Beethoven • R Strauss
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