BEETHOVEN: Symphonies 2 and 6 – Phillippe Herreweghe/ Royal Flemish Philharmonic – PentaTone Classics

by | Oct 21, 2009 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Symphonies 2 and 6 – Phillippe Herreweghe/ Royal Flemish Philharmonic – PentaTone Classics Multichannel SACD PTC 5186314, 72:59 ***** [Distrib. by Naxos]:

Beethoven composed his Symphony No. 2 while in the throes of a serious depression. The composer was despondent over his impending hearing loss culminating in the famous Heiligenstadt Testament. That fascinating 1802 document outlines the depth of his despair and proclaims his life-affirming resolution to live through and for his art. The Symphony No. 2 is a joyous work that never betrays Beethoven’s precarious emotional state.

Conductor Philippe Herreweghe has built his considerable reputation on historically informed performances of early music. He brings a sensitive ear, impeccable taste and superb technique to this modern instruments performance of two Beethoven symphonies. The Royal Flemish Philharmonic is not a world- renowned orchestra but you’d never know that from this splendid SACD. They play the Symphony No. 2 with thrilling exuberance, emphasizing the work’s Classical roots in the outer movements while investing the second movement Larghetto and third movement Scherzo with a serenity and fiery elegance that presage Romanticism.

The shimmering Symphony No. 6 with its lovely tone painting of the beauties of nature contains descriptive titles for each movement coupled with a short explanation. But the symphony is more than mere program music because of the rigorous architecture that Beethoven has brilliantly erected to insure the work’s unity and inner logic. Herrweghe elicits a soft velvety tone and supple dynamics from his orchestra. This performance is as liquid and graceful as the babbling brook and sprightly birds that this wondrous symphony so skillfully mimics.

The high resolution sound on this PentaTone SACD is exemplary. The soundstage is wide and deep with a clarity and presence that nearly duplicates a live performance. The strings and woodwinds have a naturalness of tone that complements Herreweghe’s lovely interpretation of these two superb symphonies.

— Mike Birman

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