Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral); Leonore Overture No. 1; Leonore Overture No. 2; Leonore Overture No. 3

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
WORKS: Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral); Leonore Overture No. 1; Leonore Overture No. 2; Leonore Overture No. 3
PERFORMER: Swedish CO Örebro/Thomas Dausgaard
This disc begins promisingly but finally becomes slightly dispiriting. The opening of the Pastoral is brisk but gentle, with intriguingly conversational interaction between first and second violins just after the pause. The second theme begins quietly and unfolds dynamically (an interesting contrast to Roger Norrington’s recent Stuttgart account on Hänssler – reviewed August 2003 – where the three thematic strands all bristle tangibly from the beginning), thereby anticipating the movement’s development. The second movement evokes the brook’s smooth but relentless motion, and the merrymaking of the peasants is quick and light. The storm, though, seems crisp and precise rather than cataclysmic, and preoccupation with texture, articulation and beat-by-beat continuity prevents the lyricism of the finale from achieving the long-breathed gratitude of a full heart. Thomas Dausgaard invests plenty of energy and tautness in the Leonore overtures, which nevertheless sound small-scale and less than ideally heroic because of unwillingness to place due weight on structural hinges and affective moments (such as, in No. 3, the horn call launching the second theme or the lead-in to the offstage trumpet call). By the end of the disc, the paucity of expressive inflection and range nearly dissipated the enjoyment I derived from Dausgaard’s sensitivity with dynamics and textures (which clear recorded sound amply assists). Karl Böhm’s much-admired Pastoral inhabits a world where all is unforced and homogenised; if more modern sound is not required, Erich Kleiber’s 1953 Concertgebouw performance offers an especially rich synthesis of this work’s diverse tendencies. David Breckbill