The Fifth! Ah, the fifth! In the musical world, no one doubts whom you mean. Beethoven’s majestic symphony is the most overplayed, over recorded and hackneyed piece of work in the world. Then something like this comes along and we’re back in the original furnace of its creation. Kleiber and his band (and lets not underestimate their achievement) give us a first movement of fearful power & terror. That opening motif sheds it familiarity and hits us as if for the first time. After getting the solar plexus to settle after the first movement, we’re then in the realms of steady resignation, a relentlessness that never relies on volume or speed and then on to an ethereal 3rd movement that seems to encompass all spiritual sadness to an almost unbearable point.
And then …! Here we have the most glorious transition between movements in all the history of music. The seamless growth from breathless quiet to the explosive joy of the 4th movement can never fail to make the arms rise in triumph. Beethoven saying Bollocks to fate and taking his own life back with a fierce exhilaration that makes one want to shout with him. Kleiber & the Vienna miraculously achieve this with a transparency of sound and unity that comes along in recorded music once in a lifetime. The engineering is equal to the artistry (blindfold, most people would still think it’s a new recording). If you really haven’t heard this version, go out now and buy it. Turn it up on the Hi-Fi and come away a changed person.