Sanderling: Beethoven Symphony No. 5 + Coriolan Ov - EMI ASD 4136 (DDD)

$20.00 USD


Jacket EX / LP NM-

This excellent gatefold LP from EMI (ASD 4136, German Electrola pressing, red/silver label, DDD stereo) features Kurt Sanderling and the Philharmonia Orchestra’s magisterial accounts of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op. 67 and the Coriolan Overture Op. 62, both recorded in association with “A du Maurier · World of Music" in spacious sound in 1981.

Sanderling’s cycle, issued at the very end of the LP era, fell into a sort of no-man’s land between the close of the old vinyl medium and the advent of the CD. Had it received the promotional backing that some of the industry’s more glamorous conductors enjoyed, it might have had a longer and more continuous catalog life. It is richly deserving of re-issue on disc.

It was arguably the finest cycle of the new digital era, surpassing the likes of Riccardo Muti and even Gunter Wand, at least in certain of the Symphonies. There is a rugged grandeur here akin to Klemperer, but perhaps a shade lighter and with greater drive. 

Of Sanderling’s complete Beethoven Symphony cycle The Gramophone wrote in its November 1981 review:

“With the booklet for this set, proudly presented in the du Maurier colours of red and silver, this first digital recording of the whole Beethoven symphony cycle marks the extension of that company's very generous musical activity from concerts to records. The effect of their sponsorship is practical for the collector, since this set retails 'around £28'. Nearly two years ago Kurt Sanderling conducted a Beethoven series at the Wembley Conference Centre, and like Thomas Heinitz (see "Here and There" on page 670 I was much impressed by what I heard, notably the rugged and Intense performances of the Eroica and the Ninth. It did not surprise me that EMI was interested in recording a Sanderling/Beethoven symphony cycle, the parallels with Klemperer being obvious, not least when the Philharmonia Orchestra was again involved, now emulating its earlier glory. But I also kept it in mind that EMI brought out not so long ago another Beethoven symphony cycle, from Eugen Jochum and the LSO (HMV), which also had claims to being a replacement for the Klemperer set (also HMV), now 20 years old.

“It is those two previous HMV sets, as well as the cycle of another direct and thoughtful East German conductor, Kurt Masur (Philips), that have provided my most fruitful comparisons in seeking to assess this new and important version, one which has far more than the beauty and fidelity of clear, digital sound to recommend it. Thomas Heinitz talks of Sanderling reminding him of Klemperer in his Beethoven with its "rugged, unvarnished honesty", and that is generally confirmed in these fine, concentrated readings; and no doubt he will be surprised to find that it is not just the manner but the tempos too which echo the veteran Klemperer, for in many movements Sanderling's tempos are just as measured—all four of the Second Symphony for example and those of the Eroica too (if you use both first—Columbia mono 33CX1346, 4/56, nla—and second Klemperer versions). At times they seem even more so, when, unlike Klemperer, Sanderling is reluctant ever to press the basic tempo ahead in even a slight stringendo, preferring the occasional tenuto.

“The Fifth Symphony is given a strong, direct reading, again Klemperer-like, though plainer still, fresh and bright but with generally measured tempos. Sanderling, with fair justification, has a shorter pause after the first knock of fate than after the second. In the recapitulation, like Jochum but unlike Klemperer, he has a horn taking the second subject theme rather than the bassoon which Beethoven had to use when the horn of his day could not cope with the necessary notes. It is characteristic of Sanderling too, a man of his generation, that he uses the Wagner horn amendments in the Scherzo of the Ninth. The overtures make a welcome fill-up, rugged and spacious like the symphonies.

“The playing of the Philharmonia is generally first rate, though as recorded the violins sometimes sound a little edgy and thin—as in their first entry in the Eroica. As I have suggested, this may not be a supercharged set of the Beethoven symphonies, as those of Solti (Decca) or Karajan (DG) triumphantly are. For myself, I would prefer as a set to live with the previous HMV cycle from Jochum, which in any case has a fuller bass response. But with cleancut digital sound the Sanderling makes a splendid addition to the catalogue, one which I look forward to getting to know yet more intimately as the years progress.”

Incidentally, the liner notes for this set were written by William Mann.



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