CD Reviews

by Barry Katz

I purchased 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."

Abbado produced 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 and well-designed.


Barry Katz

B
ARRY KATZ HOMEBUILDING
Westport, Connecticut

tel: 203-505-6313 fax: 203-227-9629 e-mail: bk@katzhome.com

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