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Thread: The 'lesser' Beethoven symphonies

  1. #16
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    My favorites are no better or worse than anyone else's.

    1: Toscanini
    2: Take your pick
    4: Furtwangler
    8: Schmidt-Isserstedt

  2. #17
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    I love these "lesser" works as much or more than the "greater" ones and certainly more than the Choral (which I love!). There are so many really good accounts of them. Number 4 may be the most difficult to bring off - or, at least, I am far less often happy with performances of it than I am with the other three. But when it works it is wonderful.

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    As a bassoonist, I love and yet fear the 4th. I love listening to others play it and see if they can keep up with the tempo of the finale. But when placed in front of me...no thanks! One of the toughest licks in the literature.

    I love 1. 2 a bit less. Really indifferent to 8. Totally embrace the 6th - what an astonishing creation it is. Then there's the "other" even-numbered: the 10th. Terrible disservice to the composer.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Some rankings of recordings of these “lesser” symphonies, from elsewhere. YouTube refs are included for some.

    Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21 (composed 1799–1800, premièred 1800)
    1 - Christopher Hogwood, Academy of Ancient Music
    2 - Frans Bruggen, Orchestra of the 18th Century (1st recording, Phillips)
    3 - John Eliot Gardiner, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
    4 - Riccardo Chailly, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig
    5 - Bernard Haitink, London Symphony Orchestra
    6 - Arturo Toscanini, NBC Symphony Orchestra
    7 - David Zinman, Tonhalle Orchestra
    8 - Eugen Jochum, Concertgebouw Orchestra
    9 - Claudio Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Rome, live, 2001)
    10 - FritzReiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36 (composed 1801–02, premièred 1803)
    1 - John Eliot Gardiner, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (Archiv)
    2 - Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Chamber Orchestra of Europe
    3 - René Leibowitz, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    4 - Kurt Masur, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (2nd cycle)
    5 - Bruno Walter, Columbia Symphony Orchestra
    6 - Charles Mackerras, Scottish Chamber Orchestra
    7 - Bernard Haitink, London Symphony Orchestra
    8 - Frans Bruggen, Orchestra of the 18th Century (1st recording)
    9 - Paavo Jarvi, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
    10 - Emmanuel Krivine, La Chambre Philharmonique

    Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major, Op. 60 (composed 1806, premièred 1807)
    1 - Bruno Walter, Columbia Symphony Orchestra
    2 - Pierre Monteux, London Symphony Orchestra
    3 (tie) - Carlos Kleiber, Bavarian State Orchestra - https://youtu.be/Q8g4F-cUDMg
    3 (tie) - Paul Kletzki, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra - https://youtu.be/r8dgF8yX73k
    5 - Paavo Jarvi, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie
    6 - Arturo Toscanini, NBC Symphony
    7 - Giovanni Antonini, Kammerorchester Basel
    8 - Eugen Jochum, London Symphony Orchestra - http://tinyurl.com/zgfeg8s
    9 (tie) - Otto Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra
    9 (tie) - Kurt Masur, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra 1970s - https://youtu.be/N0h6AJgQ_hw

    Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93 (composed 1812, premièred 1814)
    1 - Paul Kletzki, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
    2 - John Eliot Gardiner, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique Archiv - http://tinyurl.com/gsxft9z
    3 - Riccardo Chailly, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra - https://youtu.be/Y2Uas5ZQJEM
    4 - Charles Mackerras, Scottish Chamber Orchestra
    5 - Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Chamber Orchestra of Europe - https://youtu.be/fkn6xgEXPYM
    6 - Claudio Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra 2002 live
    7 - Pierre Monteux, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra - https://youtu.be/L02klC378fs
    8 - Jos van Immerseel, Anima Eterna
    9 - Herbert von Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra 1963 - https://youtu.be/qkn0DWZn1II
    10 - Georg Solti, Chicago Symphony Orchestra


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  7. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    I love these "lesser" works as much or more than the "greater" ones......Number 4 may be the most difficult to bring off - or, at least, I am far less often happy with performances of it than I am with the other three. But when it works it is wonderful.
    I agree - the even numbers are really wonderful - esp 2 and 4...#5 is technically the hardest LvB symphony - the last movement requires precise unanimity in the strings at rapid tempo...of course, challenging parts for woodwinds and horns as well.
    I love #2 as well - esp for the exquisite 2nd mvt, which features such beautiful woodwind writing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    As a bassoonist, I love and yet fear the 4th. I love listening to others play it and see if they can keep up with the tempo of the finale. But when placed in front of me...no thanks! One of the toughest licks in the literature.
    yup, the mvt 4 lick appears on every audition...I've played it a bunch of times, and it is nervy...it's a great part throughout tho, right from the "spooky" entrances in the introduction, which so often sound "wrong", even tho it's right...

    Totally embrace the 6th - what an astonishing creation it is......
    Yes, indeed, remarkable work...great fun to play - great bassoon/woodwind parts, which all "lay" quite nicely on the horn...as with 2 and 4, the clarinet/bassoon writing in "soli" is really outstanding...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    Bruno Walter’s recordings with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra excel in these symphonies. No. 1 and 2 just sparkle, and No. 4. is one of my favorite performances ever, with a wonderful and witty No. 8. Available as an inexpensive download too.

    Walter performed these symphonies with a certain humanity and not just explosive bluster. It’s a more philosophical and balanced sounding Beethoven than most other cycles, and I’ve always appreciated the difference. Beethoven rated his 8th rather highly and I happen to agree with him; it was more than just a warm-up for the 9th, and it’s Beethoven in a happier, cheerful mood.

    ‘When asked by his pupil Carl Czerny why the Eighth was less popular than the Seventh, Beethoven is said to have replied, "because the Eighth is so much better."’ (!)

    https://www.amazon.com/Bruno-Walter-...en+symphony+cd
    I can't agree more. This is a fantastic Beethoven symphony set. LP collectors seem to like Walter's 6th especially, but I don't know why, to me it's just one gem after another. For another great but very different set from the same era, you could try Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. He achieves great clarity and precision (though not as perfect as legend would have it -- the idea that they always maintained perfect a=440 intonation, advanced as gospel truth in another cm forum, just isn't true) yet the result is never dull or lifeless. You just have to forget about what a r@t b@st@rd Szell apparently was.
    Aside from the 9th, the Szell and Walter sets would be more than enough for me.

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  12. #23
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    The woodwind writing in the finale of No. 4 has been mentioned. I am not a player and never noticed this until I listened to the Rene Leibowitz performance with the Royal PO. What a fine reading, and in fact set of readings. The whole cycle is part of a big download for cheaper than a Big Mac at $2.69.

    https://www.amazon.com/Genius-Beetho...ms-bar-strip-0
    Last edited by KenOC; Jun-12-2018 at 06:09.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    #5 is technically the hardest LvB symphony - the last movement requires precise unanimity in the strings at rapid tempo...of course, challenging parts for woodwinds and horns as well.
    Cannot agree with this - I've played 5 more than any of the nine - it's easier than most, I think, and even amateurs can do a decent job of it. The hardest part of 5 is trusting the conductor - does he or doesn't he have the technique to get all those first movement fermatas together? Yes, there are some hard parts, but it's Beethoven! The 1st trombone part is a killer.

    Yet, #3 is just a bear for all. #7 is fiendishly difficult for the strings. #9 is not only difficult technically, but extremely tiring, too. #6 is probably the easiest overall section by section.

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  16. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    Cannot agree with this - I've played 5 more than any of the nine -
    So sorry, I screwed up - I meant to post that #4 is the hardest, not #5... I don't know if I can edit the erroneous posting at this point...

    should read:
    <<Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    #4 is technically the hardest LvB symphony - the last movement requires precise unanimity in the strings at rapid tempo...of course, challenging parts for woodwinds and horns as well.>>

    #9 is a real endurance test..esp if all or most of the repeats are taken in mvt II. mvts I-III are really taxing, esp the slow mvt....the great finale has some challenging parts, but you actually get a break here and there!!
    Last edited by Heck148; Jun-13-2018 at 18:04.

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  18. #26
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    Heck148 writes, "#4 is technically the hardest LvB symphony - the last movement requires precise unanimity in the strings at rapid tempo...of course, challenging parts for woodwinds and horns as well.

    #9 is a real endurance test..esp if all or most of the repeats are taken in mvt II. mvts I-III are really taxing, esp the slow mvt....the great finale has some challenging parts, but you actually get a break here and there!!"

    That makes sense, and reminds me that I used to consider the period conductors & ensembles almost uniformly at their worst in the 4th and 9th! (& not a whole lot better in the 3rd & 5th, either). The only period 4th that has worked for me is Hogwood's, and that's largely because interpretatively he's quite close to Kletzki in the 2nd movement, which separates him from the others. The only period 9th that I've liked is Gardiner's, as none of the other period or HIP conductors were able to pull it off, IMO (& frustratingly so; nor did they have choirs as virtuosic as the Monteverdi Choir). (On the other hand, not surprisingly, the period boys excel in the strongly 'Handel influenced' 7th, & especially Immerseel, with his use of old-fashioned Viennese valveless horns and natural trumpets: which blend so wonderfully with the woodwinds and figure prominently at the end of the symphony. Indeed, only in Immerseel's performance do I hear the clopping & galloping of horses in the final movement. Everyone else misses it, or doesn't capture it to the same extent. For anyone who's curious, here's a YT link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcOzWEeSZT8 )

    For the 1st--Hogwood, Bruggen 1, and Masur 1 & 2 are, for me, the conductors that best get this work's combination of Mozartian/Haydnesque beauty with its sense of humor, wit, and above all, fun.




    For the 2nd--IMO, Nicholas Harnoncourt understands the intense light and dark struggle within this troubled symphony better than most, with it's surprisingly positive resolution (composed at the time of the Heiligenstadt testament, when Beethoven contemplated ending his life, due to his encroaching deafness); as does Eduard van Beinum with the Philharmonia in 1958, and Kubelik and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam (& live Audite). I've also liked Masur 2, Hogwood, and Nelson in this symphony.





    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcAC68zpTm0

    As for the 4th, Paul Kletzki is very fine in this work, along with Kurt Masur's first Leipzig account--one of the best 4ths I've heard. I've also liked Rafael Kubelik (with the Israel Philharmonic and Bavarian RSO), Jochum LSO, Casals, Hogwood (as mentioned), and historically, Weingartner (my 1st historical pick) and Furtwangler. I'd have to say that most of the older conductors excel in this symphony--such as Klemperer, Steinberg, Monteux, Walter, Mravinsky, Reiner, and so on.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYNEorug-kY
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk-_dv8PIHU

    I agree about Igor Markevitch's 8th--which I'd likewise count as one of the best. In my view, the 8th is an often misunderstood symphony. Too many conductors seem to be under the impression that after composing the final movement of the 7th, Beethoven lost his creative powers, and turned into a dull composer. They make the 8th sound like an almost stodgy imitation of Haydn. In reality, the 8th represents Beethoven's confident response to some of his critics, who wrote that he couldn't write a genuinely 'classical' or well proportioned symphony. That must have annoyed him. Well, here it is--a near perfectly proportioned symphony. It's also arguably his most joyful symphony. In addition to Markevitch, I've particularly liked John Nelson's exuberant HIP view of this work, & perhaps a tad more than Markevitch's; along with Casals Marlboro, and Jochum Concertgebouw. (Historically, Pfitzner and Furtwangler are interesting too.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23d8...&index=31&t=0s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN4vn55h2mI
    Last edited by Josquin13; Jun-14-2018 at 08:41.

  19. #27
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    If we are going to discuss the relative difficulty of Beethoven's orchestral works - IMO - the most difficult single work - as far as technical demands - has to be Leonore Ov #3...this is a real orchestral tour de force - and it features prominent, difficult licks for many instruments - these passages appear regularly on orchestra auditions -

    all strings, goes without saying - esp violins...

    Trumpet - the offstage calls
    Flute - big solo at recap of Allegro -main section -
    bassoon - accompanying counter melody solo to the flute

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