BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67.  Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 (Pastoral).
 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich/David Zinman, cond.
Arte Nova 49695 (B) (DDD) TT: 73:37  

David Zinman tried unsuccessfully for 13 years as music director of the Baltimore Symphony to record the Beethoven symphonies on Telarc using the "new critical Bärenreiter Edition" by Jonathan Del Mar, with metronome markings—many of them bizarrely brisk—added by the composer after he was totally deaf. Now, in Zurich where he is artistic overlord of the Tonhalle Orchestra, his heart's desire has been requited by Arte Nova, BMG's budget-label challenge to Naxos. Leading a good but not elite ensemble (cursed with a whinnying solo oboe even by Central-European standards), Zinman has thrown down half a gauntlet. He includes all of the repeats but fails to separate first and second violins on opposite sides of the podium—customary until Wagner's passion for monster-size orchestras massed them on the conductor's left. Speeds duplicate those by "original instrument" mavens who got there before Zinman (in what sound to me, by and large, like cloned interpretations), thereby trivializing all of the Pastoral. His Jack-Sprat Fifth isn't a bad idea, but lean should not have left out mean. Producer Chris Hazell's big-hall recording is sonorous but bass-light when Beethoven brandishes his fist at God, and program notes make you hungry for more by an intelligent but obviously constrained annotator.

R.D. (Nov. 2001)