If you're looking for a set of all nine Beethoven symphonies, this one is pretty hard to beat. It's the most consistently fine interpretively, as well as supremely well played and gorgeously recorded.David Hurwitz
"Muti's Beethoven Fifth is fleet, fluid, and transparent. He shows his usual attention to details, and offers many individual touches. I especially enjoyed the horn crescendo in bar 34 of the Allegro con brio. It's not indicated in my ancient Eulenberg score but makes perfect sense in its context. …Muti achieves a clarity and rhythmic definition found only in the finest interpretations…The playing of the Philadelphia Orchestra is nothing short of spectacular. The fast string triplets from measure 132 in the final movement are not only accurate but beautifully played with full tone.
Following the collections of symphonies (Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Kletzki, SU 4051-2) and violin sonatas (Suk, Panenka, SU 4077-2), Supraphon is now releasing the complete Beethoven concertante pieces. All of them (including the Triple Concerto and the genre-unique Fantasia for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra) came into being within a mere sixteen years, between 1793 and 1809. Although Beethoven deemed the piano "an imperfect instrument", his five piano concertos form one of the cornerstones of his oeuvre and represent a significant landmark in this genre.
Brendel has now recorded the work three times for the gramophone. At first, on Vox/Turnabout in the early 1960s, he was the brilliant iconoclast before his deeper realization of the work's essentially comic energies. And here I use 'comic' both in the narrow sense of the term (the Diabe/li is, after all, full ofjokes, many of them with the staying-power of the finest Wildean epigrams) and in the broader sense: what Susanne Langer has called, comedy "as an image of human vitality holding its own in the world amid the surprises of unplanned coincidence".
Like Gilels, Brendel treats the Op. 35 Variations as far more than a poor relation of the Eroica Symphony finale. His approach has less of the urgent, seemingly improvisatory thrust which makes the Gilels DG performance (on LP only) so compelling, but the sharpness with which he characterizes each variation is a delight, each time bringing a moment of revelation, and often relating this essentially middle-period work to much later inspirations. The six Bagatelles of Op. 126 equally find Brendel giving these fragments a weight, concentration and seriousness to reflect what else Beethoven was writing at the time. There is a gruffness of expression with charm eliminated. The third Bagatelle is the more moving for its simple gravity, and only in the final one of the group does Brendel allow himself to relax in persuasive warmth. Fur Elise makes a simple, haunting prelude to the group and the six Ecossaises a jolly postude with Brendel evoking the bluff jollity of Austrian dance music.