was browsing in my local HMV store in Oxford when I heard familiar
strains of Beethoven’s Fifth. I was struck immediately by the
vitality of this rendition. Enquiring about the conductor I
was amazed by his youth and the fact that DG had signed up an
unknown to conduct two warhorses. I walked out of the store
with the CD and must say how pleased I have been to have had
the opportunity to hear this wonderful recording. Agreed, the
world may not need another coupling of Beethoven 5 and
7 but when it’s this good I’ll make an exception.
Fifth’s first movement shows evidence of influence from the
“Authentic” school whilst retaining the robustness of the established
view. There is a complete freshness apparent and the slow movement
quite bowled me over. This is complemented by marvellous wind
playing and the strings are brilliant too. There’s no turgidity
but appropriate pathos and style is interwoven. The recording
is also very fine.
symphonies are music of youth and appropriately in the third
movement there is great excitement and not a hint of routine.
The large orchestra certainly makes a huge impact. The transition
into the finale is tremendous and as it develops the compulsive
energy of this masterpiece shines through. I haven’t enjoyed
a Fifth so much since Tennstedt’s masterful performance at the
Proms in 1990; both the original broadcast on my son’s third
birthday and the recording (see review).
A few weeks ago
friends of ours joined us for a few drinks and we ended up playing
about ten versions of the first movement of Beethoven’s Seventh.
Sadly we didn’t have time for the other ten! Going from Toscanini’s
wonderful New York Philharmonic of 1936 (RCA) to Rattle and
the BPO (EMI) the winner was Carlos Kleiber on DG, similarly
coupled as this disc; followed by Furtwängler (M&A)!
Dudamel’s is a splendid
recording and I look forward to playing it often; it has such
a “live” feel. I think I know the different versions of this
piece more than any other symphony; even my beloved “Pastoral”
and I was much struck by the vitality again and the vibrancy
even if ultimately it is founding wanting in the depth I crave;
but this may well change after repeated hearings. If we were
to place this recording I’d put it just below Kleiber, Toscanini
and Furtwängler but what an accolade for a young conductor and
his marvellous orchestra. There is tremendous forward thrust
in the first movement, suitable reflective playing in the slow
movement and the wonderful third gets a great treatment. The
famous “dancing yaks” (Beecham’s famous quote on the finale!)
are clearly going to enjoy this version! There’s no feeling
for safety-first at any time.
So despite not quite
being the finished article - and it shouldn’t be - this is a
tremendous achievement and especially in the circumstances of
its recording. I can’t wait for his next recording.
Jaded with Beethoven?
This will clear away the cobwebs!
David R Dunsmore
see also Review
by Göran Forsling