Yondani Butt / London Symphony Orchestra

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

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Recordings of the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven range from the rather heroic but heavy- and homogenous-sounding renditions of the mid-20th century, to crisp and bright interpretations using historically informed practices that reflect authentic Classical style and 21st century preferences. Yondani Butt seemingly had access to all the resources to produce period style performances, or failing that, sufficient knowledge to adapt a modern orchestra to Classical proportions and timbres. But his Beethoven performances with the London Symphony Orchestra show a rather traditional view, and his recordings of the Symphony No. 1 in C major and the Symphony No. 2 in D major seem quite reminiscent of older recordings by the likes of Leonard Bernstein and Bruno Walter. This is perhaps good news for fans of the conventional approach, for the playing is moderately paced, the strings' tone is full, the winds are evenly blended, and the large ensemble is balanced as a monolithic whole, with few distinctions of tone colors. Because authentic period style is on the ascent, and the conventional approach has fallen out of favor, Butt's old-fashioned renditions may seem a bit reactionary, though they're possibly reassuring to ears that have tired of gleaming, vibrato-less strings, pungent woodwinds, and the lean textures of small 18th century orchestras. However, this is a throwback to an older style that seems out of step where Beethoven performances are trending.

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