, January 2009
BEETHOVEN: Symphonies 1 and 4 (Toscanini) 8.110854
BEETHOVEN: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 (Weingartner) (1935, 1938) 8.110856
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 / Sonata No. 29 (orch. Weingartner) (1930, 1933) 8.110913
BEETHOVEN: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6 (Weingartner) (1927, 1932) 8.110861
BEETHOVEN: Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8 (Weingartner) (1936) 8.110862
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 (Weingartner) (1935) 8.110863
Peter Stadlen once memorably referred to Weingartner’s ‘lean-beef Beethoven’. His accounts of the symphonies are free of the opulence and weight that characterized some of his contemporaries (including the often glorious Furtwängler). They have a sinewy classicism, and for many collectors they stood for the voice of Beethoven in much the same way as did Schnabel in the late Sonatas of the Busch Quartet in the late Quartets. Weingartner was the first conductor to record all the Beethoven symphonies, starting in 1923 in London and ending in 1938 in Vienna with No. 2. The sound is generally more than just acceptable. For many older collectors Weingartner’s 1936 account was the Eroica, speaking with an altogether special authority. It has complete authenticity of feeling, and even younger collectors coming to it without the encumbrance of nostalgia will certainly sense its stature.
Weingartner recorded the Fifth Symphony no fewer than four times, and this third version, made in London in 1932 with an ad hoc orchestra, is distinguished by sobriety and freedom from any self-regard. His Pastoral from 1927 is totally unaffected and sounds strikingly good in this transfer, as do the delightful Viennese Dances made with the LPO in 1938. Weingartner’s follow-up in 1933 version of the Fifth Symphony with the LPO was his fourth and most satisfying. But not even Weingartner can make out a totally convincing case for the Hammerklavier being transcribed fro the orchestra, for all the symphonic dimension of its keyboard writing. Once it is orchestrated, this is lost, for the orchestra takes everything comfortably in its stride.
Apart from the Eroica and his magisterial Ninth, the Seventh and Eight are the most commanding of Weingartner’s Beethoven cycle. The Seventh is completely classical in approach, without the (very slightly overdriven) intensity of the contemporaneous Toscanini version, while the Eight has a mercurial quality that is quite special. He sound is better than we have had in any previous transfer of the Eight.