Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67; Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
NDR Radio Philharmonic/Andrew Manze
Pentatone PTC 5186 814 74.12 mins
A classics graduate and sometime virtuoso violinist, Andrew Manze started conducting as an early music specialist before moving into symphonic repertoire, notably with Vaughan Williams. As principal conductor of the NDR Radiophilharmonie since 2014, his most recent recordings have been part of an award-winning complete cycle of Mendelssohn symphonies. Now, in Beethoven’s 250th-anniversary year, they have produced this thrilling contribution to the ever-growing recorded catalogue of the ubiquitous Fifth and the effervescent Seventh.
The Fifth’s familiar opening leads into an Allegro impelled by nervous urgency. A consummate interpreter, Manze never plays fast and loose with tempos, nor with radically over-emphasised dynamics. The rigour of his period performance practice and expressive consideration brings clarity and freshness, the sound finely judged, full of breadth, never ploughing through the symphony’s vulnerable moments. The only quibble is an occasional slight imbalance in the wind sound – a fault of production not orchestra.
Beethoven’s radical rhythmical work also appears in the Seventh, its striking opening chords a left-field precursor to what Wagner called ‘the apotheosis of the dance’, interspersing majestic rising scales and elegant dance themes, before giving way to the galloping main theme which fizzes under Manze and the NDR Radiophilharmonie. Again, there is a lively sense of drive, clarity and structure, not least in the Allegro’s exhilarating race to the finish. Highly recommended.
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Sarah Urwin Jones