Beethoven: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Analekta
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven Symphonies
WORKS: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6
PERFORMER: Tafelmusik, Bruno Weil
CATALOGUE NO: AN 2 9831
These are good, solid performances by Canada’s leading period-instrument band. Bruno Weil offers a tense and urgent account of the Fifth Symphony’s opening movement, and a no less impressively dramatic storm in the Pastoral. He generates an admirable sense of mystery and anticipation in the Fifth’s famous transition between the scherzo and finale, too, and conveys an appropriate feeling of joyousness in the opening movement of the Pastoral. At other times, though, Weil can be rather rigorous and unyielding: there’s little sense of warmth in the Fifth Symphony’s brief second subject, for instance, or in the theme of its slow movement; and in the Pastoral the brook doesn’t really flow smoothly. That last example isn’t just a question of tempo – Simon Rattle (EMI), for example, is equally deliberate, but he avoids the recurring accents that make Weil’s performance rather turgid. Still nearer the mark than Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic, however, are Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic, who take the piece at a genuine Andante molto mosso.

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Abbado has the same two symphonies on a single CD, and if you’re willing to accept his controversial restoration of the repeat in the scherzo of No. 5 which Beethoven eliminated at the last moment, his version is a strong recommendation. But for the period-instrument experience, this finely recorded new disc is well worth exploring. Misha Donat