Conductor Philippe Herreweghe returns to the helm of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic for another set of Beethoven symphonies on the PentaTone label, this time the First and Third. Again presented as a multi-channel SACD hybrid disc, PentaTone's sound is clean and detailed without too much digital sterility. Unlike the album that included the Fifth Symphony and was fraught with many rhythmic peculiarities, Herreweghe's reading of the First and Third symphonies seems diligently respectful to every nuance of the score. His decision to assemble an orchestra of both modern and period instruments (see liner notes for details) provides listeners with the intensity and projection of modern string instruments coupled with the punchiness of Baroque timpani and the blaring qualities of what Herreweghe refers to as "nature" trumpets. While this album proves to be a marked improvement over the Fifth and Eighth symphonies in the areas of power and adherence to the score, there's nothing truly new being said here. For listeners seeking their first introduction to these great symphonies, this is certainly an appropriate choice; Herreweghe and the RFP will instill just as much excitement in new listeners now as when the works were premiered. For collectors, however, this album does not offer a sufficiently drastic look at these two symphonies to warrant adding yet another CD to the shelf.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
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