Major documents from Rudolf Kempe's later years at the head of the Munich Philharmonic. Beethoven's Fifth, that masterpiece of emotional tension, and his Sixth, all vivid depiction of nature, are both readings of maturity and perfection.
The Beethoven symphonies: all nine of them stunning masterworks, all nine performed countless times. Be that as it may, there are conductors who can re-contextualize these symphonies in such a way that they sound completely new, as Ivan Fischer proved in 2013 and 2014 in his Beethoven Series with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, spread out over two seasons. This is a veritable journey of discovery through a familiar landscape.
Mikhail Pletnev is a brilliant musician, an amazing pianist and an idiosyncratic conductor, and he has made a glorious mess of the Beethoven symphonies. The seesawing of tempos in this compelling, driving and sometimes shocking set induce now motion sickness, now awe . . . it demands to be heard.
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times / 30. November 2007
In February 2001 the Berliner Philharmoniker and Claudio Abbado were guests at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome with all Beethoven symphonies. Their success was overwhelming with standing ovations after each performance. “Abbado, a Furtwängler admirer in principle, seems ever more Italian, his tauter lyricism allied to a sense of forward movement influenced, we are told, by period practice. The surprise is not the Mediterranean luminosity and scrupulous attention to instrumental detail - one expects nothing less from this source - but the animating sense of line. The Seventh Symphony… knows precisely where it's going and why… The sense of joy present throughout is overwhelming by the close.” - Gramophone Magazine.
With the Berliner Philharmoniker under Herbert von Karajan, Beethoven's Seventh Symphony resounds with melodic force, the Eighth is a masterful blend of grace and wit, and the Ninth - directed by Karajan himself - is a vital and explicitly dramatic reading of Beethoven's revolutionary work.
Herbert von Karajan directs the Berlin Philharmonic in an Italianate take of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony and an assured rendering of the Fifth, while the "Pastoral" Symphony, conceived and derected by Hugo Niebeling in 1967, is a revolutionary mix of styles - Fantasia meets Expressionism meets film noir.
With the Berliner Philharmoniker under Herbert von Karajan, Beethoven's First Symphony is marked by its fire and finesse, the Second by its exquisite winds and strings, and the "Eroica" is played with members of the orchestra seated as though performing in an Ancient Greek theatre.
The art of conducting was certainly imbued in Carlos Kleiber's whole persona and these magnificent performances of Beethoven's Fourth and Seventh symphonies find him on home ground with the excellent Concertgebouw Orchestra. Recorded in 1983, these concerts are a final testament to the art of great symphonic conducting and should definitely be in every serious music lover's collection.