Eroica Evolution
18 Feb 2012
Inside the Classics

A tip of the hat to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Maiya Papach for bringing this amazing compilation to my attention:

I mean, that is actually kind of amazing, right? Just two repetitions of a single chord, played about 30 different ways. The first thing that jumped out at me, personally, was how many of these versions are badly out of tune by today’s professional standards. I’m not talking about the fact that there is some serious variation in the tuning of the various orchestras, which is only to be expected, especially with the period ensembles. I mean the way that so many of the versions have a lingering unpleasant vibration after the chord is struck, which tells you that not everyone was locked into the same pitch center. Just seems a little weird, given that (I believe) these were all taken from studio recordings.

It was also interesting to note that, despite Osmo’s reputation as a conductor who likes fast tempos, our Eroica recording isn’t even close to the fastest one in the mix. (That honor probably goes to Rene Leibowitz and the Royal Philharmonic, at 1:11.) And Roger Norrington (1:52), I’m sorry, but Beethoven does not sound better senza vibrato, no matter how many times you insist on it.

My favorite of the lot might be the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (2:09), just for the extra timpani punch and the way it bolsters the power of the strings. What’s yours?

<February 2020>

Become a Fan

Become a fan of Sarah Hicks to hear about new music, videos, event info & special offers.