Klaus Tennstedt / London Philharmonic Orchestra

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 3 "Eroica", 6 "Pastorale" & 8; Overtures

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Listeners who come to Klaus Tennstedt's three canonical EMI recordings of Beethoven's Third, Sixth, and Eighth symphonies hoping to hear echoes of his justly celebrated Mahler interpretations will be disappointed. But listeners who come to his Beethoven hoping to hear musical greatness will by no means be disappointed. Unlike his Mahler, Tennstedt's Beethoven is heroic but not ironic, exalted but not exquisite, huge but not gargantuan. Tennstedt's Third is big and brave with plenty of pathos but no bathos. His Sixth is lovingly lyrical and deeply pantheistic, but with no trace of nervous anxiety. His Eighth is exuberantly energetic and hilariously funny, but with none of the sense of strain that sometime afflicts Mahler. And whatever one may think of Tennstedt's approach to Beethoven, surely the London Philharmonic never played better for any conductor since the departure of Thomas Beecham, its founder and first conductor. The brazen power of the brass, the searing strength of the strings, the radiant colors of the winds, the effortless elegance of the ensemble, and best of all the obvious awe and affection for Tennstedt make the playing here immensely effective and totally convincing. Try just the Egmont Overture: Tennstedt drives the LPO remorselessly forward, keeping the drama moving until the enormous explosion of the coda when liberty rings out over the orchestra. If this performance doesn't convince you, skip listening to the rest. If it does convince you, nothing will stop you from listening to the rest. EMI's early digital sound is vivid and immediate, but oddly empty, even in the live Third.

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