's Beethoven is lean, lithe, and muscular. Although his Zurich orchestra plays modern instruments, the interpretive style of these performances owes a debt to the "historically informed" approach of conductor/scholars like John Eliot Gardiner
and Roger Norrington
. Zinman adheres closely to Beethoven's controversially fast metronome markings. He can drive the music hard, with exciting results, but he is flexible enough to allow the lyrical melodies to breathe and sing. In the great Adagio of the Ninth Symphony, for instance, the tempo flows rather briskly, but the phrases are gracefully shaped to avoid any sense of rushing -- a problem that seriously afflicts Norrington's reading.
The CD cover announces that this is the "world premiere recording on modern instruments of the new Bärenreiter Edition." This edition corrects a number of errors in these scores, but they are mostly minor adjustments in phrasing and articulation. Those who know these works well will hear a few surprises, however, like the brief oboe cadenza added to the first movement of the Seventh Symphony.
Zinman's interpretations will not displace the great versions by Bernstein, Furtwängler, Karajan, Klemperer, Toscanini, and Szell. But at Arte Nova's attractive budget price, this 5-CD box is a bargain well worth considering; it is an exciting introduction to Beethoven for novices, and an invigorating alternative for serious collectors who want to hear a fresh approach to these warhorses.