When BBC Radio 3 runs the whole of Wagner’s Ring on Easter Monday, Rhine Maidens to immolation, there will be free downloads once again – only this time with a difference. Unlike last summer’s Beethoven splashout, when all nine symphonies were reeled out over a fortnight and 1.4 million downloads were taken worldwide, the Wagner goodies are being strictly limited.Interesting article today from Norman Lebrecht on Scena.org from which the quote above is taken. But is his statement "no label had issued a Beethoven symphonic cycle in three years, and none was likely to do so again", on which his argument hinges, actually correct?
What is being aired is the 1993 Bayreuth cycle conducted by Daniel Barenboim, this year’s Reith lecturer, and the BBC owns no further rights in the production. However, a freebie finger on www.bbc.co.uk/radio3 will point listeners to www.warnerclassics.com where they can help themselves to one track from each of the four operas, amounting in total to a Wagner happy half-hour.
Warner are using the gift as a gateway to what it hopes will be a rush of web sales while the BBC is mending fences with the music industry which howled blue murder over Beethoven and acted as if Radio 3 was destroying its business when, in fact, no label had issued a symphonic cycle in three years, and none was likely to do so again.
What about Osmo Vänskä's cycle with the Minnesota Orchestra? They have released an all-Beethoven CD featuring the Fourth and Fifth symphonies. Recorded at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in April 2004 using Super Audio CD technology, the disc is the first album in a five-year, five-disc cycle designed to record the complete Beethoven symphonies. Recorded on the Swedish-based BIS label, an audiophile label known for its high quality, the Minnesota Orchestra Beethoven collection will be one of the first complete cycles of Beethoven’s symphonies recorded in Surround Sound - for confirmation follow this link.
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