this set one week after having been privileged to see
Claudio Abbado and the Berliners perform Beethoven's 5th,
6th, and 7th at Carnegie Hall on two consecutive nights.
The playing I heard those evenings was astounding - I
don't think I've ever heard an orchestra remotely as good.
The musicians played with utter commitment and passion,
from the concertmaster to the last music stand of the
second violins - it took my breath away. Each of the string
sections played so precisely together, it produced an
intensely focused sound - which I found remarkable, especially
in the lower strings - the cellos, and even double basses,
where you don't frequently hear such nimble, tight playing
- in other orchestras, anyway. And when was the last time
you noticed exactly what the violas were doing? There
was nothing these musicians could not do. At any dynamic,
from a triple pianissimo to a triple fore, and at any
tempo, each note sounded with precise ensemble - whole
massive runs of 32nd notes at some breakneck tempos, all
executed with precise ensemble, clarity, and all of it
beautifully phrased. And don't get me started on the beautiful
solo playing by various members of the orchestra. All
I can say is, "Lovely, lovely, lovely."
a sound that was powerful yet supple and transparent.
Inner voices were allowed to shine through. This listener
had the impression of having heard something quite fresh
and new. He balanced gossamer-thin pianissimos against
playing that was rhythmically intense and driving. At
the climax of the 7th I found myself actually propelled
out of my seat - literally knocked off my chair.
These new Deutche
Grammophon recordings beautifully capture all that I heard
live in New York on a night I won't soon forget. Each
disk brings the performances vividly to life. The sound
is clean, transparent, and well balanced. I can find nothing
to fault this set. Even the packaging is handsome - sensible