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Symphonies nos. 1 & 5 (Complete symphonies vol.2)

Ludwig van Beethoven

Jan Willem de Vriend
The Netherlands Symphony Orchestra

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According to the conductor Jan Willem de Vriend, in the Fifth Symphony you can hear the repressiveness and authoritarianism of the period of the Metternich government (with the reactionary Klemens von Metternich) in Vienna. It rings out in the motif of the first movement, and the entire symphony seems like a process of breaking free from it. However, every limitation can in itself present a kind of “freedom,” as certainly was the case with Beethoven’s deafness: not being able to hear the world around you creates the freedom to be able to hear yourself and use that experience to compose. The end of the Fifth has enormous riches of sound, with the piccolo as highest instrument and the contrabassoon with the trombones as lowest. It is like a triumphant march celebrating victory and sounds like liberation: it is irrepressible, you can feel it, the triumph. So it was in Beethoven’s life, not only personally, owing to his physical limitations, but also socially: how the Viennese were oppressed by the Metternich government, an unimaginable disappointment after the French Revolution. What had happened to freedom, equality and fraternity?

De Vriend has and continues to intensively study Beethoven – the man, his music, his time, teachers and predecessors – in order to gain the most complete image possible to serve as a framework for comprehending the symphonies. It is a never-ending study through which he keeps developing further insights, making each of his recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies valuable. Recordings, after all, convey not just the artistry of the composer, but of the conductor and his orchestra as well. (fragment of the linernotes by Valentine Laoût- van Leeuwenstein)

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