One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,514 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                     Editor in Chief: John Quinn              

Some items
to consider


paid for


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

Deaconoff; Stockhausen

Live at the Clifton Festival

Choir at Clifton Cathedral


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
The Columbia Beethoven Centennial Series - Volume Four
Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92 (1811-12) [32:46]
Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93 (1812) [21:44]
Coriolan, Op. 62: Overture (1807) [7:30]
Egmont, Op. 84: Overture (1810) [7:29]
Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93: II. Andante molto moto (1812) [4:00]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Felix Weingartner (sys 7 & 8)
Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam/Willem Mengelberg (overtures, sy 8-II)
rec. 1926 (Mengelberg), 1936 (Weingartner)

Even as fine an engineer as Mark Obert-Thorn can’t make a recording sound better than it actually is to begin with. So we should be glad that he was able to draw as much as he did from the early-electric Weingartner recordings. The basic sound comes up vividly, despite consistently opaque textures that, in tutti, can turn aggressive at the top. In the F major Symphony, background hiss is more conspicuous, and competes with the quiet openings of the second and fourth movements.

The performances, exemplifying the principles the conductor laid out in his essay, ‘On the Performance of Beethoven’s Symphonies’ (included in Weingartner on Music and Conducting, Dover Publications, New York, 1969), are worth hearing for their virtues. The slow introduction of the A major symphony is forthright and clearly shaped, with no straining at grandiosity. The Vivace goes with a relaxed 6/8 lift, never devolving into a flatfooted quasi-2/4 as sometimes happens. The Allegretto is just that, marching at a steady tread, though the textures ooze as they fill out; the Scherzo is quick and hearty, with the right "upbeat" feeling. The Finale is full of the requested brio; in this context, the slight relaxation going into the flute’s statement of the theme is almost startling.

The F major symphony is similarly direct, despite suffering passing control problems, including slight confusion after the big fermata at 6:09 of the first movement. Otherwise, the movement goes at a good pace, with incisive rhythms, though the woodwind principals keep wanting to relax. (On the other hand, in the development at 3:03, where the low strings can fall behind, here they stay smartly in time.) At the recap., Weingartner brings off a small miracle by balancing the sound towards the theme in the basses. The second movement, a rather quick ‘metronome’, is firmly grounded; the third, solid and not heavy (compare Karajan, especially), gets no ritard at the final cadence. In this finale, too, Weingartner seems to allow a slight relaxation for the second theme.
The symphonies alone – shorn of major repeats, as was Weingartner’s wont – would have made for a short program. Pristine Audio’s choice of makeweights is doubly surprising: first, because Willem Mengelberg – once described by George Szell as “the great distorter” – would seem to inhabit the interpretive pole diametrically opposite the no-nonsense Weingartner; second, because the Dutch conductor was on his best behaviour at these sessions. As Obert-Thorn suggests, these earlier recordings are comparatively faded in sound, though that depends on how you listen, however: mp3 transfer took some of the zip out of the Weingartner items, while pushing the Mengelberg items forward!

The two overtures are taut and unfussy, rather in the Weingartner style. Indeed, the bold attack and robust, bassy sonority of Coriolan suit the broad arc of the performance. Egmont is equally intense, though at the cost of skittish woodwinds, who tend to jump the entries on their little motifs. The ‘tick-tock’ metronome movement of the Eighth Symphony is clearer, and lighter in texture, than in Weingartner’s rendering, though there’s still enough bass support.

All told, it’s a fascinating look at bygone performance styles.

Stephen Francis Vasta
Stephen Francis Vasta is Principal Conductor of Lighthouse Opera in New York (



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3



Aho Symphony 5

Dowland - A Fancy


Rachmaninov_ Babayan