Beethoven: Symphonies 5 & 6 - Karajan
Deutsche Grammophon 474 603-2
Classical - Orchestral
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 6 "Pastoral"
Herbert von Karajan (conductor)
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Review by John Broggio - January 14, 2006
This Beethoven fifth is simply a supreme example of the "old school" in Beethoven. The first movement opens with tremendous power and vigour; the concentration of Beethoven's writing is clearly conveyed in a very intense reading. The Andante con moto has plenty of nobility as it opens but never descends into bombast at any point. The first Allegro opens mysteriously before exhibiting frightening power. The fugal trio is clearly articulated and before we know it the extraordinary transition into the finale is upon us. Sadly, the repeat from the finale is missing because it is truly amazing playing and Karajan really lets the Berliners play for all their worth - there is no sense of anyone holding back here. It even stands up very well against the best that today's discs offer.
The Pastoral symphony is a very different piece altogether, and the tempo that Karajan adopts for the opening movement is certainly on the quick side, especially when it was recorded in the early 1960's. Despite this, the playing is unmannered and highly enjoyable - it captures a joyful but hard-at-work countryside rather than the peaceful, leisurely place that is often portrayed in recordings from this era. The Brook babbles away at a reasonable pace, neither too slow nor too quick. The Merry Gathering certainly has a great many high spirits after a gentle opening which makes the sudden drop into the opening of the Storm very surprising. The Storm "does exactly what it says on the tin" and one can really feel the rumbles (near and far) of thunder with the Berliners playing with an almost terrifying ferocity. The passing of the Storm quickly leads to a beautifully relaxed Shepherd's Song which causes one to appreciate the tempo of the opening movement and just smile with pleasure.
The sound, as in other parts of the cycle, is a bit dated but seems to have less of an impact on the musical qualities than before - the slight harshness is certainly appropriate in the more dramatic parts of both works but the more delicate sides do suffer a little which is a shame. One other mildly disappointing aspect to this otherwise very fine release is the poor notes from Richard Osborne that concentrate too much on the interpreter not the composer. Nevertheless, a very good pairing of classic works in classic performances which do not have to give anything to today's newcomers.
Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net