Teodor Currentzis’ Hostile Takeover of Beethoven’s Fifth

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 5

Sound Quality: 8

Here’s a recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony where Fate doesn’t knock at the door, but rather barges in for a hostile takeover. Indeed, Teodor Currentzis’ interpretation of the first movement is the musical equivalent of an unauthorized seizure of assets. The celebrated opening motive’s fermatas go for nothing, leading into an unyieldingly fast, relentlessly intense, and coldly precise rendition of the notes. As not to appear totally impersonal, Currentzis doles out his fair share of mannered and pointless dynamic hairpins that historically-informed performers adore.

You’ve never heard such painstakingly calibrated and executed string phrasing in the Andante con moto: to paraphrase one of my late colleague Harris Goldsmith’s great lines, the playing conveys all the perfection of waxed fruit. For the third movement “Allegro,” the astonishing instrumental transparency may well justify the brisk pace, but it still doesn’t allow the cellos and basses to articulate the Trio’s difficult Fughetta theme with any real musicality beyond merely chasing the metronome.

At least the cellos plow away underneath the Finale’s second theme more audibly than in most recordings; you also hear this in the Bernstein/New York Philharmonic and Dorati/London Symphony traversals, but rarely anywhere else. Yet the regimented first-desk solos and impeccably bloodless climactic orchestral tuttis lack any hint of exaltation, joy, or triumph beneath the pugilistic surface. It’s clear that Currentzis obtains exactly what he wants from his ensemble, and Beethoven be damned.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music « Back to Search Results

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Kleiber/Vienna Philharmonic (DG); Honeck/Pittsburgh Symphony (Reference); Szell/Concertgebouw (Philips)

    MusicAeterna, Teodor Currentzis

Share This Review: