Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 4 & 7

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: RCA
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 4 & 7
PERFORMER: Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Bremen/Paavo Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: 88697129332

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Paavo Järvi’s intense profile on the CD cover suggests a determination to do something effective and individual with these two works. As well he may, as these have been recorded a phenomenal number of times, so even if some listeners will be hearing these masterworks for the first time, many others will measure them against the countless performances and recordings that they have heard. Järvi adopts a non-partisan approach. Like Haitink and Mackerras, to name two conductors whose accounts of these works I have reviewed recently, he has clearly been listening to ‘original instrument’ and ‘period’ versions, has learned from them and then conducted an orchestra of modern instruments while not forgetting the great traditional performers. The results are satisfying, if not quite as satisfying as the two conductors I mentioned in their most recent performances. The German Chamber Orchestra, Bremen has some very fine instrumentalists, and the sheer sound they make, which has been excellently recorded, is an enormous pleasure. Smallish though the orchestra is, the recorded sound is quite mellow, even plush. That is a distinguishing feature, so that the stampeding vigour of Mackerras’s fast movements is here mitigated by warmth. In the slow movement of the Fourth Symphony the fairly brisk tempo combined with broad phrasing (which Mackerras eschews) makes for ravishing results. Indeed, the Fourth is a great success in all respects. The Seventh sometimes sounds more like a compromise, but is full of interesting details. Michael Tanner