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Michael Tanner
BBC Music Magazine, February 2012

The last orchestral contribution is a reprise of the coda of the Overture [Egmont] , and shows how immensely superior that is to any of the others.

James Judd is an admirable conductor… © 2012 BBC Music Magazine Read complete review

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, May 2010

The programmatic overture is rightly an established masterpiece, maybe his best composition in this genre, and James Judd and his admirable New Zealand forces present it in all its glory, rather brisk and dynamic…the Marcia in No. 3 is fresh and attractive…Clärchen’s deeply-felt death, Egmont’s Melodrama—excellently performed by Claus Obalski—with its optimistic final pages followed by the symbolic Symphony of Victory, which we already know from the end of the overture.

Clärchen’s two songs are another matter. They are fresh and charming and immediately attractive, in particular Die Trommel gerühret! (tr. 2), with its catchy melody and swaggering march rhythm. I have long cherished Janet Baker’s recordings of them on a thirty-year-old Philips record. Madeleine Pierard is lighter and more lyrical, less formidable, but her readings are very attractive and she sings extremely well.

Janet Baker’s is again one of my favourite readings of the mighty Ah! perfido, a grandiose interpretation that not even Birgit Nilsson and Christa Ludwig surpass. Ms Pierard exposes however a dramatic voice with true bite while retaining her beautiful rounded tone. The opening recitative is truly expressive and Per pietà is sung simply and lyrically. Throughout this is a very beautiful reading. This is a singer I hope to hear more of.

The two short marches, contemporaneous with the Egmont music, are rather brash. They were commissioned by Archduke Anton and performed to celebrate the birthday of the Empress. The celebrations took place at a tournament, reason enough for the rather rough quality. Beethoven knew what he was about and called them ‘music for horses’.

Those curious for some not too often heard music by Beethoven can safely invest in this well played disc. There is some fine music from the last act of Egmont, the overture is a masterpiece and one gets some great vocal items in the bargain. The sound quality could hardly be bettered.

Colin Anderson
International Record Review, March 2010

Judd’s survey of the Egmont music is finely conceived, with a good sense of theatre as well as sensitivity…This well produced and recorded disc also introduces…the soprano of Madelaine Pierard, bright, agile and confident…crisply enjoyable., February 2010

James Judd offers a nuanced, balanced and finely proportioned reading of the Egmont incidental music, with Madeleine Pierard highly affecting in the role of the doomed Clärchen (whose death music, which is wholly instrumental, is especially effective) and Claus Obalski presenting strong narration in an extended Melodrama that occurs in the play’s final act…Judd complements the Egmont music of 1810 with two marches in F major, from 1809 and 1810, which are slight but pleasant enough, and with the extended concert aria Ah! Perfido—which dates to 1795–6 and fits rather uneasily with the rest of this CD from a thematic standpoint, although it certainly gives Pierard an excellent additional opportunity to display her fine soprano.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, February 2010

When Vienna’s Royal Imperial Court Theater decided to stage poet and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play Egmont in 1810 (thirty years after Goethe wrote it), they asked Beethoven to write the incidental music for it. Today, we don’t see much of the play or the full score of the music, although the Overture has a remained a staple of the classical repertoire.

Admittedly, a little of this complete incidental music (beyond the famous Overture) on Naxos goes a long way, and some of it even becomes a tad tedious without the accompanying stage action, especially toward the middle of the work. Still, there is much in Beethoven’s music to enjoy, and it is always good to have so economical a recordings as this new budget Naxos release of the complete score, recorded so well.

The play itself is rather melodramatic, and conductor James Judd and his New Zealand Symphony play it up not only for maximum dramatic effect but for it subtlety as well. In other words, you’ll find the opening Overture and the closing “Victory Symphony” quite exciting and the quieter interludes in between equally charming, if, as I say, sometimes a bit redundant.

For quite a while, my own favorite recording of the music has been that of George Szell and the Vienna Philharmonic, made by Decca in the late Sixties, issued by them on CD in the Eighties in highlights form, and reissued complete on CD in the Nineties. I have to admit that by comparison Szell and the VPO are more highly charged than Judd and his New Zealanders, but Judd comes close, and many listeners will prefer him at the price.

Soloist Madeleine Pierrard has a lovely singing voice in her several numbers; Claus Obalski is in fine, mellifluous voice for his brief narration; and the New Zealand Symphony perform in their usual highly disciplined manner.

Filling out the program are two of Beethoven’s little Marches, WoO 18 and 19, which he called his “music for horses”; and the Scena and Aria “Ah! perfido,” Op. 65, in which Ms. Pierrard again sings most sweetly.

As far as Naxos’s sound is concerned, it is fairly dynamic, with a modestly wide stereo spread, although it is also slightly soft and warm and displays little orchestral depth. Nevertheless, the acoustic is flattering, and the smooth, realistic concert-hall sound is entirely listenable. This is certainly an attractive album and well worth investigating.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2010

The familiar opening bars of the Egmont overture brought on a warm and nostalgic feeling: it must be decades since I’ve listened to this music. This work, like ‘The Ruins of Athens’, was never mainstream fare, to be taken care of by independent labels like Vanguard and Vox. So it’s good to have this up to date version, so excellently played. Soprano Madelaine Pierard has a youthful and fresh-sounding voice that falls pleasantly on the ear, and a fine sense of drama in Ah! Perfido. The marches make for a nice filler as well.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2010

Beethoven’s incidental music to the play Egmont reminds us that between their great masterworks composers of yesteryear made a living by accepting what commissions came their way. Gothe’s play Egmont was to be performed by The Royal Imperial Court Theatre in Vienna in 1810, and Beethoven was paid to supply incidental music including two soprano arias. The result was an overture and nine numbers of which only the overture was to enter the concert repertoire. That the score arrived too late for the opening night does not appear to have effected the production’s success, the music obviously used an adjunct rather than an important function. At one time Beethoven had toyed with using the story as the subject for an opera, the play relating the historic rebellion of Count Egmont against Spanish rule in his native Netherlands, while his love for Clara and her suicide is used to add another dimension to his life. Performances of the incidental music are seldom, its continued existence largely residing in recordings. Here James Judd brings much sadness to his slow introduction to the overture, but from therein gives a highly charged account. The young New Zealand soprano, Madeleine Pierard, who is presently studying at London’s National Opera Studio, brings distinction to the arias, the remaining score largely scene setting. If it is to be performed, then you need the gripping intensity of the New Zealand orchestra to capture its many moods. To complete the disc Pierard sings with youthful intensity the famous concert area, Ah! perfido, two very short Marches being added as titbits. The three vocal items were recorded at a different and highly reverberant location, the purely orchestral tracks being of high quality.

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