Beethoven: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 7

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Simon Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela/Gustavo Dudamel
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6228
The 24-year-old Dudamel is hot

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property, and his debut CD is

a bold choice of repertoire. It’s

a showcase for his astonishing

orchestra too – like him a product

of Venezuela’s music education

system, whose purpose is as much

social as artistic. There’s a scarcely

believable freshness and virtuosity

in the playing, though you don’t get

the insights of a Furtwängler or a Toscanini. The opening of the Fifth

Symphony is bright and energetic,

and all the phrasing and dynamic

markings are scrupulously observed.

But I can’t help feeling that they’re

coming from outside the music – the

oboe solo at the beginning of the

recapitulation says it all: beautifully

played, but somehow calculated. It’s

the same with the Andante, where

every note is in its place (and, thanks

to the clarity of the recording, you

can hear all the detail), but there’s

a lack of inner life. I found myself

turning back to Carlos Kleiber,

dynamic and involved.

The Seventh Symphony is more

promising, with a first movement

that really dances, and an Allegretto

which doesn’t get bogged down

in sentiment. In both symphonies

there’s energy and lightness in the

scherzos, and the Seventh also

benefits from a trio which slows

down enough to make a contrast, but

not so much as to put the forward

momentum on hold. No danger of

that in the finale, which is taken so

fast that it seems to skate over the

surface of the music. A major talent,

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but not quite there yet. Martin Cotton