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“Brimful of intrepid character and interpretative incident, this is surely one of the most stimulating Beethoven symphony cycles of recent times. As Harnoncourt himself states in the booklet: 'It has always been my conviction that music is not there to soothe people's nerves…but rather to open their eyes, to give them a good shaking, even to frighten them.' So it transpires that there's a re-creative daring about Harnoncourt's conducting – in essence an embracement of recent scholarly developments and his own pungent sense of characterisation – which is consistently illuminating, thus leaving the listener with the uncanny sensation that he or she is encountering this great music for the first time. In all this Harnoncourt is backed to the hilt by some superbly responsive, miraculously assured playing from the COE: their personable, unforced assimilation of his specific demands, allied to his intimate knowledge of the inner workings of these scores, make for wonderfully fresh, punchy results. In this respect Nos 6-8 in particular prove immensely rewarding, but the Eroica and the Fourth, too, are little short of superb. This is a cycle which excitingly reaffirms the lifeenhancing mastery of Beethoven's vision for many years to come.”
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