Notes and Editorial Reviews
It's surprising to learn that it was André Cluytens, and not Herbert von Karajan, who first recorded a stereo Beethoven symphony cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic (1956-60). This mono "Pastoral" was recorded earlier (1955) and has been prized by collectors for decades. And rightly so, for this is one of the most beautifully unconstrained, joyful recordings of the work available. The instinctive, natural phrasing and warm, color-rich timbres perfectly evoke the first movement's spirit of delight--a far cry from Karajan's stiff and unyielding readings on Deutsche Grammophon (which indicated, with their rushed tempos and lack of repeats, that he simply had no patience for the piece). Testament's full-range mono sound leaves
little to be desired (only the timpani in the "Storm" movement could do with more prominence).
Still, this does not prepare us for the astonishing wash of three-dimensional sound that comes with the coupled Schubert "Unfinished" symphony from 1960. Early, minimalist microphone techniques provide a natural soundstage with a full dynamic range, reflecting Cluytens' large, powerful conception of this work. This a very dark performance, and while not eliciting the stark terror of Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Concertgebouw on Teldec, Cluytens has a strong grip on the work's classical structure that nonetheless displays its gothic temperament. The BPO winds, so important in this piece, earn a special mention here for their full, sonorous tone throughout. Never mind the "Historical" label; this is an essential disc.
--Victor Carr, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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