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DVD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

  • Symphony #1 in C Major, Op. 21 (1800)
  • Symphony #6 in F Major "Pastorale", Op. 68 (1808)
  • Symphony #8 in F Major, Op. 93 (1812)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
Recorded live at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome, February 2001
TDK DVD 105116 (DVBPAB168) Multiregion Anamorphic Widescreen Dolby Digital DTS LPCM Stereo
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This review is going to be simple: I reviewed Abbado's Beethoven cycle, issued on DG in 2000, for another publication, and found it my 'desert-island' choice among complete sets. It featured fine sound and playing, and Abbado's generally lean tempos and incisive grasp on Beethoven's varied and powerful expressive world. In this DVD set, recorded in February, 2000, in Rome's Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, tempos are almost identical (in some movements, exactly identical), and the conductor's approach is quite the same overall. In the end, both sets could almost be viewed as twins, but the sound in the EuroArts DVD cycle is a bit more vivid.

As far as the visual aspects of this issue are concerned, you see the concert as if you were there, panning the spectrum of the stage with a wandering eye, your ear taking in the considerable aural delights. In the Sixth Symphony you are given the option of viewing the performance from the conductor's vantage point. It's an interesting feature, to be sure, but not a crucial one as far as I'm concerned. This DVD is desirable for its musical aspects, primarily, not its well-conceived visual ones. I would guess the whole cycle is as well-executed as the three symphonies here are and thus a worthwhile purchase.

Copyright © 2004, Robert Cummings