Beethoven: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 7

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: RCA Living Stereo
WORKS: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Chicago SO/Fritz Reiner
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68976 2 ADD Reissue (1955, 1959)
The Beecham disc, complete with encores introduced with inimical wit by Beecham himself, gives a vivid idea of what it was like to be at one of his concerts – and, indeed, of how superbly the RPO played for him. Beecham was 80 at the time – 1959 – but the exuberance of the performances belies his age. The account of Beethoven’s Seventh, in particular, is tremendously exhilarating.

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Fritz Reiner doesn’t quite convey the same warmth and humanity (the A major episodes of Beethoven’s second movement don’t glow as they do in Beecham’s hands), but his is another fine performance of No.7, with the Chicago Symphony in magnificent form; and the Fifth is better still. RCA’s pioneering stereo recordings of the 1950s still sound astonishingly good. Misha Donat