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The best recording of the fifth and seventh symphonies. Aside from the excellent sound this recording exemplifies Kleiber’s unerring instinct for these works. Kleiber isn’t bothered by lack of original instruments and rightly so. Perhaps Kleiber’s most astonishing performance is of Beethoven’s sixth, which I discuss below. Despite lacking superlative sound, it is very good.
Kleiber’s sixth Orfeo:
An astonishing achievement by the sound engineers. A live recording by Kleiber of Beethoven pastorale symphony. The original tapes had degraded so they used a cassette tape recorded for Kleiber’s son. Yet the sound quality is remarkable and at least as good as Karajan 1963. I actually prefer this recording of the 6th to Karajan’s 1963 (which is already excellent). The Storm has to be heard to be believed, and Kleiber’s account has an excitement that eludes even Karajan and Bernstein.
So buy without the slightest hesitation. A worthy accompaniment to Kleiber’s recording of the fifth and seventh. Among the very best and at least as good as Bernstein’s recording.
No question but that for me Carlos Kleiber was the best conductor of Beethoven - ever - as his father before him. I'm not a musician so I cannot explain in musical terminology what his magic was except that it is never sloppy or fuzzy. He produces much light, shade, drama, beautiful shaping, and crispness when required - magical. He didn't record enough for me (and my original LP is now worn - thus my need for this excellent CD replacement) but understand that he wanted lots of rehearsal time, and that costs money! He also conducted a live performance of La Boheme at Covent Garden and although an opera I knew backwards, it was as if I was hearing something familiar for the first time. I came out of the theatre in a 'dream'! Anyone with a CD of this?
The late great Carlos Kleiber could see into Beethoven's mind in a way that no other conductor has been able to do. From the first bars, his interpretation showed a completely new understanding. But the real question must be why Carlos could see into this music in a way that not even his late dad Erich was able to do. Personally, I suspect that Kleiber fils started where Erich left off. But why were our totemic leaders (like Karajan, Böhm, Furtwängler, Haitink, Jochum, Maazel and Wand) not able to penetrate what we all thought was a fairly simple score? Another similar barrier might help answer this question. Look at Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and we find a similar story. The only conductor to get under the skin of this work was a non-typically Beethoven conductor, Nikolaus Harnoncourt who miraculously achieved the deep insight that was missing. (But sadly he died just afterwards). The truth probably is that the scores of the great works never really reveal what the composer was after. No wonder then that conductors who think that their job is to interpret the score miss the possibility of playing what the composer intended, not what he wrote. What would Carlos have gone on to achieve had he not died young (that is young for a conductor, who tend to live long lives)?
Reading the myriad reviews of this famous disc is similar to attending a nutters' convention: all opinions may be encountered, some so eccentric as to be worth it purely as entertainment, but very few of any real worth or insight.
One thing I did pick up from a dissenting voice is the acute and accurate observation that Kleiber and his sound engineers "cheat" during the transition from the Scherzo to the finale in the Fifth: the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth movement come from different takes and sound-worlds and as such represent a bit of jiggery-pokery whereby the impact of the crashing chords is artificially manufactured. Listen carefully and you'll hear it - but it works very well as a recording, even if it couldn't be done live.
Otherwise, these are terrific performances, an amalgam of recordings from 1974 and 1976 which has stood the test of time. The Santa Fe listener reports that even in blind listenings, his auditors all agreed that Kleiber had created something special in both accounts. Some reviewers have complained that the second movement of the Seventh is too brisk but to me it's all of a piece with a thrilling piece of symphonic theatre, energised and compelling in its approach. It is true that there are comparably fine versions from Szell, Reiner, Bernstein and Karajan which are not very different from these and all part of a grand tradition of rendering unto Beethoven both the grandeur and the almost manic propulsiveness the music demands, but the point is that this pairing will prove deeply satisfying to the vast majority of lovers of Beethoven's symphonies.
I hadn't revisited them for some time before today, this 25th December, when after a splendid lunch I settled myself in an IKEA Poang easy-chair in my conservatory with a cigar and a glass or two of Sancerre and listened contentedly while contemplating our twinkling Christmas tree, tastefully decorated in red and gold. I grant you that such circumstances and environment predisposed me to be highly receptive to genius of Carlos Kleiber and the Vienna Philharmonic but nothing I heard could do other than enhance my blissful state of mind.
Under Kleiber's magisterial baton, the horns are virtuosic, just bordering on hysteria in their attack, the strings whirl like incandescent dervishes and the woodwind caress the ear like Ulysses' Sirens - yes, dear reader, I rather enjoyed it.
Normally a symphony on CD will be accompanied by a few minor works to fill up the disc. Not so here. You get two symphonies on one disc - and both are famous. The 2nd movement in the 7th symphony is used quite a bit in film (most recently in The King's Speech), and the 5th's first 4 notes are probably the most famous in all of music. Reproduced very well here and recommended.
Certainly one of the top interpretations of these Beethoven symphonies ! Unfortunately Carlos Kleiber did not leave us as many recordings as many other contemporary directors but each one of them is a real achievement not to say a monument. This one is no exception and should be part of any true music connoisseur's collection.
Unlike I suspect many people I bought this to get a good copy of the Seventh, not the Fifth. However, this rapidly became my usual listening copy of the Fifth as well.
Technically the CD is of excellent quality, limited of course by the age of the recording. There are some little noises and scratchs, the "studio cat" chasing mice under the sound floor. These don't detract though, there is very little hiss, the music is clear and easy to listen to.
In terms of artistic merit though, Kleiber extracts the very best and then just gives more. Interpretation of any music is always subjective - is my 1930's mono copy of Toscanini better than a 1970's stereo rendition of the same work by Kleiber, or a modern one by Rattle? Different times, different eras - the best I can say is that this is what I reach for when I want either the fifth or seventh, and I have never regretted doing so. Kleiber brings life and vivacity to the music. In particular the third movement of the seventh (once uncharitable described as being like a lot of jumping yaks!) has taken on new life beyond my previous recollections on both vinyl and watching live. I doubt that many people will be disappointed with this CD. Technically I would only rate it as four stars if a modern recording, but considering it's age I would overlook that - one must work with what masters you have and hence give it five.
Carlos Kleiber - my discovery of 2019. Well i had his recordings and loved them but just did not register them being by him. Tremendous conductor and quite the best of Ludwig van Beethoven. So wonderful.
Until now I would have said that the best recordings of these symphonies I knew of were those made by Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic in the 1960s. I really didn't expect to have to review that opinion. These recordings, however, are truly stunning. There's really not much more I can say; rarely have I been so excited and uplifted by a classical recording, especially of pieces I know well and have loved in another version for many years. The hairs are still standing up on the back of my neck. Wonderful!
There is little that can be said about this legendary recording that has not been said by other reviewers. No matter how many versions of the Beethoven symphonies you already have, this album needs to be in your collection.The performances of the two monumental works are simply incandescent.
And if, by any chance, you have always thought classical music is boring and therefore to be avoided, give this a try and be astounded.