Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2; CPE Bach Symphonies

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2; CPE Bach Symphonies—Academy for Early Music Berlin (Harm Mundi 902420)

For Beethoven 250, Harmonia Mundi has announced an innovative new project: the complete symphonies plus related works by other classicists recorded by different ensembles, some without conductor. The aim is to—as the label puts it—“resituate the works within their period….Modern listeners who are captivated by Beethoven’s first utterance as a symphonist will be surprised to discover that not everyone has agreed with them.”  For instance, here is no less an authority than French composer Hector Berlioz on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1: “This music is admirably crafted, clear, lively, but it is lacking in intensity, cool and at times insignificant, as in the rondo finale, which is a piece of real musical childishness. In a word: it is not Beethoven.”  No deference to the mighty Beethoven there!  Berlin’s Academy for Early Music plays here as a large chamber ensemble; the name of the concertmaster, Bernhard Forck is on the cover where the conductor’s credit would normally appear! 

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