Various Artists

Eternal Beethoven

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Eternal Beethoven Review

by James Manheim

The question here is not whether a single disc can give its buyer a good idea of what Beethoven's music is like. The question is how this one stacks up against the other ones on the market, and in fact it's one of the best. Selections are drawn from the catalog of the Naxos label, which has specialized in innovative repertoire and low-budget but solid interpretations of classical standards, often arising outside the high-ticket German-French-British American axis. The artists represented here are all more than adequate to their tasks, although one might complain that among the several orchestras involved there is no way to connect an individual ensemble to an individual track. The selection is the strong point: Beethoven wrote music in many genres, but if you had to pick the three that defined its innovations, you would likely choose orchestral music, piano music, and chamber music, and those are the three represented here. Each is touched on in a paragraph in the single page of notes. Individual movements are offered, none truncated, and there's a good mix of accessible "hits" and pieces, like the slow movement of the Piano Trio in D, Op. 70, that are a bit less common. One wishes for something from one of the string quartets instead of the Cello Sonata in F major, Op. 5/1, and for piano music other than the overplayed "Moonlight" Sonata (the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2) and "Für Elise," neither of which is really typical of what Beethoven could do in this field. But the odds are good that the buyer who listens to this disc from beginning to end will be motivated to pick up more.

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