mackerras now benefits, as did Harnoncourt, from having a first-rate chamber orchestra at his disposal rather than a modern symphony orchestra corralled into period practice.

Which is why I was somewhat surprised by the change of orchestras for the Ninth. Though Mackerras conducts an astonishingly vital, thoroughly de-Wagnerised account of the symphony, it sits slightly oddly with the rest of the cycle: the exigencies of the event compromising the quality of some of the singing and playing.

If I had to single out one performance from the set, it would be that of the Eighth. This is very much Mackerras’s kind of music: witty, original, rich in surprise, intensively alive, and a good deal more substantial than that old sobriquet “Little” would have us believe. Beethoven conducting and playing don’t come much better than this.

-- Richard Osborne, Gramophone [Awards Issue 2007]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in C major, Op. 21 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
2.
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801-1802; Vienna, Austria 
3.
Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 "Eroica" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1803; Vienna, Austria 
4.
Symphony no 4 in B flat major, Op. 60 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
5.
Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria 
6.
Symphony no 6 in F major, Op. 68 "Pastoral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1808; Vienna, Austria 
7.
Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1811-1812; Vienna, Austria 
8.
Symphony no 8 in F major, Op. 93 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1812; Vienna, Austria 
9.
Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Janice Watson (Soprano), Stuart Skelton (Tenor), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Mezzo Soprano),
Detlef Roth (Bass)
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Edinburgh Festival Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: 1822-1824; Vienna, Austria 

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