mencken61 | Metairie, La. United States | 11/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Symphony No. 5's opening notes--third best known in the civilized world, after Yankee Doodle (thanks to the Voice of America) and the last Britny Spears bestseller (thanks to Satan and his minions)--furthered Beethoven's assault upon what was then known as musical convention. This piece, when conducted by the late Bernstein, does the impossible: it improves upon perfection. Crisply performed, recorded by producers who cared (as opposed to giving the sound short shrift while waiting for Boston or the Bee Gees to fill the hall and produce profits), and conducted by a Leonard before the cocktail hour, we find greatness Plus One. The Leonore No. 3 adds a well appreciated lagniappe. A masterpiece."
Stephen G Bowden | NC School of the Arts | 06/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although there isn't any fathomable way I can improve upon the previous reviewer, as I am still smirking at his/her remarks, there is a way I can review this piece, or aptly named, masterpiece. Bernstein, one of the greatest conductors, conducting the Beethoven 5, possibly the second greatest symphonies ever written. This performance is simply stunning. I have discussed with my peers how, unlike the 9th, the 5th has four outstanding movements. Bernstein's reading of this piece is flawless, perfect, unbelieveable and phenomenal."
Puzzling tameness from Bernstein
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 07/21/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I very well remember my excitment when this performance was originally released, since it marked a major milestone: an American conductor conquering Beethoven on home ground. In the intervening thirty years no one has duplicated Bernstein's achievement, and yet his Vienna Beethoven cycle was puzzling in its tameness. This Fifth Sym., for example, offers no competition to the heroic, grand-scaled predecessor recorded with the NY Phil., one of LB's most famous recordings.
The opening movement is taken slowly by modern standards, but even more distressing is the prosaic phrasing and lack of excitement on the conductor's part. The second movement Adante con moto is so placid that I could hardly keep my atention on it. The Scherzo and finale are completely ordinary. DG has improved upon the original LP sonics, which were thin and wiry, but the Vienna Phil. still sounds a little underpowered. LB took a leaner approach to Beethoven's sonority the second time around but didn't add extra propulsiveness or vigor. The orchestra plays with olish, of course. The Leonore #3 rises to a higher level and generates excitement, as does Bernstein's complete Fidelio, one of the best things he did in Vienna for DG at this time."
This 5th Problematic? Not For Me.
Johnson Lee | Irvine, CA USA | 04/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was blown away. It was even finer than when I heard the recording last time. Being able to have this kind of experience is almost a privilege. It's also therapeutic. The music, when played this way, wipes out any doubt on whether life is worth living. I love the way Bernstein and Vienna Phil transform the score into a living creature. The timbre is bright and rugged. It is a muscular performance but also extremely expressive when required. I can understand some will have a hard time agreeing with the slow tempo of the 1st movement. Whether one can enjoy it or not, I believe, depends on how open-minded he is. If you only want to feel the forward moving urgency in this movement, you can never deviate from the Carlos Kleiber kind of interpretation. What Bernstein highlights are the movement's resilient and steady qualities. It really sounds like a struggle yet to be resolved. 2nd movement is full of expressivity and insights. One feels that Bernstein loved this music to death. The characteristically reedy woodwinds of Vienna Phil shine here. 3rd and 4th movement deliver as much vitality as any performance and more. I love the rustic tone of the brass here. I love the incisiveness of strings which do not show any sign of smooth-out. On top of all these, you get the very recognizable Bernstein moments that hit like lightnings. I think I will take a break from Fischer's 33-CD Haydn box, which I have been enjoying in the past weeks, to thoroughly enjoy this magnificent Beethoven cycle all over again. "