BEETHOVEN: The Symphonies
01 December 2016
Classical CD Review
Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos (1933 - 2014) had German parents who moved to Spain where the young man learned to play the violin well enough to become concertmaster with the local orchestra. His first orchestral association was the Bilboa Symphony, and he soon gained international fame. He was associated with many orchestras, always held in the highest esteem. Fruhbeck de Burgos was popular with record companies and recorded profusely for many labels. Prominent artists enjoyed working with him including Julian Bream, Narciso Yepes, Teresa Berganza, Alicia de Larrocha, Janet Baker and Victoria de los Angeles. Fruhbeck de Burgos recorded with many leading orchestras, and I still remember his dynamic account, one of the earliest recordings, of Orff's Carmina Burana made decades ago and still in the catalog. He specialized in Spanish music, and his Falla recordings are treasured.
In February 2011, he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra; and this new three-disk set offers performances recorded 2011 - 2014. This is a deluxe issue, beautifully packaged with a 96-page book that incoudes many photos. Choice of repertory seems a bit unusual - more than half of the set's playing time is devoted to all nine Beethoven symphonies, repertory usually not associated with this conductor. All are beautifully played, but this is not the high-energy Beethoven we hear from many other conductors. We also have the Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez in which the soloist is Pepe Romero, an artist the conductor has been associated with for many years. I found the Berlioz disappointing - the initial brass passages at the opening of the finale are decidedly understated. However, An Alpine Symphony is given a rousing performance with the first-rate Danish orchestra in virtuoso form. All of these performances are available on YouTube, along with many others including an electrifying account of one of the conductor's specialties Le sacre du printemps. It seems odd this wasn't included in this new set so we could then experience Blu-Ray technology on this music. At any rate, video is exemplary, as is audio, and it is a pleasure to watch this virtuoso orchestra. As of this writing, distribution of this set is not clear. It is worth searching for, even though repertory could be more adventuresome. It is a fine memorial to one of the great conductors of the century.