Rudolf Barshai

Beethoven: Symphonies

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Rudolf Barshai recorded eight of Beethoven's nine symphonies between 1969 and 1975, and this 2014 reissue from Melodiya presents them with surprisingly clear and detailed sound. Barshai had worked for a decade with his Moscow Chamber Orchestra before deciding to conduct these works, and with forces drawn from other orchestras to augment his small ensemble (what is listed here as the "Joint Symphony Orchestra"), he launched his career as a symphonic conductor. Following the norms of the mid-20th century, Barshai interpreted Beethoven in the conventional manner, and made no innovations along the lines of Classical period practice. In a sense, Barshai, like other conductors of his generation, held to the heroic, post-Romantic tradition of Furtwängler and Klemperer, and his tempos, phrasing, and orchestral blend comported with the mainstream views of the time. This five-CD box set presents only the eight orchestral symphonies, because Barshai was unable to record the Symphony No. 9, "Choral," with these musicians, so the package is unavoidably incomplete. Because there are many first-rate, complete sets of Beethoven's symphonies available, this collection should be regarded as a historical document, of interest mainly to Barshai's admirers and historians of music in the Soviet era.

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