BEETHOVEN: Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8 – Polish Chamber Philharmonic/ Wojciech Rajski, conductor – Tacet multichannel DVD-Audio D149, 63:01 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
Beethoven composed his monumental 7th Symphony in 1812. By that time his deafness was nearly total and he seems to have reacted to that bitter reality with an increased urgency of expression in his music. The sheer power of this symphony with its frenetic dance-like outer movements and the tragic depth and raw emotion of the second movement Allegretto may be an indication of the turmoil the great composer was experiencing in his inner life. The third movement Presto, which is a scherzo in all but name, sounds like a whirlwind dance whose sardonic nature and snarling horns mocks the listener and reveals some of the bitterness that enveloped Beethoven as he retreated into his silent world.
The 8th Symphony was composed as soon as Beethoven completed the 7th. It is a return to the world of Haydn, featuring as it does significantly reduced dimensions, a moderation in its emotions and fundamentally classical proportions. No doubt some of the uneasiness and puzzlement that Viennese audiences felt when confronted by Beethoven’s monumental creations had been conveyed to the composer and he responded with uncharacteristic equanimity. It has always been one of my favorite Beethoven works, existing as it does in an ideal world of repose and calm reflection.
This splendid multichannel DVD-Audio recording by the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra under Wojciech Rajski features playing of expressive urgency and interpretive depth that rivals one of the major orchestras. Although they perform on modern instruments their playing features a transparency and lightness that one usually associates with a period instruments orchestra. Tempos are brisk, vibrato is minimized and emotions are appropriate without overindulgence. These are exciting performances in what promises to be a fine series of Beethoven Symphonies recorded in excellent multichannel high resolution audio.
Tacet’s engineers have created a superb and lifelike soundstage whose immediacy and presence highlights all of the power and sonic beauty of these two symphonies. Using Tacet’s “Real Surround Sound” the music comes from all around you as you are placed into the very center of the orchestra. With horns coming from in front of you and trumpets from behind, loud passages have a visceral impact that kicks the excitement level up a notch. It’s a thrilling experience that perfectly matches Beethoven’s robust musical style.
— Mike Birman