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Thread: Beethoven: Symphony #6 ("Pastoral")

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    Super User Bernard's Avatar
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    Default Beethoven: Symphony #6 ("Pastoral")

    Artist: Karl Bohm, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
    Title: Beethoven Symphony #6 ("Pastoral")
    Year of Release: 1971
    Record Label: Deutsche Grammophon
    Genre: Classical

    The Music:
    This is one of my favourite Beethoven symphonies (perhaps second only to the Ninth). It is a "named" symphony, i.e. "Pastoral", intended to evoke images of the countryside so beloved by Beethoven (he used to take long walks in the woods). It opens with joyous music corresponding with cheerful feelings upon arrival in the country, followed by a scene at the brook, and a merry gathering gathering of country people. Then comes a storm, which is depicted very cleverly by Beethoven, so much so that the music is used in movies to this day. This is followed by a slow movement that is one of the most gorgeous in classical music. It is very lyrical and calming. This is an album that makes you want to listen to it from start to finish, rather than just individual movements.

    The Recording:
    I started my collection of Beethoven symphonies by buying all of von Karajan's 1962 recordings. I really liked them all except for the 6th, which just seemed to me to be too fast. It sounded like Herr von Karajan was in a rush to get to his next appointment!

    I heard Kurt Sanderling with Radu Lupu, live, doing Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto, and it was electrifying, so, figuring that Sanderling was an all-round good interpreter of Beethoven, I bought his 6th. It was incredibly slow and boring.

    I then bought the Bruno Walter recording on the series of the World's 100 Greatest Recordings, but it failed to move me.

    I picked up a copy of the Penguin Record Guide, in which they gave the Karl Bohm recording a rosette for an outstanding performance. So I bought it. They did not lie. This is a superb performance, with tempi between those of HvK and Sanderling. A truly amazing performance. This happened a long time ago, so it was all on vinyl. In order to be on the safe side I bought 3 copies.

    I subsequently bought the highly-rated reissued Reiner, but still prefer the Bohm.
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    Forum Moderator MiTT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernard View Post
    In order to be on the safe side I bought 3 copies.
    Great review Bernard, exactly what I was hoping we might do in this section.

    Thank you!

    Now, regarding those 3 copies.... DIBS!
    MiTT
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  3. #3
    Super User Bernard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MiTT View Post
    Now, regarding those 3 copies.... DIBS!
    Tim, probably quite easy to find them used. Two of my copies I bought used (one of them for 95 cents!).

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    I agree that Karl B÷hm is doing a very good job, but I prefer Otto Klemperer's version of the sixth in a 1958 recording with Philharmonia Orchestra London. Talk about countryside...

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    I would surely love to hear Klemperer's version! I love his Tshaikovskij, Brahms, Mahler and Magic Flute and Cosi van Tutte (I knoow people flame it for being slow, but in my oppinion, the somewhat slow tempo is exactly what raises the drama above a mere comedy.)

    My personal favorite in the Pastoral is Solti. If you haven't heard it, give it a shot. It is Solti at his most delicate, and a clear evidence that he was much more than a "Pom and Circumstances" conductor. It is the perfect record to "drown in".

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    I've yet to hear a bad recording of the 6th. My go-to version is by Claudio Abbado conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.

    I do, however, have an interesting version; the transcription by Franz Liszt for piano, played by Cyprien Katsaris.

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  7. #7
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    Just lifted this recommendation from another forum. The guy who wrote this is something of a music nut. Haven't heard the recordings, but thought I'd pass the info along.

    My favorite Beethoven 6 is Bruno Walter's on Columbia: the pace is just so right, it makes all the rest sound hurried or sluggish. IMHO, of course. Overall, though, for Beethoven symphony sets you must hear the RenÚ Leibowitz Readers Digest box (or the Chesky reissues). They are probably the most literal and least "improved" interpretations on record.

  8. #8
    Newbie KJoel's Avatar
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    I love this version of the Beethoven symphonies conducted by Konwitschny:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Symphonies.../dp/B0000D7ZEC
    Speakers: Martin Logan Ethos (front) Martin Logan StageX (center) Axiom QS8 (rears) Axiom EP-800 (subwoofer)
    Amplifiers: McIntosh MC452 Axiom A1400-8
    PreAmp: McIntosh C45
    Source: Oppo BPD-105

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