BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3 in C, Op. 72; Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60 – Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/William Steinberg – HDTT

by | Aug 16, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3 in C, Op. 72; Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60 – Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/William Steinberg – HDTT HDCD-R 126,  46:50 **** [also available as 96K DVD-R]:

William Steinberg (1899-1978) remains, to my thinking, a decidedly underrated talent whose contributions to music deserve more note.  We forget Steinberg helped to found the Israel Philharmonic, after having served in Germany with Herman Abendroth and Otto Klemperer. Toscanini had Steinberg as an assistant conductor at the NBC Symphony. Steinberg’s tenures with the Buffalo Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Boston Symphony each advanced both orchestral repertory and orchestral technique.

HDTT has taken a commercial 4-track Command Classics pre-recorded tape and converted with remarkable fidelity two 1962 Beethoven inscriptions from Pittsburgh.  From the opening thrust of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture, we are in the presence of sonic splendor, a thoughtfully paced realization that moves inexorably to those trumpet calls for freedom that mark Beethoven’s politics. Definition in the strings, flute, and tympani are no less reverberant, the tensions mounting to a fiery full statement, tremolandi blazing. The fugato is a thing of beauty, smooth as silk with losing a single second of emotional fury. The pizzicati dance along the top of the stings, the underbelly of violas, celli, and basses in full throttle. The last page sails into glory, worthy of any performance from the mainstream German tradition of music-makers.

The Symphony opens with a modulated, expansive Adagio of warm tissue, then the bubble breaks, and Beethoven’s champagne humor breaks forth. Whiplash runs from the strings with hearty sforzati from winds, energized step-wise scales and triplets. The smoothness of the transitions is worth its weight in musical gold: listen to the seamless segue to the repeat. The diviso strings in the development swirl to the flute solo and then luxuriously sing out. The last pages are all muscle–except for the oboe– but the temper is  voluptuously magnanimous. The Adagio enjoys that same warmth and attention to detail Steinberg imposed on all his inscriptions, the strings wending their silky way despite the intrusion of a tympanic motto which becomes increasingly assertive. Flute and French horn add to the element of serene mystery in this movement. A sinewy Menuet from Steinberg, with nice entries from flute and French horn, the Pittsburgh bass fiddle section in supple motion. Forward motion, frolicsome tumbling, for the Allegro ma non troppo finale. Woodwind entries and violin and cello support in lovely balance. The moto perpetuo churns right along to the last page‘s tempo, when the bassoon solo cracks one last joke at our penchant for predictability in our lives. 

One caveat: HDTT banding of the Overture (1) and Symphony (2-4) is incorrect–the last band connects the Scherzo and Finale without a break–so place the disc in your player and note the correct timings.

— Gary Lemco

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