BEETHOVEN Prometheus/Armonia Atenea,George Petrou 4786755

Petrou's Athenians launch into the overture with a bang, and play the rest of this alluring music with zest and zing.

George Petrou has full measure of the music's dramatic qualities . . ., which can be sinewy (No 2) or gently bucolic (No 10). The refined shaping, firm attack and piquant timbres underline the strength and suppleness of Beethoven's inspiration.

. . . an unusually exciting reading of a work usually regarded as second-class Beethoven. With clear sound from Athens' Dimitris Mitropoulos Hall, this is a recommended fresh addition to the Beethoven literature.

A fierce energy leaps out of the opening chords of Beethoven's only ballet score -- it's an immensely exciting start to a recording that has you on the edge of your seat. Primary colours abound in the orchestral texture, and the faster section of the overture keeps the music on a tight rein, with rhythms and phrasing precise and alert . . . The grainy sound of the period instruments gives a lightness and transparency to the textures, and George Petrou keeps the music moving so that you can easily imaginge it being danced. That's a hallmark of the whole ballet: playing that's subtle and individual -- chamber music on a large scale -- and a high level of listening inform the performance. Capture all that in a recording that gives space to the sound, but not too much clouding resonance, and you have a winner.

. . . [it's particularly good to hear "The Creatures of Prometheus"] on old instruments, and their characteristic colours emerge clearly on this expert and enthusiastic performance . . . the conductor George Petrou has a properly dramatic view of this work . . . In movements such as No. 5 -- the long "Adagio-Andante" including extended harp and cello solos -- the transparency and timbre of the period instruments is both illuminating and delightful. The same can be said for No. 14, a movement that includes a long solo for basset horn, beautifully played here by Eric Hoeprich . . . Petrou has a fine flair for bringing out the rhythmic energy in Beethoven's inner parts and these, too, emerge with greater clarity thanks to the clear orchestral textures . . . I've greatly enjoyed this disc on repeated hearings and would strongly urge Beethoven collectors to give it a try.

Drama hangs in the air when George Petrou treats the rests between the two opening fortissimo chords as silences to hold the tension. Horns in C playing at written pitch and glowing with the brazen warmth of period instruments underpin oboes and bassoons in the lyrical theme of this introductory Adagio, the main part of the movement a bitingly dynamic Allegro molto e con brio . . . Pictorial representation of lightning and drenching rain in "La tempesta" or the charged energy of the Bacchanialian No 8, its D minor episode a crazy orgiastic frenzy, attest to their passionate commitment . . . Petrou, though anything but prosaic, suggests that he is keen to move the music on . . . But perhaps this is to carp in the face of so much that varies from excellent to outstanding, from a group bristling with enthusiasm.

. . . [Petrou] reizt das dramatische Potenzial der Musik aus, gibt den musikalischen Ereignissen eine bemerkenswerte gestische Qualität. Energie setzt Petrou in hohem Maße frei, indem er Gegensätze schonungslos aufeinanderprallen lässt . . . Petrou belässt es nicht bei prometheischem Funkenschlagen: In der hinreißenden Nummer 5 etwa beherrschen Grazie und ätherische Leichtigkeit die Szene, bezaubern seine Musiker, namentlich die Holzbläser, mit vielen schön gespielten Soli. Nicht nur hier präsentiert sich Armonia Atenea als vortreffliches Originalklang-Ensemble, das den Vergleich mit den etablierten Vereinigungen aus dem nördlicheren Europa nicht scheuen muss.

Eine Version, die man getrost entflammt und feurig nennen kann. Denn das griechische Ensemble Armonia Atenea unter Echo-Preisträger Petrou entdeckt in dem Werk enorm viel Kraft, Schwung und Farbenreichtum. Neben dem spürbaren revolutionären Elan glänzt die Aufnahme auch durch exquisite kammermusikalische Finesse: beseelt im 14. Satz das Bassetthorn, herrlich glitzernd im fünften die Harfe.

So hart und rau hat man die Akkorde, mit denen die Ouvertüre anhebt, noch nie gehört. So innig und zart die folgende Phrase auch nicht. Schon dieser Beginn gibt die Richtung vor, in der sich diese exemplarische Aufnahme von Beethovens Ballett "Prometheus" bewegt. Das griechische Originalklangensemble Armonia Atenea und sein inspirierter Leiter George Petrou schüren die Dramatik dieser Musik, die unter ihrem feurigen Zugriff geradezu brennt.