Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 in C; Symphony No. 4 in B flat

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Symphony No. 1 in C; Symphony No. 4 in B flat
PERFORMER: Beethoven Academie/Jan Caeyers
CATALOGUE NO: HMA 1901573
Hardly had I begun to praise the Naxos Beethoven series, especially as a good investment for young collectors, than along comes this very good coupling with an orchestra and conductor that I confess not to know. They have obviously made a special study of these Beethoven symphonies, both of which were composed before Haydn’s death in 1809. Caeyers makes the most of the bold innovations in these scores but there is yet a sense of Classical sonority in the recording which surely reflects the kind of sound Beethoven had in mind.

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Tempi are light (eg Symphony No. 1’s slow movement, which is marked ‘Andante cantabile con moto’ – when I was young you almost never heard it ‘con moto’) and the sound is solid but not heavy. If you take the general attitude towards Beethoven’s first symphonies as witnessed by this CD and compare it to how they were playing it fifty years ago, it is clear that the sound, balance, tempi and overall concept have undergone a huge change. I welcome it heartily. HC Robbins Landon