Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor; Symphony No. 7 in A

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Decca Eclipse
WORKS: Symphony No. 5 in C minor; Symphony No. 7 in A
PERFORMER: Philharmonia Orchestra/ Vladimir Ashkenazy
CATALOGUE NO: 448 222-2 DDD (1982/84)
Textbook performances, reassuringly unmannered and free of spurious affectation, but somewhat routine, and with a disappointing tendency towards blandness. The recordings, made at London’s Kingsway Hall, display the classic attributes of Decca engineering: expansive dynamic range, clinically precise orchestral detailing, spatial breadth and a warm, never excessively reverberant ambience. But Ashkenazy’s performances have little intuitive magnetism or interpretative distinction. The elemental passion and verve of Symphony No. 7 becomes the stuff of artifice, rather than spontaneous inspiration, whilst the Fifth is similarly uneventful. Creditable orchestral playing and superb sound quality make this a useful reissue, nonetheless. Michael Jameson