And once again it's Beethoven Year. During the Beethoven Year 50 years ago, in 1970, the world of recordings was quite different. Not only that there were no CDs and downloads and the LP was the undisputed main medium and the tape cassette the second most important medium, but rather, in those blissful analogue times, companies shared the classical music recording market that in the meantime had gone under or merged or now only existed as brands, such as DGG, Decca, EMI, RCA, CBS, Philips, Telefunken. As a result, the pressure of competition was considerable, especially in the Beethoven Year, and everyone was anxious to pay homage to the Bonn master with new recordings and huge compilations from the back catalogue to increase sales. In comparison, what has already been released in quantity for Beethoven's 250th birthday in today's digital times and announced for the rest of the year is rather pitiful. This is not so much due to the fact that the big players of the time are now only on board in a reduced form if at all, but rather because the management of these companies is in the hands of managers not interest in classical music whose sole focus is on profit margins, and because production costs have shot through the roof. On the other hand, there are now numerous new, mostly smaller companies and broadcasting companies that are passionate about bringing digital sound carriers to the market, albeit in small numbers. Part of this passion is the publication of unusual compositions by unknown masters that have not been ridden to death for decades and, in the case of Beethoven, his compositions in unusual instrumentations, such as instrumentally reduced to the absolutely necessary arrangements of the Beethoven Symphonies 1, 2 and 3 by his contemporaries Ferdinand Ries and Carl Friedrich Ebers. The two arrangers were motivated to their work by the fact that in Beethoven's recording-free times it was customary to distribute new compositions not only in the original, but also in instrumentally reduced arrangements. The musicians of the ensemble Compagnia di Punto have thrown themselves into the adventure of editing these arrangements of Beethoven's music in revised versions - a study of the booklet of the new album is recommended for further details.
The minimalist Compagnia di Punto's arrangement of the first three Beethoven symphonies by Ries and Ebers is the first of its kind to be staggered by the extreme internal dynamics. Even the performances in historically informed form, which are widely accepted today as an exciting normal case and can be heard in concerts and on recordings, sound bland, not to mention the majority of Romantic interpretations of the past and present, which regularly stand no chance against those more enlightened versions in terms of liveliness and tension and which belong in the Orcus of history. The Vienna Philharmonic's new recordings for the Beethoven Year are no exception in their idle beauty of sound, reminiscent of Karajan's first DGG recording. Interestingly enough, among the historical recordings there are one or two exceptions to the romantic veiling of the revolutionary content of the Beethoven symphonies. The Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York under Arturo Toscanini in recordings that approach the historically informed approach common today in terms of "modernity" and persuasiveness, recordings that lie ninety years and more in the past and were made nolens volens with conventional orchestra instrumentation. Even the great Italian maestro, however, is unable to deliver the wildness of the Compagnia di Punto's interpretation, which goes hand in hand with the extreme internal dynamics and minimalist instrumentation. Arturo Toscanini would have had his delight in this ensemble - and the would-be revolutionary composer from Bonn anyway.
Schönklang for his sake is not to be found on this album, rather a sometimes shirt-sleeved provocative approach that comes close to revilement of the audience. This unusual view of Beethoven's two early symphonies and his famous Eroica could finally steer the view of Beethoven in a direction that is fairer to him than the slag-free high-gloss interpretations that, despite historically informed interpretations, still dominate the concert business.
Compagnia di Punto