Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E flat (Eroica); Symphony No. 5 in C minor

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Decca Legends
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in E flat (Eroica); Symphony No. 5 in C minor
PERFORMER: Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra/Erich Kleiber
CATALOGUE NO: 467 125-2 ADD mono Reissue (1950, 1953)
Clarity, keen musical intelligence, concentrated intensity – these are the characteristics that make Erich Kleiber’s Beethoven outstanding even today, half a century after these recordings first appeared. The attention to detail is extraordinary: everything sounds as though it has been meticulously prepared. But the control isn’t paralysing; the final impression is of focused vitality, not stilted perfectionism, and there’s always a majestic, compelling feel for the long line – the sweeping, eloquent paragraphs. These are emphatically not Romantic interpretations, and there’s little sense of the inspired risk-taking one hears sometimes in Furtwängler’s recordings – or in those of Kleiber’s son Carlos. But they aren’t dry score-readings either. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know these two symphonies, Kleiber has a way of reminding the most jaded ear just how original the music is – as in the quiet, sadly abstracted oboe solo at the heart of the Fifth Symphony’s tumultuous first movement; it seems like a momentary intrusion from another world. The mono sound is very clear, though the treble is a bit over-bright, especially in the Eroica. Stephen Johnson