Nikolaus Harnoncourt and his period orchestra, Concentus Musicus Wien, never recorded a complete cycle of the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven, and this 2016 Sony release is their only recording of the Symphony No. 4 in B flat major and the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, made almost ten months before the conductor's death. Harnoncourt planned for this to be his last recording before his retirement, so it inevitably has the feeling of a valedictory performance, and one can also hear it as the orchestra's warm tribute to its leader and his sterling musicianship.
60 CD box set. Selection of Ludwig Van Beethoven works recorded by David Zinman & Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich (Symphonies), Yefim Bronfman, David Zinman & tonhalle Orchestra Zurich (Piano concertos), Pinchas Zuckerman & Marc Neikrug (Violin Sonatas), Anner Bylsma & Jon Van Immerseel (Cello Sonatas), Seraphin Trio (Piano Trios), Alexander String Quartet (String Quartets), Yukio Yokoyama, Robert Casadesus, Justus Frantz, Vladimir Horowitz, Gerhard Oppitz & Charles Rosen (Piano Sonatas), Eugene Ormandy & Philadelphia Orchestra (Christ On The Mount Of Olives), Wolfdieter Maurer & Tokyo Oratorio Society (Mass in C Major), David Zinman & Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich (Missa Solemnis) and many other great artists.
ECM New Series is better known for its documentation of contemporary works, but the music of the past sometimes receives coverage when artists bring a new perspective to it. The Diabelli Variations, Op. 120; the Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111; and the Six Bagatelles, Op. 126, are among the most original and intellectually stimulating works Ludwig van Beethoven composed for the piano, and the sophisticated interpretations of András Schiff are especially worthwhile for their insights into authentic performance practice and reception. Here, Schiff gives the listener options between a relatively modern sounding version of the Diabelli Variations and a period interpretation, without favoring one or the other. On the first CD he plays the Sonata and the Diabelli Variations on a Bechstein piano from 1921, though with minimal pedaling and a restrained execution that allows every inner voice and subtle dynamic to be appreciated. While this piano is not as hard or bright sounding as a modern Steinway, it is familiar to modern ears and most listeners will readily accept it. On the second CD, Schiff plays the Diabelli Variations, along with the Six Bagatelles, on a smaller sounding Franz Brodmann fortepiano, an original instrument from around 1820, Beethoven's time period.