This Beethoven is, it will be clear, not pregnant with profound expression. In these recordings Chailly once again testifies to the consciousness of the modern conductor (note: everyone after Karajan is modern) who considers the living room just as much, if not more, as his stage than the concert hall. Just like his symphony cycles of Mahler and Bruckner, Chailly's Beethoven swims around in a benevolent bath of sound. But what works so well in Mahler - the unfolding of a broad tapestry of timbres – works a lot less with Ludwig: indulging in sonority. An over-sanitized approach puts Beethoven behind the window of the showroom. Here, the gloss of the blister packaging hides the view on the narrative. The storm in the Pastorale is rather a special effect from the Disney studios, we look at it in wonder and admiration but feel no need to take shelter: instead of being in earthly nature we are on a holodeck of the Starship Enterprise. The first two symphonies benefit the most from this approach. Arriving at the third, the groundbreaking Eroica, Chailly’s obsession for Beethoven’s metromone markings deprives us of an all too profound view on the revolutionary character of the piece. Bathed in the delights of modern stereo and the for this occasion somewhat too smooth working machine that is the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester – the musical delivery could have cracked more, could have taken a bit more of a breath and could have added more gravity to the lyrical lines - the drifts of Beethoven are to a good extent lost in favour of making good grace.
The 2nd and a voracious 9th (that clocks in at just 62 minutes!) are my (current) favorites of a cycle in which Chailly gives us a historically informed Beethoven with a modern orchestra. A cycle for which a lot can be said but I will not trade the mono-Schuricht for this venture in crisp & clear stereo.