For this 2013 release, Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra present Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 in B flat major and the Symphony No. 7 in A major in live recordings that reflect the group's commitment to Classical style and authentic period sound. Because the hallmarks of historically informed practices have been increasingly adopted by most orchestras, it might be difficult to detect them in these performances, so commonplace have they become. Perhaps most prominent are the quirky woodwind and buzzy brass sonorities, and the strings are noticeably leaner and brighter than those of a modern ensemble. But the point of playing Beethoven with authentic instruments is partly obscured by the oddly flat and tubby reproduction that at times makes the orchestra seem slightly muffled and indistinct. The symphonies were recorded in the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, California, so the venue seems to have dampened the instruments' timbres and created a rather bass-heavy sound in tutti passages that is too resonant and booming. Since there are many excellent sounding period performances of Beethoven's symphonies available, this disc faces serious competition, and despite the generally good playing, listeners should weigh other options before settling for this uneven sounding CD.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Op. 60|
|Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92|