Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 4 & 6

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 4 & 6
PERFORMER: Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: CCS SA 30710

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After Iván Fischer’s outstanding recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 my hopes for this new release were high, and in the main they were not disappointed. The playing of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, beautifully recorded, is as glowing as ever, and the Fourth is particularly fine, with an admirably warm account of the slow movement, and the rapid passagework of the finale as crisply articulated as could be wished.

Only Fischer’s approach to the first movement’s slow introduction is curious, with the passages in detached notes notably slower in pulse than the mysterious smooth idea that precedes them, so that the tempo in the Symphony’s opening pages never really settles down.

There’s a good deal to admire in the Pastoral, too: the peasants’ stomping and the humour of the village-band effect in the third movement is charmingly conveyed, and the following storm made vividly dramatic. But Fischer’s view of the ‘Scene by the brook’ is rather laboured, the water not gurgling and flowing as naturally it should; and it’s hard to know why he has the finale’s main theme played by a solo violin.

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In the CD booklet he simply says it seemed appropriate to have the opening rustic horn call answered in this way, with the remaining first violins only joining in later, but it’s a quite unnecessary idea, and not what Beethoven had in mind. Misha Donat