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on 22 September 2012
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7

Until now I would have said that the best recordings of these symphonies I knew of were those made by Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic in the 1960s. I really didn't expect to have to review that opinion. These recordings, however, are truly stunning. There's really not much more I can say; rarely have I been so excited and uplifted by a classical recording, especially of pieces I know well and have loved in another version for many years. The hairs are still standing up on the back of my neck. Wonderful!
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on 5 March 2015
Amazon tells me I bought this disc in August 2004. Over the years I have played it numerous times and it still sounds fresh and exciting - especially the 5th symphony. For me there is no other orchestral performance of a Beethoven symphony that stands out like this one.
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on 2 April 2017
My favourite symphony (7) persuaded me to buy this version and I'm not disappointed. Wonderful music.
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on 6 July 2017
As someone relatively new to Classical music I thought I'd start with the 5th as most familiar. As wonderful as the 5th is (and this a great recording), it is the 7th that is my favourite. The second movement is simply stunning. I now have Beethoven's 3rd,5th.7th and 9th. Now on to the evens and beyond!
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on 29 June 2017
Simply the best recordings of these two magnificent symphonies. Need I say more!
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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.
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VINE VOICEon 1 January 2008
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.
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on 14 August 2014
just what I wanted. Fast delivery. Thanks.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 25 December 2013
Reading the myriad reviews of this famous disc is similar to attending a nutters' convention: all opinions may be encountered, some so eccentric as to be worth it purely as entertainment, but very few of any real worth or insight.

One thing I did pick up from a dissenting voice is the acute and accurate observation that Kleiber and his sound engineers "cheat" during the transition from the Scherzo to the finale in the Fifth: the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth movement come from different takes and sound-worlds and as such represent a bit of jiggery-pokery whereby the impact of the crashing chords is artificially manufactured. Listen carefully and you'll hear it - but it works very well as a recording, even if it couldn't be done live.

Otherwise, these are terrific performances, an amalgam of recordings from 1974 and 1976 which has stood the test of time. The Santa Fe listener reports that even in blind listenings, his auditors all agreed that Kleiber had created something special in both accounts. Some reviewers have complained that the second movement of the Seventh is too brisk but to me it's all of a piece with a thrilling piece of symphonic theatre, energised and compelling in its approach. It is true that there are comparably fine versions from Szell, Reiner, Bernstein and Karajan which are not very different from these and all part of a grand tradition of rendering unto Beethoven both the grandeur and the almost manic propulsiveness the music demands, but the point is that this pairing will prove deeply satisfying to the vast majority of lovers of Beethoven's symphonies.

I hadn't revisited them for some time before today, this 25th December, when after a splendid lunch I settled myself in an IKEA Poang easy-chair in my conservatory with a cigar and a glass or two of Sancerre and listened contentedly while contemplating our twinkling Christmas tree, tastefully decorated in red and gold. I grant you that such circumstances and environment predisposed me to be highly receptive to genius of Carlos Kleiber and the Vienna Philharmonic but nothing I heard could do other than enhance my blissful state of mind.

Under Kleiber's magisterial baton, the horns are virtuosic, just bordering on hysteria in their attack, the strings whirl like incandescent dervishes and the woodwind caress the ear like Ulysses' Sirens - yes, dear reader, I rather enjoyed it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 September 2014
The promotion for Original-Image BIT-Processing states ‘Added presence and brilliance, greater spatial definition’. This CD might be used to exemplify these sonic characteristics. It couples Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphonies, recorded in 1975 and 1976, respectively, by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the late, great but often frustrating Carlos Kleiber, 1930-2004. The recording is one of Deutsche Grammophon’s ‘The Originals’ series and fully justifies its inclusion.

These are magnificent performances, the 5th marginally better, so bringing them together on a single CD is inspired marketing. The conductor obtains assured and inspired playing from the orchestra that is matched by own his concern for detail and contrasting dynamics.

The Klemperer/Philharmonia recordings of the Beethoven symphonies are still my references but this CD is certainly one to recommend very highly, especially for the earlier symphony which, impossibly, sounds as if it is being heard for the first time, with the fierce knocking of fate and the accelerated tempo of the Allegro con brio. This brings to mind the 1953 performance of the same work by the Concertgebouw Orchestra under father Erich Kleiber, 1890-1956. The finale is intensely projected and the momentum is increased, although always under control, with exceptional playing from the brass, right up to the final note. At this point, after a respectful silence, one really wanted the imaginary audience in the Musikvereinsaal to bring the roof down.

The Seventh Symphony suffers by comparison, which is quite unfair, as it is an outstanding performance in its own right. The first movement is maybe slightly too ferocious but Kleiber’s control of the orchestral dynamics, so evident in the Fifth Symphony, is present in the Allegetto, and it is strange to think that the two performances were recorded over a year apart. The Allegro con brio is exactly that and the players play tremendously well without compromising articulation.

The sound is very good, slightly better in balance for the earlier symphony. The leaflet text ‘Carlos Kleiber; A Man for the Exceptional Occasion’ by Peter Cossé is translated by Mary Whittall.

These are truly exceptional performances and make one long for the conductor’s Beethoven cycle which, sadly, the listener can only imagine.
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