London Symphony Orchestra

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 5

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As live recordings go, these offerings of Beethoven's First and Fifth symphonies really cannot be beaten for their vivacious sound, clean playing, and superb sound quality. But as the liner notes suggest, pieces like the Fifth Symphony run the risk of being commonplace no matter how good the performance is. It is becoming more and more difficult to do anything truly new and different with a composition that could arguably be called the most widely recognized piece of classical music on the planet. Conductor Bernard Haitink and the LSO do adopt the more modern approach to the Beethoven symphonies by choosing brisker tempos and punchier accents and cutting down on the more indulgent and highly romanticized interpretations of conductors like Bruno Walter. But there isn't enough that's different or innovative here to make many collectors who may already have a recording like Simon Rattle's run out and buy this one. So while listeners who may already have a diverse collection of Beethoven symphony interpretations on their shelves may not find anything novel here, anyone looking for a first recording of these timeless works would do very well with this recording. All this being said, the performance is absolutely first rate. The playing is energetic, refined, and thoughtful; the sound quality is well-balanced and satisfying. The tympani in both symphonies, however, is far too aggressive, bordering on obnoxious.

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