Top positive review
5 people found this helpful
on 7 May 2016
It seems like heresy to award this recording only four stars and to use the word "almost" in my headline: Bohm's reading of The Pastoral has been accepted by conventional wisdom as being the best available and most reviewers here concur.
There's nothing wrong with it, of course; nothing to criticise. The VPO play like Gods, the remastered sound is virtually indistinguishable from a modern recording and it's difficult to believe it's thirty-five years old. Bohm's tempi are relaxed and expressive and it's "proper" Beethoven - from long before anyone thought "HIP" was a good idea. The most famous, successful and celebrated conductor from a similar era - Herbert von Karajan - made several attempts at The Pastoral and never approached the perfection Bohm so nearly achieves; and if I hadn't heard one recording which is, in my opinion, better, I would be awarding a full five stars.
I think that's enough teasing. Despite my admiration for Bohm and The VPO, my recommendation for The Pastoral remains the 1957 recording by The Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Otto Klemperer.
The two recordings, in fact, sound very similar. Tempi are virtually identical and I'd imagine (though I don't actually know) that Bohm was familiar with Klemperer's recording. If I could put into words what I think Klemperer's recording has, and Bohm's lacks, I would tell you, but I can't. The best advice I can give is to listen to both interpretations and see if you agree with what I'm about to say: Bohm's recording inspires love, deep respect and unending gratitude; but Klemperer's recording inspires awe.
The Schubert 5, by the way, included on this disc, sounds wonderful but, as I lack the familiarity with the work required to offer an informed opinion, I can't say anything more about it. I know The Pastoral pretty well, which is why I have no hesitation in recommending this recording: but, unless I hear something else really special, my top recommendation will always be Klemperer.