Beethoven: Panorama (CD review)

Leonore Overture; Piano Concerto No. 4; Symphony No. 5; Piano Sonatas 17 & 21; String Quartet "Razumovsky." Carlos Kleiber, Claudio Abbado, Karl Bohm, Maurizio Pollini. DG Panorama 289 469 112-2 (2-disc set).

This two-disc set began DG's second series of "Panorama" double albums, featuring some of the company's best older recordings of Beethoven. Like many others in the series, these discs offer some magical and highly persuasive moments at a relatively low price. It remains a bargain and a must-have if you don't already have these performances in your library.

The program begins with the Leonore Overture, performed by Claudio Abbado and the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded in 1991. The performance displays commendable energy and drive, but finds flaw in its mediocre, curiously lifeless sound.

Following the overture on disc one is the Fourth Piano Concerto with pianist Maurizio Pollini and conductor Karl Bohm with the Vienna Philharmonic. Pollini's playing appears a bit distant but as always his craftsmanship and precision are without peer. The recording, made in 1976, is fuller, warmer, and more ambient than the later Abbado productions and provides a more comfortable listening experience.

Carlos Kleiber
Disc one concludes with what is perhaps the most famous and most critically acclaimed recording of the last forty or fifty years, Carlos Kleiber's 1975 rendition of the Fifth Symphony, also with the Vienna Philharmonic. The set would be worth its price for this electrifying and emotionally charged performance alone. On a side note, DG also offer this Fifth Symphony in their "Originals" series of single discs, coupled with Kleiber's excellent interpretation of the Seventh Symphony.

Disc two begins with a pair of piano sonatas, No. 21 "Waldstein," and No. 17 "The Tempest." Both find pianistic perfection in a 1989 recording by Maurizio Pollini. The lineup concludes with the String Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3 "Razumovsky." Recorded in 1997 by the Emerson String Quartet, it is immediate in sound and evocative in spirit.

Given that so many record companies are repackaging older material these days, it's good to see DG doing so with such good taste, creativity, and generosity. What's more, given that DG first issued this set some years ago, one can find it at a ridiculously low price new or almost nothing used. You won't find better value anywhere in the world of recorded music.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa