It begins with the most famous four notes in musical history. The Fifth Symphony is the perfect distillation of Beethoven's stupendous musical genius and there can be no final word on the work, no definitive recording. Nonetheless, here are three very fine, and sharply contrasted, performances.
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Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique / Sir John Eliot Gardiner (Soli Deo Gloria)
'The way Gardiner brings home the unforgiving militarism of the piece, the way the martial brassiness of trumpets and drums pompously interrupts the homely variations of the second movement. The roar into the light of the finale is tremendous...'
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Carlos Kleiber (DG)
'I still remember the sinking feeling I experienced – a mere tiro reviewer on Gramophone – when I dropped into the post-box my 1000-word rave review (they had asked for 200) of what struck me as being one of the most articulate and incandescent Beethoven Fifths I had ever heard...'
New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra / Arturo Toscanini (Naxos)
'I don’t know who to pity more: the budding maestro who hears this Beethoven Fifth before attempting to conduct the work himself‚ or the one who doesn’t. Either way‚ Toscanini is a near-impossible act to follow...'
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