Pleading the 5TH

Although I am not a huge classical fan, I do enjoy when a conductor rides the fine line of interpretation with interesting detail and nuances while maintaining a level of respect that would still make the original composer smile. This, to me, is a very enjoyable rendition of an almost over played classic.

A well-known performance with the Berlin Philharmonic (notice the rotary valve trumpets) in Rome, 2001, just after Abbado’s bout with stomach cancer (which is why he is thin).

A fine performance well-known performance.

What do you find striking about it? Why do you think it “rides the fine line of interpretation?”

Not sure really.

I first heard a cycle of his B"tvn works at the home of a friend in Como. Their house is very close to Villa D’este and with the same view over the lake. He was showing off his new 50K turntable and Abbado on vinyl. He saw my sour face when the 5th began and went looking for some alternatives. I soon changed my mind and listened intently. Somehow it just sounded different than what I had heard before. Perhaps tone might be part of it . more like his intended tone rather than A’file tone. I read somewhere that it was described as water colored vs oil painted and I thought that was a good example. It is fresh rather than dark. There is quickness but it is relaxed quickness giving me the impression they were not rushing through it and giving more importance to the intent of the detail and not just the scripted detail.

I always thought I would pick it up on SACD but then decided to wait for DSD. If I remember correctly, my friend’s vinyl was NOT a DG so I was hoping to find a recording quality that matches that of the performance. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Abbado recorded two Beethoven cycles. The YouTube version is the later, second cycle. It was originally available only on DVD, but later released as audio only as well. The second cycle is considered the better of the two, and the first was withdrawn from Deutsche Grammophon’s catalog upon the second’s release.

As DG has recorded the Berlin Philharmonic for over 100 years, I am certain what you heard was a DG recording.

Abbado’s interpretation is pretty much on the middle between the muscular, taut versions (such as the Karajan 1963 cycle, considered by many to be the best, period) and the somewhat acerbic historically informed performances on period instruments. Abbado used a lighter orchestra (no doubling of woodwinds and smaller string sections), a bit quicker tempi than many, and paid particular attention to articulations, especially accents.

You may have reacted to the Berlin Philharmonic’s sound. It is particularly rich and refined, perfectionistic and precise, with a uniquely beautiful sound - especially in legato. Karajan is responsible for this. He also demanded excellent recorded sound. Abbado was Karajan’s successor. He kept the rich expressive sound, but added greater transparency and openness, with less mass. This allows for greater clarity of counter-melodies, as well as potentially more complex timbres depending on the composer’s instrumentation.

It is fun that a particular interpretation garnered your attention. The differences between interpretations is one of the delights of classical music.

“The differences between interpretations is one of the delights of classical music.”

I think it pretty much applies to everything. “Interpretation” being ultimately subjective. Certainly I appreciate ability, “playmanship” in any art form or even general conversation. I love seeing a personalization of a piece. We are always filtering or interpreting based on our own views. When an original composition is covered with “freshness” and, as Simon Cowell says “ownership”, and all while respecting the original intent of the composer, I often prefer the innovated version. I think respect is a key word here and I’m pretty sure most of the “long hairs” are smiling down at such performances and elated that their works are still inspiring newness in the genre.

gordon said "The differences between interpretations is one of the delights of classical music."

I think it pretty much applies to everything.

Certainly, to a degree.

But with classical music it is much more subtle and vastly more demanding. With rare exception, the notes are defined, the instrumentation set out, basic stylistic parameters fixed (one does not perform Beethoven like Stravinsky like or like Byrd).

To express within these strict parameters takes great sensitivity, creativity, skill - in both the performer and the listener.

I suspect this is one of the reasons classical is difficult/uninteresting for many. Certainly there is a great deal to enjoy at first exposure, and there are big emotions to experience such as presented by the typical movie score. But the depth of expression takes experience and understanding to appreciate.

I understand what your are saying. When I look at art, watch a movie, or virtually any performance, it is often a stand out performer[s] or twist in plot, choreography, score or tone that differentiates the superb from the ordinary.

The ability to achieve any of that while remaining true to the source takes work and talent.

Jazz is another example where the intro and closing bars tend to announce the tune but somewhere “improvisation” takes over and an individual or group can take ownership "temporarily.

The French have been rather prolific at “electrocuting” some of the classics with synth and remixes. Some is actually enjoyable but nevertheless I salute them all for trying. There really is not much newness out there so I think a bit of reinvention is healthy for all the arts.

The earliest of such things I recall is The Walter Murphy Band’s 1977 disco realization, A Fifth of Beethoven.

Borrowing another composer’s theme and reworking it, theme and variations, etc. all goes back to at least the 13th century.

My description of individual interpretation of a given classical work, such as a Haydn symphony, is the completely opposite end of the spectrum; the subtle, rather than the big and obvious.

Both are completely fair game however - and well-established as part of musical tradition.