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  Philips Classics -
  476 028-2 (5 discs)
  Beethoven: Symphonies - Jaap van Zweden
  Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9

Städtischer Musikverein Düsseldorf
Residentie Orchestra
Jaap van Zweden (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:
  Recorded: June 2002 - March 2003
Venue: Dr. Anton Philipszaal, Den Haag
Recorded in surround sound and stereo DSD (Symphony No. 9 was recorded live)
Recording facilities: Polyhymnia Int.
Team: Hein Dekker (recording producer), Erdo Groot (balance engineer), Tom Lucker, Carl Schuurbiers, Petra Smits (recording engineers), Hermine Sterringa (recording co-ordinator)
Editing: Holger Busse, Sebastian Stein, Polyhymnia Int

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Related titles: 3

Reviews: 4 show all

Review by Dinko October 25, 2004 (8 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
When I first listened to it, Jaap van Zweden's Beethoven cycle started off badly. His reading of the first symphony was awful. His tempi just didn't make sense and broke the work apart. Then things got better. By the time they reach the Fifth, JvZ and the Residentie Orchestra establish a nice pattern of swift tempi and forward momentum. There's no tension in these readings. They are light, recreational. At first, it makes the cycle sound boring. Repeated listens give it charm, make it sympathetic.

Each symphony taken individually wouldn't leave a lasting impression. Taken in ascending order however, from 1 through 9, there is a sense of construction in progress. The first symphony experiments with the foundations, throws some ideas out there. The second picks the better ideas and the Third improves upon them. When we get to the Fifth, all the foundations are there, and the building takes shape. As the project moves ahead, the forward momentum picks up. Everyone seems to know where they're going now: the inevitable Ninth. In the past, the Seventh always seemed to me a little long. JvZ quick tempi make it more interesting than I've ever heard. The Eight sounds like a clock ticking - marking the final countdown before the Choral symphony. It may not be the greatest Ninth on record, but it's still a very good one, and one I prefer over a Karajan-style heavy-handed drama.

There's plenty of rythm in Jaap van Zweden's readings. There are some low points, the first being the lowest. As a whole however, the cycle is a very nice one.

If nothing else, this is a cycle I'll come back to for two reasons: the Residentie Orchestra and the sonics.
The Dutch band is wonderful. They could probably play these symphonies blindfolded, but it's very rewarding to a listener when an orchestra is so well integrated as this one, working as a true team towards a common goal. No one seems intent on showing off, rather they all seem to listen to one another and play with the same style. How much the conductor contributed to that teamwork effect on these performance I do not know, but it's worth hearing.

As for sonics... it's your typical Pentatone DSD recording: clear, transparent, with a good upper range, solid bass, well defined mid-range frequencies; no fake-sounding attempts at making it more spectacular than it was in the hall. It's one of the warmest, most pleasant recordings I've heard till now. The string sound is very mellow, very... relaxing!

Most of the music is based in the front speakers, the surrounds provide some hall ambience to give the recording a better three-dimensional feeling.

It ain't the best Beethoven cycle out there, not even close. But it's one I'll come back to, especially symphonies 2, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9.

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Review by hanser October 19, 2004 (4 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I must admit to be a fan of historical informed practice and have listened mostly to Norringtons recording with the London Classical Players on original instruments. The Zweden recording nicely combines important elements of this kind of interpretation (swift tempi, clear rhythmic impulses, strong articulation) with the sound of a modern orchestra. Of course, if you prefer the more traditional, dramatic, but also heavyhanded approach of people like Karajan, Bernstein or Masur, than you will not like Zweden. On the other hand, it offers a refreshing alternative for fans of Gardiner, Norrington and Brüggen.
The sound is very warm, almost mellow. you can clearly distinguish the instruments, but nontheless they form a coherent single sound mass which I like very much. If I had one critisitm with the sound quality, it would be that the bass is sometimes too prominent. But I guess this is how the recording venue sounded.

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Review by brenda October 28, 2004 (4 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I bought this set (the Zweden/Residentie) a while ago because it was the first Beethoven set released in surround sound and I was able to buy it very cheap on e-bay (about 23 euros i think it was and that included postage from Europe to the UK), and was glad I didn't pay too much for it. It's not that it's bad, just that it all sounds a bit homogenous to me, - after an indifferent first, up to and including the 8th, all the symphonies sound as though they were written at the same time. I don't get the sense of progression in Beethoven's composing style that Dinko does. I'm sorry to disagree with Dinko, because his review is well written and I generally agree with all his other reviews. Having said that, I notice that we each give it exactly the same rating for performance overall.

The ninth is recorded live with mediocre soloists and in a pretty wiry, thin sound (whereas the sound for the rest is quite warm and rich if a little too close). It lacks pace and excitement.

It's nice to have the symphonies in surround and numbers 2 - 8 are quite good performances, but I doubt if I'll keep this set once one with a really good Ninth comes out. Can anyone tell me whether the Masur 9th will fit the bill (I do like the Pentatone re-issues)?

Four stars for sound, four for the performances of the 2nd-8th, three for the first and only two for the ninth.

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Works: 9  

Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 "Eroica"
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Op. 60
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 "Pastoral"
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral"