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James Manheim, June 2011

The Neue Philarmonie Westfalen or New Westphalia Philharmonic Orchestra has recorded a variety of neglected repertoire spanning much of the 19th century. Several of their recordings feature the fine violinist heard here in Beethoven’s two Romances for violin and orchestra, former Berlin Philharmonic and Concertgebouw Orchestra musician Ursula Schoch. She’s quite effective in these sentimental little works, which by Beethovenian standards indeed qualify as neglected. There is nothing objectionable about the Beethoven Symphony No. 7 contributed by the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen under Heiko Matthias Förster, but listeners will have to decide for themselves whether it carves out a niche in a very crowded marketplace. Förster reins in the strings, which aren’t the equal of Europe’s A-list orchestras in any case, in favor of transparency and detail in articulation. So far so good, and he takes quite deliberate tempos in order to give himself enough room. The problem is that there’s neither the crisp orchestral playing nor the sense of overall line to sustain the momentum necessary in this kind of an interpretation. The slow movement and the slow introduction to the opening movement are each a bit of a slog, although there are nice treatments of the winds in each. Recommended for Schoch’s limpid readings of the two Romances.

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