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  BIS -
  Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 8 - Vänskä
  Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 "Eroica", Symphony No. 8

Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä (Vanska) (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 5

Reviews: 6 show all

Review by darkroommd February 9, 2007 (10 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is probably the singular most spun SACD in my entire collection. Yet, I do not return to it as much for the Third, but much moreso for the Eighth. For that, this album is unequivocally 5 stars.

Vanska's Minnesota Orchestra is a bit smaller ensemble ("tighter" comes to mind) than some other groups offering competing Beethoven cycles in high-def audio (Berlin/Barenboim on DVD-A, Berlin/Karajan, LSO/Haitink). And under Vanska's baton, they are one of the most well-oiled machines out there.

To briefly review the Third... Strikingly precise playing, moderate to fast tempi, extreme dynamic contrasts, sharp accents, more of a classical reading than a romantic one. Vanska doesn't heap on the melodrama as others (Bernstein, Karajan) have in the past, especially in the funeral march. There is an overall lack of romanticism that many listeners will not prefer for the Eroica. Indeed, here I prefer Haitink's Eroica on LSO Live.

The same above analysis also applies to the Eighth, and those qualities are absolutely ideal for the "little" F major symphony. Vanska's emphasis on precision, timing, contrast, and felicity make this the finest performance of the Eighth that will ever be recorded, IMHO. It is such a joy to hear an orchestra in perfect lockstep from the opening statement of the main theme, so crucial here as Beethoven places it foremost, no introductory phrase, no time to warm up. The exposition, repeat, and development are played with tightly wound intensity. Then the infamous FF recapitulation comes, where the main theme given by low strings is usually buried beneath screaming high strings and winds, evidencing the composer's deafness. Not here. Vanska manages to drop down the upper layers of sound and uncover the melody without losing any of the intensity. Finally, the theme is easily and quietly dismissed in the final bar. Utter perfection here. You will want to set your player on repeat.

The middle metronome & minuet movements again perfectly capture Beethoven's genius. Again, Vanska's use of contrast highlights the humorous and manic nature of this work. The finale is much like the First Movement, so full of intensity and forward motion. The rapid triplet figures come out as triplets, not as tremolos. The climactic coda is superlative.

Sonically, we are treated to exemplary BIS recording standards: natural sounds, well staged, transparent.

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Review by Windsurfer August 30, 2006 (8 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I know I am hearing an extraordinary performance on record when I suddenly find myself sitting up in my Ekornes recliner waving my arms as if to conduct the orchestra. That happened last night as I gave this a first hearing. This IS an extraordinary performance of the Eroica. Inner phrase tensions in the first movement remind me of the phrasing of Kleiber's Beethoven 5. The orchestra plays magnificently for Vanska - best playing out of Minneapolis I ever heard! The funeral march is soaringly beautiful with horns outdoing themselves. The third movement is propulsive, again with outstanding brass and winds while the strings are uncommonly silky. The fourth movement has just the right blend of forward movement, tension and grandeur. The sound is excellent except for a very slight and let me emphasize the word slight, sense that we are hearing a performance in a hall meant for an audience that is not present so there is a just noticable reverberation characteristic that calls attention to itself....a very very slight echoey quality that hardly detracts from the overall effect of this absolutely superb performance.

My rating of 5 is conservative for performance, 5 being the highest we can give - where this in the company of so many others rated as five stands out as so superior that one knows it deserves more, much more! 4-1/2 for sound because there are PentaTones, Harmonia Mundis, Telarcs, some Capriccios, and others that have a slight edge in naturalness and complete and utter freedom from congestion where this one falls just short of the best of the best - which is what we should reserve 5 stars for! (My ratings are for multi-channel as I don't take time to bother with stereo anymore)

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Review by jlaurson October 10, 2007 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Last year, Osmo Vänskä's recording of Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5 of his current Beethoven cycle on BIS held a high place in the list of my favorite recordings. There is no reason not to give the 2006 spot to his second issue of symphonies 3 and 8. If perhaps neither are as – literally – outstanding as his Fourth (at the top of my list of Fourths, by all means), the combination of recorded sound, vigor, and orchestral perfection make it worthy of inclusion in this list. Under Vänskä the Minnesota Orchestra play, well, perfect: Not a note, not an accent, not the tiniest detail is out of place. All that might not impress too much if it were not for the liveliness that is, thankfully, not given short shrift. This is perfection serving a higher purpose, rather than being a goal in itself. Suggesting width, even in crisp tempos, the Eighth brings a heft to the work I have not heard in any ‘modern’ interpretations (Barenboim, who has plenty of that in all of the symphonies of his superb second cycle (Warner Classics) does that, too, but his Beethoven is an altogether more old-fashioned animal, compared to Vänskä’s). The Third is as crisp as a starched white shirt and has as much bite as a Granny Smith. Like Pentatone’s sonata cycle, this is recorded in the Super Audio format. Although the SACD may die a slow death yet without having taken off as much as the format deserved, issues like these are worth getting into the technology, all the same. But even in standard Red-Book CD sound this is more than worth trying to get your stocking stuffed with!
(Vänskä’s Ninth is out already and on Alex Ross' "Apex 2006" list.)

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Works: 2  

Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 "Eroica"
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93