32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2004
No point saying much about the performances, - they've been classics of the gramophone for 28-29 years now and deservedly so. Like other reviewers, I’ve loved them in all their incarnations. This one seems to me the best yet. No, the sound may not be as good as some new DSD recordings but its a darned sight better than most. I was sceptical about the surround version but needn't have worried, - it does add noticeable depth and solidity to what was always an impressive recording. I'd still want to have alternative readings for when Kleiber is just too driven for me (and the Pentatone RQR Davis disc is certainly one of those!) but for sheer excitement in these two works, and now for even better sound, Kleiber can't be beat. And isn't it nice to hear DG get something right for a change?!
57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on 7 March 2003
Having heard the 7th more than one hundred times in my 50 + years and nearly always been blown away by the last movement the
Klieber Beethoven 7 on the radio and was a revelation and I had to get the CD without delay. The clarity of the Vienna Philharmonic playing, the musical line, the sense of architecture ........... lost for words.
I am an avid fan of Arturo Toscanini but Carlos Kleiber in the Fifth and the Seventh makes the Maestro seem half asleep.
Of course the DG 1975 recording quality far out strips the best of Toscanini and is superb.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
This has just been chosen on BBC 3's CD Review as the 'best' version of the 5th. Symphony, just pipping the 1955 mono Klemperer ; and I believe it was chosen also the last time CD Review tackled the many versions of this work. It made waves when it first came out on LP and has always been popular, combining as it does great fire and intensity with a good sense of structure and some beautifully lyrical phrasing and playing. Much the same virtues are evident in the 7th. Symphony, and together on one CD they really are irresistible. There can never be one definitive version of either of these incomparable works, and many, many performances on CD have something valid to tell us, but these two interpretations have more than most.
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2003
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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Nothing much to add to the above. I've known this recording since it came out on vinyl nearly 30 years ago. There isn't a better version of the 7th anywhere; I like the 1954 Columbia by Karajan, but this is in a different league. The 5th is also excellent, but you might look at the Clutyens. Buy it anyway, it's a no-brainer.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2014
This for me remains one of the most essential of Beethoven recordings for all the acclaimed reasons that are cited and they still grip with their intensity as they did when I first bought the separate LPs. Some dissenting voices believe these readings are over hyped and the truth is if you don't like them then you simply do without them and you find satisfaction in other approaches. However, with some 20 or so versions each of these symphonies on my shelves, taking in very different great interpretations that offer fascinating illuminating perspectives on these masterpieces, I do not find these readings to be overrated in the least. There is a reason why these readings have stood the test of time and it is nothing at all to do with sales marketing or overly enthusiastic professional music critics over the decades.
The intensity and beauty of these visionary, exciting, interpretations and the virtuosity of the VPO make this a special disc and their main strength for me lies in their fiery dynamism. This is Beethoven playing at white heat. At more detailed level there are many imaginative phrasing details and, as an example, I am always struck by the closing plucked string phrasing at the close of the seventh's slow movement in this performance. The sound is still very good for these blazing performances. My only extremely minor quibble is that I would have welcomed a touch of more warmly recorded engineering to make this disc absolutely perfect. I echo the favourable reviews; this will prove to be essential Beethoven listening for many music lovers who as yet have to still to discover these vital recordings.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2010
Kleiber successfully, and it seems without undue fuss, elevated himself out of the realms of the ordinary and then out of the realms of the extraordinary. Quite where he landed is hard to say. His isolation and the lack of recordings made and performances given add very much to the mystique surrounding him and make it perhaps a little more guess work in assessing his overall legacy. Prominent musicians give him superlative accolades. Placido Domingo and Ricardo Muti both rated him as the most supremely talented conductor of the 20th Century. It seems safe to say a couple of things. He was a most unusual talent and a most unusual man. Nowhere is this more apparent than in these recordings; they are so complete as to be somehow disconcerting. How can it be that a chemist can come along and provide an interpretation of these classical music landmarks of such poise, stature and sublimely controlled power as to make the efforts of, for example, Bernstein and Karajan seem lacking? Because this is what it does.
Domingo said of Kleiber that he read music like no other. He came to the beginning of rehearsals with a vision of what was to be played, which was in a sense consummate. His attention to detail was legendary and interesting to observe. At times it had an almost obsessive character. The lengths he went to in order to get what he required could have a very eccentric appearance. His fees were enormous. He would demand up to 10 times the rehearsal time with his orchestras than was usual. He would take the scores for the entire orchestra and remark them all, including comments for individual musicians like "smile". Unusual, even strange. Vaguely reminiscent, perhaps of Bobby Fischer's famous fixation with the size of the squares on the chess board. The disconcerting thing in all this, is that there was very obviously a method in the `madness', and the method produced results that can fairly be said to defy belief.
The qualities that one always associates with Beethoven, those which have secured him his stature, are apparent in these recordings like in no others I know. Many conductors have put their slant on this music. Each chooses to accentuate certain aspects of it. The all-pervasive Karajan is a case in point. His strict, powerful and no-nonsense approach lends itself very well, especially to the 7th. Some of the muscle is, though, achieved through an over-reliance on the brass section. Played side by side, Kleiber's recordings do not in my opinion lack a single measure of the power of Karajan. Kleiber, though sacrifices none of the depth of natural tones of the woodwind in achieving this. Karajan is generally no dawdler. Kleiber's insistence on maintaining Beethoven's prescribed tempo is well-documented. This, too, is achieved without a hint of sacrifice of quality of sound or detail and expression. This I think is what separates Kleiber's recordings: they reflect the full arsenal of Beethoven's composing genius without detriment to any single aspect. They have the contemplative beauty and lyricism, without loss of power. The motifs and themes are clear and exact. If there are some interpretations that border on perfect, these transcend such; they border on the consummate.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2010
Occasionally, very occasionally, you hear a recording that takes your breath away. This is an utterly stunning CD which gives the listener the privilege of experiencing something very special. It is vibrant, exciting, passionate, dramatic and compelling from the first note to the last. I find it faultless from a technical point of view: Kleiber's vision of both symphonies - their construction, melodic line, balance and mood - have been bettered by no-one. But this isn't about technical perfection; it's about a passion and a commitment that Kleiber somehow manages to convey to the orchestra and in return, he draws out of them two sublime performances that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Magnificent and unmissable!
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2003
From the first three notes you know this is going to be good.
The opening 'fate' motif grabbing you instantly, you are transported into an unsurpassed sound world. The famous transition from the 3rd to 4th movements is the most life affirming thing, and in this recording you are carried along with such power, even though tempi are not the quickest, Kleiber and the mighty Wiener Philharmoker manages to knock you for six. To be honest i cant really put it into words - every word i think sounds hollow and meaningless compared to this recording. And then the 7th, oh what joy. The splitting of the violins in the last movement...heaven.
Its the most important piece of music in the history of Western Civilisation, everyone should buy this CD.
Stop reading this just buy it!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2010
In my opinion, it's the first movement which causes most trouble in recorded performances, but this is as close perfection as we're likely to get this side of heaven. Carlos Kleiber brings out the terror and grief combined with Beethoven's violent resistance to his fate with extraordinary power. The second subject - marked dolce by Beethoven - is genuinely sweet and lyrical (some conductors can make this sound a bit glib). The great emotional climax is heartbreaking.
The rest of the performance is just a good. The orchestra plays wonderfully. So if you're looking for Beethoven Fifth, you should get this.