Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (Eroica); Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus – finale; 12 Contretänze

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (Eroica); Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus – finale; 12 Contretänze
PERFORMER: Helsingborg SO/Andrew Manze
CATALOGUE NO: Harmonia Mundi HMU 807470
In his lively and engaging booklet note, Andrew Manze describes the pieces recorded here as charting the progress of a musical idea from acorn to oak, and of its composer from obscurity to fame. No matter that some of the 12 Contredanses WoO 14 are actually quite late in origin, and that like many commentators Manze gets his chronology wrong (Beethoven’s sketches show that he first used the famous ‘Prometheus’ theme in the finale of his ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, and subsequently assimilated it into the dances, rather than the other way round) – this is a fascinating programme, and superbly realised. Inevitably, there’s one piece of the jigsaw missing: the finale of the Eroica Symphony was preceded by a set of variations for piano Op. 35, which recycles the same theme; and both feature an initial chain of variations based on the theme’s bass-line, before the melody itself appears.Manze takes a surprisingly Romantic view of the Eroica, with a lingering account of its funeral march second movement that allows the trumpets to ring out to overwhelming effect in the C major blaze of sound immediately preceding the first reprise of the initial funeral march theme. The remainder of the Symphony is no less impressive, with accomplished playing from the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra. This is an Eroica to set alongside recent recommendations from Paavo Järvi and the Bremen Kammerphilharmonie (RCA), and Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra. Of the three, it’s Vänskä who best captures the dark atmosphere of the slow movement’s sotto voce beginning, but Manze’s disc shouldn’t be missed.