Symphony No. 5
Sony Classical 19075884972 29:54mins
Teodor Currentzis is famous for keeping his hand-picked orchestra on its collective toes, and in this most celebrated of symphonies the players sound at times as though they might explode with excitement. Where appropriate, they generate a rapier-like thrust that sweeps aside conventional thinking. It’s an exhilarating helter-skelter ride, which finds Currentzis (as if in full meditative flow) focusing on the music’s emotional narrative with electrifying powers of single- minded concentration.
High-tension readings of symphonic masterpieces often come unstuck in the slower movements, yet here Beethoven’s Andante con moto emerges free of militaristic bombast and (most strikingly) any sense of self-conscious orchestral sophistication. Those whose collections are heaving with recordings shaped profoundly by each orchestra’s distinctive sonic profile will find little here to suggest an established ensemble expounding traditional values. When the horns blazingly interrupt the Allegro third movement’s mysterious opening, and the sound virtually drops out as Beethoven sets up the finale with an unexpected harmonic shift, one is held entirely and undistractedly in the moment, without the slightest sense of ‘interpreter at work’.
There are innumerable moments of orchestral enlightenment along the way, most notably in the finale, whose surging textures emerge with almost unprecedented clarity, as piccolo and trombones emerge on the scene for the first time and the excited (often inaudible) thrusting of the inner strings power the music along. The Seventh Symphony is due later this year as part of an intended complete cycle. I, for one, can hardly wait.