Mariss Jansons / Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Beethoven: The Symphonies and Reflections

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At first blush, this 2013 BR Klassik set appears to be a standard cycle of Ludwig van Beethoven's nine symphonies, conducted with insight by Mariss Jansons and performed with élan by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. But closer inspection shows that additional works by modern composers are included as "reflections" on Beethoven's music, in varying degrees of homage and pastiche. The performances of Beethoven's symphonies are mainstream interpretations, and Jansons offers no surprises in these efficient and elegant readings. The tribute pieces, on the other hand, are quite adventurous in their avant-garde techniques and sometimes shocking in their aggression, as in, what one might imagine Beethoven would compose today if he were our contemporary. The performances are live, taken from concerts in Munich and Tokyo, and the playing is quite exciting and spontaneous, giving off sparks in the works by Johannes Maria Staud, Misato Mochizuki, Rodion Shchedrin, Raminta Serksnyté, Giya Kancheli, and Jörg Widmann. If anyone needed evidence to show how Beethoven's influence persists, these pieces would fill the bill, even as abstruse and distant as they are from the source of inspiration. But even though these curious pieces deserve a hearing, most listeners will give the symphonies more attention, and rightly so.

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