Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ricardo Muti – Beethoven – Symphony No. 7

Nine symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven belong to the group of highest accomplishments in the history of European musical culture. Therefore every one composition from this collection is played constantly anywhere in the world. The symphonies are not the cycle. Every one has it’s own idea and unique character, sometimes it is obvious, sometimes enigmatic and all are bonded by person of great composer. Consequently it is hard to point the best interpretation. After hundreds and thousands of performances, Beethoven’s symphonies are still a real challenge for artists. One of great conductors who recorded unforgettable Beethoven’s renditions is Ricardo Muti. He recorded complete cycle with Philadelphia Orchestra which he was leading for twelve years 1980-1992. Among many later recordings, early recording from 1979 deserved the special place it occupies on the record shelf. This is debut recording with the orchestra, has great idea of the work and incomparable sound. It was published under Angel and EMI labels.
During the 1970s when Muti was principal guest conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra, naturally he was also the Philly’s featuring artist, both on concert events and recordings. This position is commonly treated as a kind of qualifying period and after Eugene Ormandy in 1980 officially retired, Muti succeeded him as Musical Director for next 12 years. Ricardo Muti is great conductor in the style of old masters of the baton. He understands the weight of artistic responsibility when working with full symphonic and performing big works for thousands of listeners. His career can be seen as he is the same kind of personality as Arturo Toscanini. He is not finishing his job until piece of art is completed and self-referenced.

Ricardo Muti – Beethoven – Symphony No. 7 (1979)

One can have totally different idea of interpreting some opus, but when listening to his interpretation it is hard to avoid the impression this is the only well-founded attitude towards the work. Seventh Symphony is rhythmically strong, swinging and emotionally pronounced work. While many conductors try to calm down natural expression of this work, in his 1979 recording Ricardo Muti gives perfect example of interpretation following composers ideas. And this is not the same interpretation as included in recorded in forthcoming years the nine symphonies complete. Sound is much more natural and still every nuance is greatly audible.
The recording session took place in historic place called the Met Church, former place of the Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia. Opened in 1908 opera house seated 4200 patrons every one of whom had perfect sight to the stage and was biggest concert hall in the world. In first 3 dacedes it was opera house, later it was used as a hall for various entertainment undertakings, cinema and sport venues,  as ballroom and since May, 1954, it was used as a church.
Today building located at 858 North Broad Street, the major arterial street of the Pennsylvania capital, is used by Holy Ghost Headquarters Revival Center at the Met, consecutive religious institution which tries to raise founds for renovation of the historic building. The legendary hall has near-perfect acoustic conditions. In 1978 and 1979 EMI used The Met Church for recording with The Philadelphia Orchestra marking records as „The new Philadelphia Sound”. In 1979 orchestra started recording using digital technology and this changed the approach to acoustic matters. Change doesn’t mean made obsolete. Listening 32 years after recording The Philadelphia Orchestra sounds astonishingly modern and alive. The sound space effects are more natural than from any studio processing. And maybe this is why vinyl records have still their power of making listeners happy.

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