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Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 6-9 (Nations/Savall)

La Capella Nacional de Catalunya; Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall et al (Alia Vox)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Symphonies, Vol. 2: Nos 6-9
Sara Gouzy (soprano), Salome Fischer (mezzo-soprano), Mingjie Lei (tenor), Manuel Walser (baritone); La Capella Nacional de Catalunya; Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
Alia Vox AVSA 9946 (CD/SACD)   145:16 mins (3 discs)

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No Jordi Savall project is undertaken lightly; least of all a complete symphony cycle intended to coincide with the Beethoven 250 celebrations. Preparations were predictably thorough, the details outlined in one of three essays in the accompanying booklet. But Savall is scarcely trailblazing here: there have been significant period instrument cycles over the past four decades from, to name just three, Norrington, Gardiner and Immerseel aspiring to recapture Beethoven’s soundworld, tempos and performance practice. Yet Savall follows these with typical flair notwithstanding, as far as this volume is concerned, the hiatus of the Covid pandemic.

To the core 35 members of La Concert de Nations he’s added a further 20 or so young musicians recruited worldwide, and the performances were evolved over a series of ‘academies’ interrogating every aspect of the score. His interpretive decisions nonetheless feel organic rather than didactic, and the opening movement of the Ninth Symphony emerges as the consummation of a line of first movements stretching from Eroica through the Fifth. Paradoxically the ‘old’ instruments disclose more clearly the foreshadowings of Wagner, Mahler and Bruckner, and it’s hard to think of performances that make Beethoven sound so modern. The first two movements of the Sixth are exquisitely paced (not so much the last); the protean energy of the Seventh takes no hostages. Perhaps some elements of the Eighth are a touch overbearing, but, with a superbly-matched quartet of soloists, the finale of the Ninth punches home Schiller’s message with a conviction that carries all before it.

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