Wow! Just finished listening to all four movements. If you'd asked me what I wanted in a Beethoven's 7th, I don't think "raucous" and "rollicking" would have made the list--especially not for movement 2. But like all great interpreters, Brüggen is utterly convincing. I don't think I could listen to C. Kleiber (another favorite for this symphony) right now. He would just sound wrong. I don't mean to say Brüggen has spoiled me for other interpretations. Kleiber will sound right again tomorrow--a different sort of right. For now, I just want to bask.
This was joyous music-making. Every instrument was so clear, so perfectly balanced, and so obviously played by a performer committed to a shared vision. I've never heard a 7th with a stronger PULSE. Or if I have, it was probably too much and sounded forced. Here, Beethoven's forward-driving rhythms take center stage (or share it, perhaps) in a way that catches you up into the music. You can't help coming along for the ride.
I think that's why this performance succeeded for me in one way that others mostly don't. The symphony has never quite struck me as a WHOLE before. My youthful indolence and mercurial temperament from 30+ years ago probably exacerbated the problem. I was often too lazy to get up and flip the record over! And when I did get up, my mood had changed, so I put something else on. As a result, I became intimate with every nook and cranny of the first two movements. With the last two, I had a passing acquaintance. I didn't love them nearly as much. Perhaps I played them less because I loved them less. Perhaps vice versa. All I know is, they never quite seemed to flow out of the first two in that natural, inevitable way. They were always good music but also, if I was honest, a bit of a letdown.
Until today. Brüggen made me feel the pulse of the first two movements. He never let me forget it was there. Suddenly, the more obvious pulse of the final two sounded right and appropriate and necessary. The whole thing came together. Now that I've heard it, hopefully I won't be able to UNhear it. It will still be there for me when another conductor presents the case more subtly. Thanks, Frans. And bravo.