Colin Davis / Staatskapelle Berlin / Staatskapelle Dresden

Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies

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Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies Review

by James Leonard

With so many Beethoven symphony cycles available, is there a reason to add this one from the mid-'90s by Colin Davis with the Dresden Staatskapelle to your shelf? It depends on two things: how big is your shelf and how insatiable is your curiosity? For one thing, this cycle has Davis' supremely civilized yet profoundly passionate conducting, shaping, and shading of the music, following its architecture but instilling it with his own particular brand of fervor. A widely admired Mozart/Haydn, Sibelius/Stravinsky conductor, Davis rarely recorded Beethoven, and his way with him his highly individualistic with sharp accents, driving rhythms, and amazing grace. For another, it has the Staatskapelle's superbly poised and deeply dedicated playing, molding and coloring the music, breathing life into its notes and rhythms and making them sing and dance. A well-known east German Strauss/Bruckner orchestra, the Staatskapelle likewise rarely recorded Beethoven, and its performances are all its own with burnished colors, refined lines, and controlled power. Plus, Philips' sound is cool but crisp, clear but full, and clean but lush, that is, typical magnificent Philips' sound. In short, if your shelf is big and already contains a dozen or more Beethoven symphony cycles and if your curiosity for unusual conductor-orchestra combinations is insatiable, you might have room for the Davis/Dresden Beethoven cycle, too.

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