Beethoven • R Strauss

BBC Music Magazine - - Orchestral -

Beethoven: Sym­phony No. 3;

R Strauss: Horn Con­certo No. 1 Wil­liam Ca­ballero (horn);

Pitts­burgh Sym­phony Orches­tra/ Man­fred Ho­neck

Ref­er­ence Record­ings FR-728 (hy­brid CD/ SACD) 65:17 mins

I can’t re­mem­ber the last time I was so thrilled by a Beethoven sym­phony per­for­mance as by this bril­liantly-recorded re­lease. On a tech­ni­cal level alone, the orches­tra’s playing is ab­so­lutely stun­ning. The Pitts­burgh strings de­liver crisp ar­tic­u­la­tion com­bined with Cen­tral Euro­pean warmth of sound in tan­dem with won­der­fully de­fined and char­ac­ter­ful playing from solo wood­wind and brass.

But it’s Man­fred ★oneck’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion that re­ally gripped me. ★is am­bi­tious ob­jec­tive is to un­cover the rad­i­cal nov­el­ties of the Eroica as if ex­pe­ri­enced for the first time. Al­though this may seem a tall or­der, ★oneck nonethe­less man­ages to achieve an amaz­ing de­gree of fresh­ness in his ap­proach without any ex­ag­ger­ated ges­tures or idio­syn­cratic man­ner­isms. Em­ploy­ing a large orches­tra, he takes in­fi­nite care to en­sure that clar­ity and va­ri­ety of tex­ture re­main para­mount and that as wide as pos­si­ble dy­namic lev­els are faith­fully ob­served.

Through­out the Eroica’s tem­pes­tu­ous jour­ney, ★oneck is ex­traor­di­nar­ily re­cep­tive to some in­ner de­tails of the score. Two no­table ex­am­ples are the un­canny pre­mo­ni­tion on the third horn of the fate theme from the Fifth Sym­phony, which ap­pears near the end of the Funeral March, and Beethoven’s vivid folk-like scor­ing for clar­inets and vi­o­las in the ★un­gar­ian style vari­a­tion of the fi­nale.

It may seem a bit of a let-down to fol­low such a com­pelling per­for­mance of the Eroica with Strauss’s far more mu­si­cally mod­est First ★orn Con­certo. But if you are pre­pared to draw breath and mo­men­tar­ily press the pause but­ton, there’s much to en­joy in Wil­liam Ca­ballero’s vir­tu­osic pro­jec­tion of the solo part. Erik Levi PER­FOR­MANCE

RECORD­ING

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