Classical Reissue Reviews
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 – Symphony of the Air/Leopold Stokowski – Cala Records/TopMusic
Published on March 11, 2011
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 – Symphony of the Air/ Leopold Stokowski - Cala Records/TopMusic Blu-Ray Spec CD ™ BSCD7015.5, 37:44 [stereo] ****:
In association with the Leopold Stokowski Society–who issued the 17 December 1958 Beethoven Seventh from Carnegie Hall recorded for United Artists as their last Cala CD issue in 2010–the audiophile label Top Music issues the performance as a high quality Bu-ray spec recording. Working with the NBC Symphony Orchestra–here renamed after the retirement of its principal conductor Arturo Toscanini–Stokowski elicits a vital response from his ensemble, particularly in the rhythmic energy of the score, and in the tragic Allegretto’s layered textures. While the mid range strings and woodwinds project themselves with admirable and even astonishing clarity, the treble response in the horns can prove grating at times. On the other hand, the bass response beautifully separates the flute, oboe, and bass fiddles and tympani and produces an extremely warm texture for the fugato.
I find the last two movements “present” in the best sense, the high resolution’s definition of the tympani and woodwinds pointed, almost “slick” in the mixing of colors. The Scherzo bears the earmarks of the “Stokowski Sound,” the brass shot forth through the string and woodwind blend like the report from a gun. Oboe, bassoon, and fluttering strings achieve a striking ensemble, the pedal points expansive, even fierce. The direct attacks in the last movement and the repetition of the cadences quite becomes mesmeric, until the cumulative momentum sweeps us along, in spite of a tendency to some shatter in the highest treble regions. The volcanic drive the seventy-six-year-old conductor achieves testifies to an incendiary spirit that wants beauty and power at once. The consistent cleanliness of the sound should impart much by way of Beethoven’s colossal sound whirlpool, an amalgam of rich colors rendered through the medium of a highly sympathetic interpreter. [Although using a more precise mastering process than standard CDs, the Blu-ray spec discs are compatible for playback on any standard CD player - not requiring any special decoding…Ed.]
– Gary Lemco