Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 2012
Conductor Gustavo Dudamel recorded Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphonies in 2006, with what was then the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. That recording made a sensation and it was therefore inevitable that, six years later, the same conductor and the same orchestra (now Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra) recorded another one of Beethoven’s symphonies: the Symphony No. 3, also known as “Eroica”.
The recording of Beethoven’s Third Symphony can be considered an even greater achievement than the previous recordings. In Dudamel’s rendition, the music flows unconditionally and powerfully, without encountering any resistance. The adjective “eroica” comes to the listener’s mind several times throughout the listening and seems more appropriate than ever to Beethoven’s masterpiece.
Dudamel’s conduction is brisk and energetic, ideal to describe minutely the epic journey of this music.
Gustavo Dudamel and Beethoven’s Eroica
The two elements that make this recording a successful one are the uncontainable dynamism of the conduction, the second the admirable playing of the orchestra.
For what concerns the first, Dudamel conducts the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra with consummate skill. He has a flair for Beethoven and you feel it at every moment. Although this is not a live recording, his élan and confidence are such that this seems a concert performance.
Anyway, it seems that Dudamel has tried to infuse in Beethoven’s symphony all the energy he could find. His attempt is actually a successful one. This energetic character belongs to each of the four movements of the symphony. It has different gradations and intentions, but it is so well present that it can be considered as a unifying spirit.
The fast movements are those where – predictably – energy is more evident. The first and the last movements share the same strength, though it is the latter that is more gloriously shaped (I am thinking about the final climax in particular).
However, the Marcia funebre is no less “heroic” that the other movements. Actually, its music has a kind of vigour that is more significant than ever. Even in the gloomiest passages, there is never resignation, but rather impatient anticipation. For its effectiveness and significance, this is perhaps the most impressive passage of the entire recording.
The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, for its part, is really high-spirited and full of joie de vivre. Its playing is smooth and the colours blend superbly, though retaining their own distinguishing character. There are always shades of lights in its playing, but one of the best moments is in the fourth movement, when strings and woodwinds play together with an amazing effect.
As for the two overtures, The Creature of Prometheus and Egmont, they are equally fine than the symphony. Prometheus is a lively, even flamboyant explosion of sound which is worth listening to for its vibrancy. Egmont, for its part, reminds more closely of the symphony because of its overwhelming exuberance.
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that this is a gem of a recording from any point of view.