Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 4 & 7

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: PentaTone
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 4 & 7
PERFORMER: Royal Flemish Philharmonic/ Philippe Herreweghe
CATALOGUE NO: Pentatone PTC 5186 315 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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This is a difficult disc to pin down. I have never heard Philippe Herreweghe do anything positively ugly or perverse. Yet, in both these accounts I found a lack of distinctive character; there’s no range of moods here that can be put into words. The only word that comes to mind for them is ‘poker-faced’, and that is the last thing that great works by Beethoven should be. There are plenty of strange noises here, with fierce brass interjections and deliberately smudgy lower strings. But where, when played well, such things should strike one as disruptive, alarming and constantly surprising, however often you may have heard them, here they just take their tidy place. Take, for instance, the whole of the last movement of the Seventh, but especially its final minutes: there should be some sense of a mad stampede, such as in Carlos Kleiber’s performance. There should be something behind the notes,
but here there isn’t. Michael Tanner