I know it's naughty of me to keep vouching for the new-school, revisionist philosophy of Beethoven symphonies that insist on keeping to his marked speeds. I know that I shouldn't push for performances in hurry-sick, rush-hour mode that might make listeners die of cardiac arrest and coronary thrombosis (among other ramifications). I know that the old school conductors were better able to make the moment last with their moment-by-moment renditions rather than the moment-to-moment renditions that characterise lots of modern renditions of these symphonies. That said I have found Chailly's Beethoven cycle one of the most arresting cycles of recent times.
This Chailly CD of the Fifth and the Pastoral is another excellent place to start exploring his way with Beethoven. His rendition of the Fifth feels fresh and highly-charged with an explosive, propulsive and hurtling first movement. The orchestral sound is strong and there is no shortage of drama. Chailly's version might be a worthy complement to the famous DG version of Carlos Kleiber and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The second movement flows smoothly and the Scherzo has the needed menace and shadows. It is such a pity that Chailly did not include the repeat of the Scherzo and Trio. I know that everyone is going to debate this till kingdom come, but the omission of the repeat makes it perfunctory before the Finale. The Finale is given a cathartic outing here and you can literally hear the piccolos squealing with ecstasy at the top of the texture. Chailly transposed the piccolo part up by one octave so it could be heard clearly.
The Pastoral is given a wonderful spring-like and breezy performance. The first movement and the Shepherd's Thanksgiving finale emerge fresh as paint even with their faster speeds. Occasionally in the first movement I note some accelerandos in the build-up to climaxes. As such they might come across as forced. Personally, I think they could be a bit more sustained. The Brook flows naturally and smoothly and the orchestra achieves a full, deep sound. I love the highlighting of the inner details and it is good to know that the figurations still articulate themselves clearly. The peasants' party is suitably bucolic and I love the way it derails as if Chailly is reminding us of the coming thunderstorm. After the storm clears, I love the way that the Shepherds' Thanksgiving bounds with spirit. I love the way that the motifs are passed across the sections.
This is a strong coupling of the Fifth and the Pastoral that offers strong, well-characterised performances of these pieces.