BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 "Eroica." Symphony No. 8
in F, Op. 93.
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral."
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 "Eroica." Leonore Overture
Here are three more worthy additions to the expanding catalog of SACD recordings of Beethoven symphonies. Osmo Vänskä and the splendid Minnesota Orchestra provide thoughtful, outstanding performances of their three new entries, with a strong quartet of vocalists for No. 9. The BIS engineering captures the warmth of Minnesota's Orchestra Hall, with a dynamic range almost too wide, woodwinds rather recessed. Haitink continues his live series with the London Symphony with the Eroica recorded during performances in the Barbican November 21-22, 2005, along with Leonore Overture No. 2 recorded at the same concerts. Barbican has a dry acoustic, and recordings made there have varying degrees of success. Even with 5.0 channels producer John Mallinson could not eliminate the overly acrid orchestral sound; from a sonic standpoint I much prefer Haitink's 1987 Concertgebouw recording of the Eroica. All of these new recordings have stiff competition from surround sound competitors. Kurt Masur's fine Leipzig Gewandhaus complete set on Pentatone offers totally convincing surround sound in spite of the fact that it was recorded 1972-1974 (REVIEW), and Claudio Abbado's live Berlin Philharmonic DVD video set is extraordinary in every way (REVIEW). And if you want your Beethoven in true surround sound—and some might feel overly gimicky—investigate the dynamic performances of Nos. 7 and 8 with a top-notch Polish orchestra conducted by Wojciech Rajski on the Tacet label (REVIEW).
R.E.B. (November 2006)