Beethoven; Kurpinski

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven; Kurpinski
LABELS: Fryderyk Chopin Institute
WORKS: Beethoven: Symphony No. 3; Kurpinski: The Battle of Mozhaysk
PERFORMER: Orchestra of the 18th Century/ Frans Brüggen


Napoleon lurks behind these two works, the first a hastily written programmatic piece by a lesser-known Polish composer depicting the 1812 Battle of Mozhaysk (an event that hastened the Emperor’s fall), the other a revolutionary masterpiece. The gulf in quality between these is enormous, yet Karol Kurpinski’s pièce d’occasion remains an interesting historical document comparable to Wellington’s Victory by Beethoven. Furthermore, the necessary sequence of warlike movements is preceded by an evocative portrayal of daybreak and sunrise, including birdsong. One could hardly imagine a more enthusiastic account than Frans Brüggen and his excellent orchestra’s, recorded live in Warsaw in 2013.

Like the two previous Eroicas released by these musicians, this is a live performance, in this case given in Warsaw in 2005. The engineers have minimised audience noise, though the balance, particularly in louder tuttis, tends to over-favour the brass. Still, this is an exciting and musically insightful account. As with Brüggen’s other recordings, the first movement is spacious and surprisingly close to Wilhelm Furtwängler in interpretative approach. In contrast, the Funeral March is extremely brisk and purposeful, followed by a rhythmically dynamic Scherzo and an exhilarating Finale.


Erik Levi