Beethoven: Symphony No. 7

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: BBC Legends
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: London Philharmonic Orchestra/Klaus Tennstedt
CATALOGUE NO: BBCL 4167-2
In the current catalogue the late Klaus Tennstedt’s name is mainly linked with Mahler. But it would be a shame if that was how posterity came to view him. True, his Mahler could be both ear- and heart-opening, but these two concert performances of core symphonic classics show how revealing he could be even in the most familiar repertoire. The Brahms isn’t the kind of performance I’d want to return to regularly (the sensual stretching out of the slow movement coda only just keeps this side of the good-taste divide). But Tennstedt’s loving intensity and mastery of the soaring long line make it easy to pass by questionable bits and relish the essence – something of Bruno Walter’s warmth and flexibility, if not always his subtlety.

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But the Beethoven is remarkable: riper in tone and a touch more bass heavy than the classic Carlos Kleiber version, it is driven more by the energy in the melodic line than by dance rhythms, although Tennstedt is gloriously light-footed in the Allegretto, despite the relatively relaxed tempo. It’s noticeable that though Tennstedt’s sound in Beethoven is so full and rich, it doesn’t seem to add much weight to the music. In fact all four movements have an exciting sustained momentum. To leave out the second Scherzo repeat then observe the long repeat in the Trio seems just perverse to me, yet the music remains unusually vital and compelling. The live recorded sound is spacious and well-balanced, if somewhat dull in tone. Stephen Johnson