Magazine article Gramophone

Bruggen, His Orchestra, and the Symphonies Played Live

Magazine article Gramophone

Bruggen, His Orchestra, and the Symphonies Played Live

Article excerpt

Beethoven

Symphonies Nos 1-9

Rebecca Nash sop Wilke te Brummelstroete mez

Marcel Beekman ten Michael Tews bass Laurens

Collegium and Cantorij, Rotterdam; Orchestra of

the Eighteenth Century / Frans Bruggen

Glossa (M) (5) (SACD) GCDSA921116 (5h 58' * DDD/DSD)

Recorded live in Rotterdam, October 2011

If Haydn spoke his last word on the symphony

in 1795, Beethoven's First five years later is no

mere extension but a big leap forwards--or so it

appears to Frans Bruggen and predicated by the

opening chords, sonorous yet distinct but of a

power that expands into the main movement

and its forceful recapitulation. Cutting

sforzandos from the horns between 4'05" and

4'16", timpani a presence beyond that, uncover

unexpected undertones in the development of

the slow movement too. Bruggen's ear for

instrumental balance is unerring. No strand is

ignored if it has contextual significance. The

Allegretto of the Seventh is an example of how

entrancing such significance can also be, the

orchestra showing here, as everywhere, real

mettle in reproducing the subtleties inherent

in Bruggen's understanding of the music.

But the recording is a strange mixture of clarity

and congestion, full-bodied and disembodied

sound with moments of transient distortion

or boomy reverberation.

Yet Bruggen's message, interpreted from

uncorrupted texts, gets through, every repeat

except one (in the third movement of the

Seventh) observed. But he reserves judgement

about Beethoven's metronome markings, even

totally repudiating speeds that reflect the

brilliance, vivacity and humour of the Eighth.

Slow burn is substituted for swift cut and thrust

in the first movement of the Third but

momentum falters at dramatic points; and

Bruggen disrupts the beginning of the finale

by holding back the tempo of the theme after

the rushing introduction. Still, when he meets

Beethoven even halfway, the results are

remarkable, as in the Second. It'll be

curmudgeonly not to respond to Bruggen's

own response to the rhetoric of the outer

movements or the nuanced shading and

shaping of the Larghetto. If he is a touch tame

in the opening movement of the Fifth, he

makes amends in a meticulously detailed

Scherzo graphically leading into a finale, fierily

exciting at a tempo six points higher than

specified. …

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