Gunther Herbig

Beethoven: Symphonie Nr. 3 "Eroica"

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This Berlin Classic's Reference album of Beethoven's Third Symphony is joined by a curious and momentarily perplexing set of liner notes. The confusion comes from the beginning of the notes that make frequent but nonspecific references to the pairing of an "Eroica" Symphony (Beethoven) and a "Tragic" Symphony. Not until later is it finally clear that the liner notes are referring to Mahler's Second Symphony, and that the notes were in fact written for some other release that included both of these symphonies. Recorded in 1982, this album finds the Berlin Symphony Orchestra (of East Berlin at the time) and its then principal conductor Gunther Herbig in the midst of a battle for its home. Despite assertions to the contrary, however, even an interesting story such as this one is not generally sufficient to warrant buying a CD. Referring to the album as a Reference CD immediately puts it under a greater amount of scrutiny and many listeners are likely to find it undeserving of the title. Just examining the actual execution of the piece, chips can be found in the finish. Sound quality is quite undefined in the lower portion of the orchestra; as the double basses scrub away at their sixteenth notes in the finale, nothing can be heard but a wash of sound. Brass entrances are often out of tune and weak. Musically speaking, there's nothing positive that distinguishes this recording from any other; the Trio of the third movement is jarringly slow next to the sprightly scherzo. Perhaps it would have been more successful had the Mahler been included, after all.

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