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Beethoven Symphony No.7 in A major, Op. 92; Symphony No.8 in F major, Op. 93; Overture to Egmont, Op. 84 - Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Felix Weingartner (1936-37)
Egmont - Entr'acte No.2 (Larghetto) & Clarchens Tod (LPO/Weingartner, 1938, London)

Naxos Historical 8.110862 [73:32]

Contemporary/early; opera/chamber music - historical recordings bring an oasis of sanity and perspective into a 21st century reviewing whirligig.

It is an abiding miracle that, alongside the deterioration of recent memory with age, one can rediscover that the sound and rhythmic detail of performances not heard since childhood can rest out of mind, yet are found to be ripe for recall. Without disparaging the new, one can come full circle, to enormous satisfaction.

This Weingartner Beethoven 7, on blue label Columbia LX 78s, long lost, was how I got to know that symphony, and years later I was glad to hear Harold Truscott extolling its particular virtues in a BBC talk (his essays and analyses deserve republishing). The 7th & 8th were heard in the same concert in 1814 and the pairing was a Weingartner speciality.

This No 7 is simply, "right", and I dare say will outlive many of the latest stereo versions of the symphonies (Rattle/VPO etc) by the numerous modern contenders, as may Schnabel's of the concertos outlive Harnoncourt/COE/Aimard - which I loved - and the sonatas which have critics forever seeking the "best" (everyone tries those - Julian Jacobson is planning to play all 32 in one day soon!).

Of course, listening to historic recordings means a little work by the listener - Mark Obert-Thorn has done most of it. After a few moments one completely forgets any residual background noise and can relax into a mood of complete confidence and satisfaction. The detailed notes here by Ian Julier are wise and help to steer your appreciation of Weingartner's special authority.

It is only industry driven demand for recycling and planned obsolescence, ever new-for-old, that persuades each new hopeful to record "his" interpretation of the canonic masterworks; career building energies could far more usefully be directed elsewhere, and some pianists do recognise that this is so, and get off the band-wagon.

Do write to express your disagreement?

Meanwhile, spend your £4.99s (or $7.98s) on some of these Naxos Historicals, and enrich yourselves in every way - though what we should do with the spare pennies or cents is a question for the marketing department !


© Peter Grahame Woolf