Beethoven
Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.55 (Eroica)
Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67
USSR State Symphony Orchestra
Evgeny Svetlanov

Recorded in 1981 in Moscow
CD No: SCRIBENDUM
SC 022 (2 CDs)
Duration: 1 hour 28 minutes
Reviewed: October 2003
Explosive chords open the Eroica … we know that. Svetlanov emphasises this, and the spacious acoustic adds its bit too. Svetlanov’s is a grand Eroica, one weighty and trenchant, one also going somewhere, with both power and refinement. This sense of purpose, what might be termed unrushed vitality, sustains the first movement (repeat observed) to articulate effect – which blazes with inner conviction and confides intimacies with erudition. With a lofty account of the funeral march, in which double basses make a varied and telling impression, a truculent Scherzo and a Finale that is energised right through to the liberating coda, Svetlanov’s is a vivid and compelling Eroica, emotionally alive and musically concentrated.
The Fifth is given a measured, rather dark account – not so much fate knocking on the door but an awareness of destiny and the need to vindicate one’s existence. Svetlanov’s not afraid, in the first movement, of teasing out dissonance in the woodwind, and certainly ratchets tension with an iron-grip. There’s a decisive tread to the Andante con moto, which maybe has too-brassy tuttis, in which stately rhythms underpin some affecting legato phrasing. The bassoon solo that signals this movement’s close is lugubrious, very Russian, and intensifies a requirement to seek illumination; this is, after all, a dark-to-light symphony. The scherzo treads heavily too, there seems no way out. Is there something lurking around the corner? Svetlanov continues to hedge his bets with his craggy revealing of the finale; with the exposition on its reappearance one senses an uplift – and so it continues, bit by bit, to triumph. This, however, is no easy victory. Svetlanov’s dogged viewpoint is, maybe, coloured by his experiences of being an artist in Soviet times; it is certainly a remarkably thought-through interpretation, facile explanations not on the agenda.
The ADD recording is full-toned, the transfers expertly made, if somewhat acoustic-swollen in fortissimos with brass-sound a little edgy (although very civilised compared to Soviet timbres of yesteryear). Svetlanov’s distinguished performances deserve wide currency. Scribendum releases are from SilverOak Music Entertainment and distributed in the UK by Metronome.

 

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