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Beethoven: Symphonies 4 & 6 - Fischer

Beethoven: Symphonies 4 & 6 - Fischer

Channel Classics  CCS SA 30710

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Beethoven: Symphony No. 4, Symphony No. 6 "Pastoral"

Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer (conductor)


Two fundamentally different symphonies: both works explore feelings from an entirely different point of view. The Fourth is about human feelings and moods: obsession, love (what a melody in the second movement!), happiness, fun, wit, (Beethoven's most humorous finale!). The Sixth is about feelings that nature awakens in us: calmness, meditation, thankfulness.

It has been an especially creative process to work on these masterpieces. We discovered that the Fourth Symphony sounds better with natural horns and trumpets. In the Pastorale we used a different seating arrangement, with the winds scattered among the strings, so that each soloist was surrounded by musicians playing the flow of Beethoven's nature music. After the storm, when we hear the first tentative horn call with a bagpipe-like accompaniment, suggesting signals across the mountains, we found it appropriate to answer with a solo violin, which is gradually joined by the whole orchestra.

Iván Fischer

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DSD recording

Recorded in February 2010 at the Palace of Arts, Budapest, Hungary, DSD64

Producer: Hein Dekker

Recording engineers: Hein Dekker, C. Jared Sacks

Editing/mastering: C. Jared Sacks

Technical information: Bruel & Kjael 4006 & Schoeps microphones; DSD Super Audio/Grimm Audio and Pyramix Editing/Merging Technologies digital converters; Audio Lab Holland speakers; van Medevoort Holland amplifiers; Rens Heijnis mixing board, custom design

Mastering room: Bowers & Wilkins 803 diamond series speakers; Classe 5200 amplifier; Van den Hul cables (exclusive use of Van den Hul cables)

With special thanks to Volksbank Hungary Private Ltd. for their generous support.
Reviews (1)
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Review by Graham Williams - October 26, 2010

Every new recording project from Ivan Fisher and his marvellous Budapest Festival Orchestra is the product of a combination of the conductor’s profound musicianship and his sense of adventure. Fischer approaches all the music on this disc as if he were encountering it for the first time and the result, both from his individual interpretive stance and the committed playing of his orchestra, create performances of outstanding freshness completely free from any traces of routine.

A sense of discovery is paramount and a willingness to try a new approach to these familiar masterpieces is at once evident in the performances of the two Beethoven symphonies recorded here. Of course a corollary to Fischer’s approach is that it will inevitably result in some interpretive decisions that will delight some listeners but may dismay others.

The performances position themselves, both in terms of style and tempi, somewhere between the paired down and period approach (albeit on modern instruments) as exemplified by Paavo Järvi Beethoven: Symphonies 2 & 6 - Järvi and Beethoven: Symphonies 4 & 7 - Järvi and the slightly more mainstream view of say OsmoVänskä and his Minnesota Orchestra cycle on BIS.

Fischer sees Symphony No.4 as a work about human feelings and moods, and he unfailingly communicates the joy and humour in Beethoven’s writing as well as the wonderful lyricism found in the slow movement. Few will disagree with his decision to use natural horns and trumpets in this symphony as they add a crispness and occasional rasp to the overall sound that is entirely in keeping with Fischer’s athletic performance of this symphony. The clear acoustics of Budapest’s Palace of Arts and Channel’s exceptionally vivid recording quality ensure that both Beethoven’s writing for wind emerges with absolute clarity while the strings retain their silky quality. This is a version that one will return to with pleasure again and again.

For the ‘Pastoral’ Symphony Fischer has made an unusual decision about the seating of the orchestra. He has scattered the winds amongst the strings in order, he believes, to bring each of the wind soloists closer to the flow of Beethoven’s nature music. This accords well with the conductor’s view that “The sixth is about feelings that nature awakens in us: calmness, meditation, thankfulness” and the results of his are clearly evident in the symphony’s ravishing slow movement in which Beethoven’s writing for winds emerge with perfect clarity from amongst the luminous string textures.
Fischer’s tempi for each of the five movements are particularly well chosen to match the conductor’s carefully considered viewpoint of the work. The outer movements are genial and relaxed, the merrymaking (III) brilliantly bucolic and the storm (IV) suitably thunderous. Only when we reach the final movement does any controversy raise its head. After the opening clarinet and horn calls, the movement’s main theme appears played by a solo violin rather than the violin section. Though one receives an initial shock at this alteration to Beethoven’s orchestration it seems entirely appropriate in the context of Fischer’s freshly minted interpretation.

As in the 4th symphony the wonderful orchestral playing is matched in artistry by the superb 5.0 high-resolution recording made by Jared Sacks and Hein Dekker.

The cover of the SACD shows a rare picture of a smiling Ivan Fischer and it is not too far-fetched to imagine that many listeners will also have smiles of joy on their faces when they listen to these enthralling performances.

Copyright © 2010 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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