NBC Symphony Orchestra - Beethoven Symphony No 4 & 5

NBC Symphony Orchestra - Beethoven Symphony No 4 & 5

Catalogue Code: 782032

Barcode: 5050457820329

Release Date: 22 Aug 2011

SYMPHONY No. 4 The idea that Beethoven's "even-numbered" can in any way be automatically regarded as of a more docile nature than his "odd-numbered" symphonies was never more strongly dispelled by Toscanini than in the slow introduction to this Fourth Symphony. The sinisterly dramatic, misterioso atmosphere of this whole remarkable passage was created not by any exaggeration of what Beethoven wrote but, on the contrary, by Toscanini's strictest possible, literal observance of note-values, the production of wonderfully balanced "matching dynamics" and an unvarying rhythm in a slow, dead-right tempo. The result was that an uncanny sense of tension, of apprehensive understatement was fi nally dispelled only by the outburst of the Allegro vivace. As he did with the fast movements which follow the slow introduction to the First and Second Symphonies of Beethoven, Toscanini achieved a miraculously imperceptible transition from the Adagio to the Allegro of this Fourth Symphony - a transition so smooth and logical, indeed, that one believed it must be a siimple matter of doppio tempo and no more. Consultation with the metronome, however, shows that in this, as in the earlier 1939 recording made by Toscanini, there was no question of the slow four-in-a-bar of the introduction dissolving conveniently into the two-in-a-bar of an Allegro in lo stesso movimento. The Scherzo, as performed by Toscanini in this recording, will hold no surprises for the pedant. The conductor took the Trio slower than the Scherzo, and the performance was deprived neither of viour nor of the playful charm characteristic of a Beethoven scherzo. Toscanini, as I have said, recognized no such thing as "even-numberedness" and brought just as fi erce an attack to bear on the Fourth as on any other Beethoven symphony that demanded it. This was particularly true of the Finale which is Beethoven at his most gruffl y playful, enjoying the fun of false climaxes, long, tremendous crescendos and an incessant "busyness" of fi gures which Toscanini treated to a crystalline clarity which lacked nothing in rhythmic vigour and robustness of tone. SYMPHONY No. 5 Toscanini's belief in the importance of tempo was never more clearly proclaimed than in this fi rst movement of the Fifth. Drama there was in plenty; but it was not a melodramatic performance. There emerged a tremendous ferocity and force, which drove the music relentlessly, irresistibly forward with all the vitality and excitement Toscanini understood by the term "con brio". The slow movement could always be pointed to as a model demonstration of three aspects of Toscanini's technical genius: his evocation of cantabile from an orchestra, his understanding and interpretation of the words "Andante con moto", and his wonderful sense of instrumental balance. The fi rst of these aspects was clear from the warm, singing "dolce" of the opening passage for violas and violoncellos, the second from the easy, inevitable fl ow of the music which never stopped to admire itself in the looking-glass, as it were, and the third from the superbly clean and dynamically balanced voicing of the wood-wind in such little passages as their communal contribution to the statement of the main theme. The link between the peculiar Scherzo and the Finale was a tour de force by Toscanini. He seemed to start the long ppp passage with its throbbing drum beat if anything one p quieter than it is shown in the score. Perhaps of all the unfathomable secrets of Toscanini's genius one of the most mysterious of all was his incredible reserve of physical, nervous and plain, simple musical energy which permitted no slackening of concentration or dedication, either by himself or by the orchestra he was conducting.

1. Symphony No. 4 In B Flat Major, Op. 60: I. Adagio, Allegro Vivace
2. Symphony No. 4 In B Flat Major, Op. 60: II. Adagio
3. Symphony No. 4 In B Flat Major, Op. 60: III. Minuetto: Allegro Vivace. Trio: Un Poco Meno Allegro
4. Symphony No. 4 In B Flat Major, Op. 60: IV. Adagio Ma Non Troppo
5. Symphony No. 5 In C Minor, Op. 67: I. Allegro Con Brio
6. Symphony No. 5 In C Minor, Op. 67: II. Andante Con Moto
7. Symphony No. 5 In C Minor, Op. 67: III. Allegro // IV. Allegro