The 25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: Symphony No. 1

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Every day this month, except for Sundays and Thanksgiving, we'll unveil a new installment on an ongoing survey of the 25 essential Beethoven recordings. We invite you to discuss our choices and share your own favorites recordings in the comments box below.

We begin with one of Beethoven's most unsung symphonies, the Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 25, a quintessentially Classical piece premiered when the composer was 29 years old.

Conductor Herbert Blomstedt recorded Beethoven's symphonies when he was the music director of the Dresden Staatskapelle in the late 1970s and early 80s. It is impossible to listen to this East German orchestra without a keen sense of its distinguished history, one that goes back to 1584, and includes having such resident conductors as Weber and Wagner.

Blomstedt's interpretative approach is clear and precise. The strings have a transparent sheen and the winds play with a notable intensity. This recording was made in Dresden's Lucaskirche and the church's acoustics provide a halo around the ensemble but never give way to muddiness. The album has been reissued in a pairing with the Third Symphony, on Berlin Classics.

Symphonies No. 1 and 3
Dresden Staatskapelle
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor
Berlin Classics

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Comments [2]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

The First Symphony was not the best but it WAS a start to the HISTORICAL NINE !!! The Pastoral Symphony is one of the most delightful, bumptious, lively nature-descriptive works in all music. Beethoven's symphonies, opera, concertos, sonatas, string quartets, overtures, tone poems, chamber music generally, bagatelles, and song literature, is so pervasive and his world consciousness and basic humanity construct an icon unparalleled to and past his own era. At Juilliard, I studied his oeuvre and , in those days, all singers learned the concert rep of Beethoven , Schubert , Schumann, Wolf and Grieg, whether they would be opera singers or concert singers . So much of our treasured masterpieces, vocal and instrumental, are unknown quantities to most Americans. THANK YOU WQXR FOR CELEBRATING BEETHOVEN !!! Beethoven's symphonies are the ABCs of most essential single composers' oeuvre of the symphonic literature. Who ever having heard the Waldstein well performed can ever forget its beauty and nuanced scope of emotions. Wagner and his contemporaries and their successors all recognized the epic achievement of Beethoven. I am a romantischer Wagnerian heldentenor and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute at 418A Main Street, Boonton, NJ . I have sung four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I sang the Gott ! welch dunkel hier ! aria of Fidelio. it can be heard from the live performance on my three websites, one of which is It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. Rudolf Serkin and his son, Peter are among those other great interpreters of Beethoven's piano concertos and sonatas, Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Walter Gieseking, ignace Paderevski and Simon Barere, remarkable for their virtuosity, and immense ability to interpret from their own perspective. The Beethoven violin concerto is celebrated by its ardent interpreters Heifetz, Menuhin, Kreisler, Francescatti, Sarasate Paganini and Perlman.

Nov. 30 2012 10:12 AM
Andrew from Lower Merion, PA

While the First Symphony might be a "quintessentially Classical piece" to our ears today, it was anything but conventional for its time. It's opening with dissonant wind chords and pizzicato strings (adopting the slow introduction that had only been sparingly used in a few late Mozart and Haydn symphonies), its angular and thundering minuet which is really a scherzo, and ad-lib finale introduction were groundbreaking, if not sacrilege, in the eyes of the concert-going public and critics of that era. Aside from that, I guess it is "quintessentially Classical."

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My guess is that Beethoven would not have appreciated the diminution of his creative innovations.

Despite that I am a fan of Blomstedt and the Staatskapell Dresden, the blooming sonics of the recording venue are a strike against this cycle. On modern instruments, go for cycles by Zinman, Chailly, Harnoncourt, Vanska, von Karajan.

Nov. 06 2012 05:32 PM

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About Beethoven Awareness Month

No composer impacted the course of Western music like Ludwig van Beethoven. The events of his life are the stuff of Romantic legend, his works permeate concert halls and he remains a cultural icon outside of classical music, turning up in movies, TV soundtracks, commercials and pop songs. Throughout November, WQXR celebrates Beethoven's work through concert broadcasts, multimedia projects, marathons and other features.