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Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphonies No.6 in F Major "Pastoral", Opus 68 & No.8 in F Major, Opus 93

Manchester Camerata, Douglas Boyd (conductor)
Recorded live in The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester (2009 & 2010) – 64'57
Avie ref: AV2242 – Booklet in English

This release is the latest in the cycle of live recordings of the Beethoven symphonies by the Manchester Camerata. This 33 piece chamber group is used to excellent advantage and allows the listener to hear things that may have been swallowed up by the sheer power of a much larger symphony orchestra. Under the direction of Douglas Boyd, renown as an outstanding interpreter of Beethoven, we hear these works in a style reminiscent of historically accurate performances with instrumental shadings leaning more toward the sound of period instruments. The slight vibrato or entire lack of same in the strings sounded unusual at first but the tendency toward shrillness in the woodwinds, especially the piccolo, during the Pastoral bothered my ear, something that didn’t resolve upon additional listening. The sound of the group was more cohesive in the 8th, especially in the final movement, the Allegro vivace, where I had a strong feeling that this was very much as Beethoven intended. Each moment of this symphony was very well done; sections played well, not overbearing but with sensitivity and with nice linkage between the movements. The humor in the work is evident in this interpretation and it was here that one could fully appreciate the smaller size of the orchestra and its lack of instrumental “padding”, permitting each nuance to be clearly expressed and the listener to fully appreciate the convergence of all the points.

Given all of the available recordings of these works, what sets this apart? Aside from the logical addition to the collection if you already have earlier works in this set, there are many reasons to want this disc; there is no denying that the musicianship of the orchestra members and the intimate size of the group combined with the acoustics and engineering make it sound different and appealing enough to make it worthwhile. Maestro Boyd has proven himself to be an eminent conductor of Beethoven and his pairing with the Camerata is inspirational. I look forward to the live recording of the Ninth Symphony.

Suzanne Torrey




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