Classical CD Reviews

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3; Overture to “The Creatures of Prometheus”; Overture to “Egmont” – Simon Bolivar Sym. Orch. of Venezuela/ Gustavo Dudamel – DGG

Thrilling stuff, but the mysteries of the symphony are not probed to any significant degree.

Published on September 17, 2012

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3; Overture to “The Creatures of Prometheus”; Overture to “Egmont” – Simon Bolivar Sym. Orch. of Venezuela/ Gustavo Dudamel – DGG

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat, Op. 55; Overture to “The Creatures of Prometheus”, Op. 43; Overture to “Egmont”, Op. 84 – Simon Bolivar Sym. Orch. of Venezuela/ Gustavo Dudamel – DGG B0016869, 67:16 ****:

This is a tricky release to review. Dudamel is today’s wunderkind, and he is a real talent, but whether the talent lives up to the hype is debatable. I do not think that he is the next Leonard Bernstein, but there is no doubting his ability to galvanize musicians, youth, and whole communities with an infectious and irresistible love of music that cannot be denied. What I have not heard to this point, is anything that interpretatively rises to the unique, undeniable, and illuminating sense of discovering something never heard before.

Most of his releases are nothing less than acceptable, even inspired, and are almost always impregnated with a sense of fervent emotion and thrilling adventure. For many this is enough, but for others the thrill of the moment proves vacillating and something else is needed for repeat hearings. Take his Mahler Second for example, filmed at the BBC Proms and widely available on YouTube—it has to be one of the most moving performances I have ever heard, but its felicities are borrowed and not discovered. That doesn’t reduce the experience one bit, but just means that ultimately one looks for a little more.

This Beethoven 3 is a thrilling reading, quick tempos, too much exaggeration in slowing down at phrase endings, some uneven and ragged ensemble (this is a very large orchestra), and a very mainstream approach that includes leaving in the interpolated trumpet parts an octave higher, something most “informed” performances avoid these days despite the undeniable excitement it provides. Movement 1 has a lithe energy and power to it that is redolent of period recordings. II slows it down quite a bit, and makes no apologies—this would fit in with any interpretations found in the 1960s and 1970s. III is quite standard fare though Dudamel flaunts tradition by maintaining the trio at the same tempo as the rest of the movement. And IV is no nonsense and to the point, maybe the weakest of the four but still acceptable. This is a solid, middle of the road reading that tilts to the plus side.

The two overtures are also quite invigorating, with Egmont providing lots of chills and excitement, tailor made for Dudamel’s personality. The sound on this recording is quite good, nowhere near state of the art, but as good as what DGG has been providing in its recordings for the last 30 years. Dudamel is still very young; I wait the day when his intellectual probity and knowledge base catch up with his undeniable raw talent.

—Steven Ritter




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