Compositions: Symphony Nos 6 and 8
Performers: Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Philippe Jordan
Catalogue Number: Wiener Symphoniker WS016
It’s good to welcome a Beethoven cycle from a ‘real’ symphony orchestra. The Vienna Symphony has always been a fine ensemble, seemingly destined to be eternally overshadowed by its more glamorous (notorious?) neighbour. The playing throughout is excellent (especially the horns, which sound as alternately burnished and refulgent as those of the Vienna Philharmonic) but my welcome must be somewhat guarded as I can’t summon much enthusiasm for some aspects.
The opening movement of the Pastoral has impressively alert dynamics but is simply too fast: it reminded me of one Gramophone critic’s description of a Karajan recording reminding him of looking at the countryside through the windows of a speeding Porsche. There’s no sense of awakening joy and wonderment. Similarly the peasants’ dance: it’s simply too fleet. The final movement, however, is just right.
The Eighth similarly suffers from a too headlong first movement: it really needs to bubble along in a Haydnesque way. Some of the phrasing sounds too generalised. Both the inner movements are fine: in the Allegretto scherzando, the winds beam and in the Minuet there is plenty of what Germans call Schwung, but, again, the over-hectic Finale lacks the charm of other earlier versions, Beecham’s among them. The sound is warm, but I would have preferred more dominant timpani and trumpet presence.