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Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphonies n° 5 in C minor, opus 67 [*], & n° 7 in A major, opus 92 [**]
New York Philharmonic, Jaap van Zweden (conductor)
Live recording: David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City (November 26-29, 2014 [**] & October 29-31, 2015 [*]) – 69’56
Decca Gold B0027956-02 – Booklet in English

The esteemed New York Philharmonic has stacked up an endless resume of stellar accomplishments since its inception in 1842. With appearances in over 432 cities and 63 countries, this plenteous time span has allowed the organization to fine tune itself into a well-oiled machine of premiere expertise. Following in the footsteps of previous blue-chip conductors including Pierre Boulez, Leonard Bernstein and Arturo Toscanini, Jaap van Zweden is already on his way to creating his own indelible impression, currently acting as Music Director Designate and a precursor to his permanent post as Music Director for the 2018-2019 season. Furthermore, historic in proportion, the New York Philharmonic recently signed a new contract with Universal Music Group’s U.S. Classical Division under the leadership of M. van Zweden. This undoubtedly has proven as a successful launch pad in this recording of Beethoven’s Symphony n° 5 and n° 7.

Strikingly different on so many levels, the common thread between these two Symphonies, however, relates to agitation and emotional tussles. What’s personally revealing about Jaap van Zweden’s direction relates back to 1997 when he and his wife, Aaltje, inaugurated the Papageno Foundation, a support outreach for families dealing with autism alongside assistance in training music therapists and musicians: there’s a delicate philanthropic outreach that dovetails with the manière coursing throughout Ludwig van Beethoven’s strife.

Most recognizable of all Beethoven’s œuvres, the Symphony n° 5 is presented with distinctively scrutinized discipline under Jaap van Zweden. Unabashed in frenetic pacing during the “Allegro con brio”, this movement helps draw stronger contrasts in the ensuing “Andante con moto” with its lovely cello legato ambiences. Decca Gold offers pristine acoustical delivery which aids in accentuating the string’s bounding dynamic expression. But the policy shifts on his heels when turning the page to the testy “Scherzo” [“Allegro”]: horns are on sharp alert, summoning broody testaments while bass strings are prominently poignant. The New York Philharmonic brings Beethoven’s conclusive “Allegro” to a climax with blood tingling energy, one of the most persuasive musical dialogues ever experienced. First-rate.

The antitheses Symphony n° 7 peels away in a wave of majesty with refreshingly flouncy flute conversations, giving one a chill or two inside the “Poco sostenuto – Vivace” entrée. One thing to continually keep in mind is that Jaap van Zweden never surrenders to lethargy. We hear Beethoven bridled with a positively relentless tempo, adding excitement and suspension to the score. Carry this notion forward when turning to the “Presto’s” pulsating reminiscences. Here is where Beethoven’s notes pop off the page and textures abound with commanding distinction by the illustrious conductor. Collectively coined “The Apotheosis of the Dance”, the endless conclusive “Allegro con brio” becomes a permanent fixture of mesmerized equations.

Introspective in approach, this is an exceptional display of artisanship, and we will welcome future deliveries with great anticipation.

Christie Grimstad




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