Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Symphonies No. 7 and 8
Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, director Wojciech Rajski
Many people consider Beethoven's 7th Symphony his last composition since the 8th is considered just a small cameo, put between the 7th and the 9th. The 9th for many is an "excess of composition" and this is the reason why we could say that the last Symphony he completed is the 7th.
I don't really agree, because I think that the 8th Symphony is complete and that in this work we find a rare example of fun in the troubled world of Beethoven.
However, for those who are passionate about the issue, I suggest to watch Baricco's movie "Lesson 21", that is about the supposed over evaluation of the 9th Symphony.
The performance of the two Symphonies in this record has almost a dancing rhythm and it is the rhythmic pace that gives this feeling. The sound is powerful (supported by the recording ) and the orchestra is very accurate.
In the 7th symphony we have the sensation that this virtuosity carries away the director and some details - the rapid intervention of the flute and the piccolo in the first movement for example - are a bit neglected, as if they were less influential than the meaning of the whole composition.
In the second movement there are no hesitations on the rhythm, and for once the time indicated on the score, Allegretto, is respected. The counterpoint played in the fugue of the strings, that represents the first theme of the movement, is well articulated. The third movement is very fast, but given that the orchestra has not a hard time in keeping that speed, there is no problem, also because, unlike in the first movement, here we do not have the feeling of a lack of attention from any of the orchestral unities; on the other hand we cannot ignore that the time indicated on the score is "presto". The last movement is a "allegro con brio" -no doubt - therefore the liveliness does not lack and the orchestra is never thrown into disorder.
Among the many versions of the 7th Symphony, this is a 7th which is really interesting to have.
The outcome of the 8th is very similar. Also in this case the tempos are respected - and this is not always the case -. It may seem very fast to some of you, but the pace is decided by Beethoven, it is specified on the score and it must be respected. The orchestra here seems always very precise; there is a lot of work and training but also a lot of expertise and the result is excellent. Personally, I would have kept a slower pace for the Allegretto in the second movement that may seem a bit strange for those who are used to listening to the classics, from Karajan on. The tempo of the minuet in the third movement is impossible to dance (the minuet is a composition to be danced but here, due to the fast pace, it seems impossible to be danced). The final Allegro Vivace is also kept very quick and leads to the fulfillment of the Symphony and in a live performance it would get the applause and an encore from the public.
The recording is once again of great level; maybe the higher frequencies are slightly diminished but always with a full width of the soundstage and great dynamics.