Adam Fischer / Danish National Chamber Orchestra

Ludwig van Beethoven: Complete Symphonies

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Look through online reviews of conductor Ádám Fischer's Haydn and Mozart recordings with the Danish Chamber Orchestra, and you'll see a lot of five-star evaluations, and a lot of one-star judgments as well. He's just that kind of interpreter, and his Beethoven symphony cycle is more of the same, and perhaps even a bit more outrageous/inspired, depending on your point of view. The Fischer trademarks are all here: the fast tempos, the clipped phrases that seem to trail off (although this is very carefully controlled), the way of plowing through phrases without a hint of expressive shaping. The last of these suggests Fischer's priorities: he prizes large-scale structure over local effect, and his inner lines are as important as the melodies. The thing is, all these oddities are amplified in Beethoven, who usually isn't played by a chamber orchestra. In his own time, of course, the orchestras he worked with might have been closer to the Danish Chamber Orchestra's size than to the Berlin Philharmonic, and one way to look at Fischer's work is to consider that he may be stripping away Romantic accretions to the music. Sample the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, whose first movement hardly seems a titanic struggle with fate; of course, Beethoven never said it was anything of the sort, and Fischer's horns come through with what might have been something of the impact they had for Beethoven's audiences. A much-talked-about feature of this set is the presence of a countertenor, Morten Grove Frandsen, as a soloist in the finale of the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125. Plainly this is ahistorical, but as it turns out, it makes only a subtle difference in the sound with all the other singers belting out their lines at top volume. Throughout, the players of the Danish Chamber Orchestra excel. They have worked with Fischer for a long time on interpretations like this, and they respond to him with a praiseworthy level of detail. One possible bottom line: if you enjoy hearing a conductor rethink music from the ground up, check this out, even above Fischer's other recordings. Another: the Ninth Symphony here has little of its grandly humanistic effect, which Beethoven surely intended. Lastly, as a technical accomplishment, these versions fall into a great European tradition.

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