BEETHOVEN: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 6 – Budapest Festival Orchestra/ Ivan Fischer – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 30710, 79 min. ***** [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
OK, so I can already hear the grumbling – another Beethoven cycle? Yes, my thoughts were the same when I first got wind of the recent Paavo Jarvi traversal (that just completed early this year), but that excellent set with the German Chamber Philharmonic of Bremen broke new and exciting ground for chamber performance of Beethoven Symphonies and is perhaps one for the ages. And while the Fischer/Budapest big-band approach would seem less likely to yield anything spectacularly new, let’s not jump to conclusions, because the first couple of discs in this cycle – especially this new offering of the Fourth and Sixth Symphonies – have delivered remarkably entertaining performances in equally superior sound from Channel Classics. And for the performance of the Sixth Symphony, Ivan Fischer changed the orchestra’s seating arrangement, moving the woodwind players among the strings, so that the individual soloists were always surrounded by the flow of Beethoven’s music. The results are spectacular, and the same seating arrangements were employed at the concert series in advance of this recording to much acclaim.
But that Channel Classics sound may be precisely why you need this disc – this very well might be the best sounding disc of Beethoven Symphonies I own! I generally mostly listen to vinyl during my free time, and I have this annoyingly (at least, according to my wife) bad habit of placing a recently acquired SACD disc in the player and setting it to disc repeat (helping to warm up the player for “serious” listening), then in between LP changes, switching to the multichannel mode on the preamp for snippets in between side changes, LP cleaning, etc. I followed suit with this new Fischer Beethoven disc, and after only a few LP side changes, found myself so taken with the music pouring forth from the stereo that I soon abandoned the LPs and just sat and listened to this remarkable disc in its entirety! The aural illusion of an orchestra in your listening room is just uncanny with this disc, and while I’m a huge proponent of analog stereo sound, the truly tangible multichannel sound from this magnificent recording almost defies belief.
I give this disc five stars – it hits on all cylinders, and the performances are every bit the equal of the superb sound – it’s definitely on my ten best of 2010 list. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more emotionally involving, yet technically perfect performance. Very highly recommended!
— Tom Gibbs