Beethoven: Symphony No. 7; Vienna Philharmonic; Carlos Kleiber; Speakers Corner 180 gram LP

Many people consider the companion recording to this Beethoven 7 DG classic (Beethoven's 5th Symphony with the same forces) as not only the greatest Beethoven recording of all time but the greatest recording of all time. I'm inclined to agree. It's perfection in an imperfect setting. Have you heard it? 

So, when Kleiber gathered the same players and recording team to record the 7th, it was akin to trying to capture lightning in a bottle. 

As such, this 7th got a little bit of a pasting in the audio press. Try going up against the prettier, blonder, and smarter sister. And that's really not fair, as it is a very fine 7th. 

The playing is fantastic. Ensemble is flawless and the solo contributions are wonderful. As a recording, it's representative of your typical, spotlit DG. And as a pristine vinyl reissue, you can hear when the engineers get slider-happy. Instruments come into focus as the sliders get into the real world. It's not very becoming. And I'm not sure much I'm going to enjoy my single favourite movement in music on repetition. 

Flute, oboe and horns are Beethoven's lead actors in the 7th. The Vienna players bring nothing but distinction to their solos -- listen to the flute at the 6/8 opening (Wolfgang Schultz from the glorious tone). I've never heard the transition from the 4/4 intro to what Wagner called 'the apotheosis of the dance' played so effortlessly. The 'e' intonation is also flawless. The oboe scale bringing in the coda is beautiful and the horn calls at the end of the first and fourth movements are balanced by Kleiber to perfection. 

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the Großer Musikvereinssaal, Vienna. 

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the Großer Musikvereinssaal, Vienna. 

The Vienna strings need no apology from me. They also suffer from the engineering. But when in focus, you won't hear a better tutti section. The slow movement highlights them wonderfully. The eighth notes have weight and are slightly separated. Yet, you still hear the resin on the strings -- the magic that only vinyl adds to the ingredients.

So, a mixed bag. And not really worth USD $34.99 to me. I have it on HD Tracks, CD, etc. The vinyl does improve the sound, but the recording's negatives (the sliders) are highlighted. But as a performance, there are few, if any, that can match Kleiber at full tilt with one of the world's great orchestras. Your call. 

Tracklist

Symphonie Nr. 7 A-dur Op. 92

Poco Sostenuto - Vivace

Allegretto

Presto - Assai Meno Presto

Allegro Con Brio

 

Product Code: UNIM-DEU-1898

Label/Make: Deutsche Grammophon

UPC: 028947931898