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Beethoven Symphonies #4 & 8

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Showing 1-25 of 47 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 24, 2012 9:13:17 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:12:03 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012 9:26:41 AM PST
"Does anybody else think these two symphonies are seriously underrated?"

Yes. And the first and second are even moreso. Although they are clearly early products of Beethoven's creativity, and he went on to bigger and better things, Symphonies 1 and 2 are fine works that hold up well under repeated listening. Symphonies 4 and 8 are later and probably better, but since they don't climb the commanding heights like 3, 5, 7 and 9 they don't receive the respect they deserve.


Posted on Dec 24, 2012 9:32:11 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:12:03 AM PST]

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 9:32:14 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2012 9:33:32 AM PST
Mahlerian says:
The 4th is an amazing symphony. Every movement is filled with wonderful invention and exciting development. It doesn't have the revolutionary fervor of the 3rd, and it lacks the immediate punch and dynamism of the 5th and 7th, which accounts for its relative lack of popularity, but it is thoroughly excellent, and deserves more attention. Rather than compare it negatively to its predecessor and successor, I think we should see it as their equal in every way, albeit with different aspirations.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012 9:50:27 AM PST
KenOC says:
"...with different aspirations."

A great way to look at it (and not only this symphony). BTW I've read an opinion (Rosen?) that the 4th is Beethoven's most "technically" successful symphony, whatever that means. Any thoughts?

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 10:06:42 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2012 10:07:51 AM PST
D. M. Ohara says:
I seem to recall reading somewhere that Beethoven declared the 8th his favourite symphony.
[It was incidentally, the first Beethoven symphony I had on record: I actually bought it for the coupling: Mendelssohn's Italian.]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012 10:15:03 AM PST
KenOC says:
Mr. Memory sez: The 8th was premiered (I think) paired with the 7th shortly after the 7th had its own premier. Beethoven asked about the concert and was told everybody loved the 7th but not the 8th so much. He said, "That's only because it's so much better."

I doubt that even he believed that.

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 10:35:15 AM PST
I have two versions of the 4th symphony on cd, Bruno Walter with the Columbia Sympphony Orchestra, and Osmo Vanska with the Minnesota Orchestra. The 4th is indeed a good symphony, but I don't listen to it that often. The Bruno Walter 4th is paired on cd with his outstanding rendition of the 6th symphony, while the Vanska is paired with the 5th symphony.

For the 8th Symphony, I have versions by Osmo Vanska, and now George Szell, and the Szell 8th is fantastic! I got the budget Sony Szell disc with the 3rd and 8th Symphonies on it, and I am amazed at how good it was. I had previously listened to Szell's renditions of Beethoven's 1,2,5 & 6, but his 3rd and 8th are my new favorites from his series.

I Have not yet heard Szell's Beethoven 4th or 7th, since they are not in print right now, but if Sony ever rereleases them on cd, I intend to get it.

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 10:35:37 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2012 10:42:18 AM PST
Larkenfield says:
I've never had the impression that Schumann was damning the 4th with faint praise. On the contrary, his description merely characterizes it without seeming to diminish its value, though his characterization does suggest something about the symphony's balance, scale and scope. It has been praised by many. Hector Berlioz was so enamored of the symphony's 2nd movement that he claimed it was the work of the Archangel Michael, and not that of a human. Written in 1805-6, Beethoven has been described by others as being in a relatively halcyon period of his life and had completed the "Appassionata" Sonata, the three "Razumovsky" Quartets (Op. 59), the Fourth Piano Concerto, the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies and the Violin Concerto. The beauty and proportion of the 4th is in keeping with the high level of these other great works. So I'd rather not read something into Schumann's remarks that were probably never intended as anything less than full admiration. Sometimes one might simply prefer hanging out with a slender Greek maiden instead of giants for a change. But I would agree that the 4th is sometimes overlooked with the 8th even though, speaking of the 8th, Beethoven himself had a special fondness for it (calling it "my little one") and preferring it to the 7th. Great works all. My favorite performance of the 4th and 8th are by Bruno Walter, who brings out the passion, serenity, and humanity of the 4th and the supreme wit of the 8th.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012 10:53:25 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2012 10:53:47 AM PST
KenOC says:
Lark, agree that Walter seems to have been very sympatico with the even-numbered symphonies in his later years with Columbia. I don't think his 2nd, 4th, or 6th have ever been surpassed. I don't remember having such a special opinion of his 8th, and that's a good excuse to listen to it again!

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 10:58:34 AM PST
HB says:
"I got the budget Sony Szell disc with the 3rd and 8th Symphonies on it, and I am amazed at how good it was"


The Szell 8th, IMO, is one of the greatest Beethoven recordings ever made. Just listen how the trumpets sound so brilliant in the third movement. And of course, the orchestral playing throughout is outstanding. I am not nearly as fond of his Eroica. It is very good but a little sober for my taste. The Bernstein/NY recording was made around the same time as Szell but has much more fire and passion and the playing is on the same level.

As for the 4th, my favorite of all time is Monteux/London Symphony, once available on the RCA Victrola label. I have never seen it on CD. For some strange reason, RCA ignored many of their finest recordings when CDs came out. Now that RCA and Sony have merged, maybe that situation will be fixed. I sure hope so.

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 11:14:13 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:12:03 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012 6:24:28 PM PST
John Ruggeri says:
I love the work and this perfomances does also.

Carlos Kleiber, 1975 (Live) Beethoven, Symphony No. 4 in B Flat Major, Op. 60 --Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Recorded Live, 1975 --München.

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 7:43:39 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2012 7:47:53 PM PST
scarecrow says:
Well Beethoven could not move forward continuously, Who can? (!) So'' Missa Solemnis'' is a step backwards and the Fourth and Eighth Symphonies, I would not go as far as say they are underrated, but Ludwig simply needed a breather prior to mounting the massive Ninth, and I suppose the Fifth. . .

I love the Eighth, it's a lotta of fun, reminds me what Mahler did in his Fourth. . .affirms the classic, the stable, the fixed, that which the mind already knows.. . the comfort. . .It's always good sometimes to put on an old sweater, or an old coat. I have a Cossack-like winter coat that;s very long, and I hate to wear it, I feel I'm too demonstrative wearing it. . .but it feels good. . .like the Fourth or the Eighth Symphonies. . .

Curiously how in the Fourth, he does something unexplainable like the opening the ''dark cloud'' of Bb-minor, which never returns, like an intro. I suppose, but perhaps not. . .

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 8:52:26 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2012 11:00:05 PM PST
K.J. McGilp says:
All of LVB's symphonies are standard repertoire works. I don't view the 4th and 8th as underrated. They are both distinctive works. The 4th has a wonderful grace about it. I feel it's closest cousin is the 7th. The 8th is LVB's tribute to Haydn. It contains high spirits and good humour. It can be played breezily or with great force.
For the 4th, I prefer the Monteux LSO Decca recording. IMHO, it's one of the best. Walter's brilliant 4 is coupled with his even more impressive Pastoral Symphony#6. That is the Sony Bruno Walter Edition.
For the 8th I have always enjoyed Karajan's 1963 recording.
With the 4th and the 8th LVB took a break from his epic style and created two enduring and likable symphonies. They were not grand statements that were meant to shock and awe audiences. They are two finely crafted gems that show a different side to his genius. I don't think they will ever be considered as important as the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th or 9th symphonies. For me, that is O.K. They are essential works. And the first two symphonies are essential as well. All the symphonies are like 9 chapters in a great book. We need every one to make the whole.
Schumann's remark about the 4th, I feel, was meant to be a compliment. It suggests the feminine perhaps. It was his way of saying that Beethoven had mastered grace along with epic strength. This diversity made LVB a more complete composer of the symphony and in turn, all of the genre's he had composed in.

Posted on Dec 25, 2012 6:42:32 AM PST
HB says:
"They were not grand statements that were meant to shock and awe audiences. They are two finely crafted gems that show a different side to his genius."


Excellent summation of the two symphonies.

Posted on Dec 25, 2012 8:12:59 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 25, 2012 3:31:10 PM PST
March--You make a excellent point that the two symphonies are perfectly proportioned. I recall a conversation with a composer years back where he told me that Beethoven had later added a section to the 8th, bringing one of its movements into a perfect golden section relationship to the rest of the work. (I hope that I have this right... it may have been the final movement?) I asked him if he thought Beethoven had done so deliberately, & he said that it was most likely intuitive, that the composer had sensed the movement needed to be longer, and finished it at exactly the golden section ratio. Sorry I can't be any more specific than this. Perhaps someone else will know more about it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 12:02:41 PM PST
Scooter says:
I have Christoph von Dohnányi's version of Beethoven's 4th & 8th with the Cleveland Orchestra on Telarc. I've always liked Telarc's discs, as I think they are engineered superbly. Dohnanyi is a great conductor, but I've only listed to the disc a few times. The two symphonies aren't my favorites. To be fair, my opinion & appreciation of them would grow if I listened to them more often. I've always wanted to own Walter's 6th-I've heard only great things about it! It's funny you mention Szell, because he is another conductor I've wanted to gain a greater appreciation of.

The only Beethoven Sym I haven't listened too is his second, but I think Walter has a Columbia/Sony CD of LvB's Sym #1 and #2 I've always wanted. My favorite of Beethoven's Symphonies that I own are:

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7

Beethoven: Symphonies 5 & 6, Pastorale

Check them out! :D

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 12:12:47 PM PST
KenOC says:
Scooter, by all means get Walter's 6th! Best bet is the downlolad, fabulously cheap, of the entire Walter set. The sound is much better in these Sony remasters than in CD versions of the old Columbia recordings.

Beethoven, Vol. 03 - The 9 Symphonies

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 1:11:40 PM PST
Scooter says:

Thanks for the link! Years ago I was going to get Walter's Columbia versions & never did. I guess I thought they'd be around, but then they were out of print for a while-or unavailable here. I do want to get them. Weren't the Columbia masters remastered by Sony a few years back? Are these recorings the same performances remastered again?? Here's a couple links to the CD's I wanted:

Bruno Walter's Beethoven: Symphony No.3

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 6 "Pastorale"

These are part of the Sony remaster, as you know- at least Sym #4 & #6 in 1995.

Then there is this release: Symphony 5 , from 2003.

Then the remaster from the link you posted from 2011. Are you sure these are Sony remasters. I know they own the catalog, but the label is MuscKazoo, 2011. I'm pretty sure they are remasters of the same performances with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra.

Then there's this boxed set-Sony 1991: Beethoven: The Complete Symphonies

I guess I'm just looking for the best sounding recordings with the Columbia S O. Do you think your mp3 post, of these recordings is equal to the Sony remasters? Or are they Sony, marketed under a budget label? Thanks!!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 1:34:43 PM PST
KenOC says:
Scooter, several people have said that these are the remasters, and they certainly sound like it to me. I have the original Pastoral on CD, and the sound in these downloads is far better. I haven't been able to find documentation of this either on Amazon or on the MusiKazoo site.

Anyway, for nine bucks you can easily judge for yourself with your own ears. Or you can listen free to Amazon's previews. BTW Walter's 2nd and 4th have never been equaled in the opinion of the most discerning listener I know. ;-)

Posted on Jan 19, 2013 1:57:13 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:12:18 AM PST]

Posted on Jan 19, 2013 2:09:53 PM PST
HB says:
I agree that the Bruno Walter Beethoven Pastorale is a great recording but it has some very stiff competition. First of all is the legendary Bohm recording. But there are some rather obscure great Pastorales, too. My personal favorite is Karl Munchinger and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony. The interpretation is equal to Bruno Walter but with much better orchestral playing. The same could be said of Walter Weller and the City of Birmingham Symphony. Back to famous Pastorales, there is the Vienna Philharmonic and Pierre Monteux. Just my opinion, FWIW.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 2:44:42 PM PST

I bet you're right. I think we will see Walter's and Szell's Beethoven. What surprises me is that Naive has let Krivine's Beethoven go out of print. I would like to know their logic. Naive, ironically, seems like one of the stupidest labels in the market. They reissue the hell out of some things and treat other things in their catalog off limits. Oh well, I can probably survive without Krivine's Beethoven, but I did kind of like it.

As far as the original statement goes, I always like the 9th above all other Beethoven symphonies, and I always like the 3rd nearly as much. But, I alternate between the 7th and 4th as my 3rd favorite symphonies. Although I cannot speak as an expert, it seems as if the 4th were perfectly proportioned. I always like Karajan '63 for just about any LvB symphony, but I also like Chailly, Mackerras, Barenboim, and Zinman in the 4th. It is always amazing to hear that 4th movement zipping around corners like a high performance sports car looping around mountain roads.

Posted on Jan 19, 2013 2:47:24 PM PST
Al says:
For 20 years, I thought the 4th was Beethoven's best. It was dangerous for me to drive a car while listening to it. My favorite recording was by Bohm and the Vienna Phil, done in '72. I can't find a link.
I no longer rate it Beethoven's best, but agree it's underrated, as is the eighth. My favorite of the latter was Karajan's from '63.
Then I bought this:
Icon: The Complete EMI Recordings
I now rate Jochum the best interpreter of both those symphonies.
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
Participants:  21
Total posts:  47
Initial post:  Dec 24, 2012
Latest post:  Jan 23, 2013

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