Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67 * Eötvös
Ensemble Modern *
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
No recording details supplied
CD No: BUDAPEST MUSIC CENTER RECORDS BMC CD 063 Duration: Reviewed: June 2003
Beethoven & Eötvös Budapest Music Center
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
This is an inspiring CD, one that links a masterly new piece with a classical boundary-breaking symphony. The linkage is indivisible.
Peter Eötvös wrote zeroPoints in 2000 for the LSO and Pierre Boulez. A successful premiere ensued. Boulez has since conducted it in Chicago and the composer has returned it to London. Short it might be at 14 minutes or so, but theres much scintillating invention in it. Large dimensions are suggested through concise, clear and interrelated ideas. Lucidity of sound (sound being so important to Eötvös both in terms of personal nostalgia and in original creativity) and musical innovation combine for a gripping piece. Does Eötvös consciously recall Bartók at a couple of points? First, in eerie string tremolos that recall The Miraculous Mandarin and Concerto for Orchestra, then in the cryptic xylophone conclusion reminding of Music for strings, percussion and celeste. The performance, under the composer, is excellent. One reservation is that the very vivid sound is too loudly transferred; there are moments of harshness at odds with Eötvöss refined ear.
Beethovens Fifth. Anything new to say? Yes. This is a lean and muscular account that strips away accretions without it becoming a back to basics account that is a slave to editing and compromising of interpretative imagination. Incongruous, maybe, to have the unconventionally constituted Ensemble Modern (certainly in terms of a full body of strings) playing it. Eötvös supplies a note in which he speaks of carefully designed electro-acoustical amplification faultless technology and relatively few strings. In other words although the musicians are human beings, the few personnel making up the strings have been enhanced. Something worries me about this yet, if I didnt know, I wouldnt have guessed. However, Im not sure its quite as clear-cut as Eötvös suggests. Without pointing to the circumstances, I can report that there is a slight halo around the sound, which could be natural acoustic, and that there are also points of sound that seem a little artificial. The recording overall is a tad aggressive also.
The dry-toned strings is as much to do with vibrato as electrical interference and now we can talk about the performance. Its fast, not as ludicrously so as some authentic renditions, and there is plenty of heft, with a compelling sense of gravitational pull to offset the explosive timpani and horns and the unimpeachable sense of direction.
For all Eötvöss sense of impulse, theres no rush or fluster, and no lip service paid to excitement for its own sake. The Andante con moto has both grandeur and sentiment within its coursing veins. Indeed this is a Beethoven 5 of unstoppable force, which is never brazen, forced or throwing the baby out with the bath water. The Scherzo is played twice whether Beethoven wanted it so is another matter (all other repeats are in place) and the Finale steps out with an appropriate light out of darkness blaze. Eötvös joins a select band of conductors who bring out the trombones at (here) 754-756 mandatory in terms of harmonic resolution. The sense of achievement, come the final bars, is palpably thrilling an accelerando to triumph.
If a comparison is needed, then its with Carlos Kleibers famed VPO account on DG. Eötvöss leonine vitality and care for characterisation is similar, although Im bound to say theres something more tactile about Eötvöss approach and Id therefore place it with George Szells Concertgebouw version, long my desert island choice.
An invigorating release, then, that warrants investigation.