Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 in B flat; Symphony No. 6 in F (Pastoral)

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: EMI Eminence
WORKS: Symphony No. 4 in B flat; Symphony No. 6 in F (Pastoral)
PERFORMER: Royal Liverpool PO/Charles Mackerras
The great advantage of this new CD of warhorses, apart from Charles Mackerras’s skilled and thoroughly professional conducting, and the elegant, eminently well-balanced sound, is the fact that the old, partially corrupt scores have been revised by Jonathan Del Mar, who is about to publish a new Urtext of Beethoven’s symphonies. In the Fourth, this means that there is ‘a thunderous timpani’ entrance in bar 31. In the Pastoral, the first violins are muted throughout the slow movement. There are other novelties which Mackerras himself supplies: Beethoven’s own, swift metronome marks are used and some hair-raising timpani rolls, pp, with rather hard sticks, produce an entirely authentic but also exciting orchestral sound just before the recapitulation in the first movement of the Fourth. As you might expect from Mackerras, these readings are well-considered, rather cool and delivered with style and panache. The orchestra is not, of course, the Vienna or Berlin Philharmonic, nor is it Gardiner’s period orchestra on Archiv, but Mackerras’s storm is spectacular and the recording is well worth a young collector’s serious consideration, particularly in view of the modest price. HC Robbins Landon