Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: CD Recommendation of the Week

It seems impossible I've yet to recommend Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, perhaps the most beloved symphony ever composed.  There are so many possible recording choices it is difficult to make a decision which to recommend.  Here is one review, and I would read many before making a selection.  I have this recording and highly recommend it both for quality and performance.

"Karajan was the only conductor to make four complete Beethoven cycles, one for each decade from the Fifties until his death in 1989. Generally his last set, in somewhat steely digital sound, is considered weak. Karajan's preference for orchestral sheen, generalized phrasing, and lack of emotional depth are a puzzling fact toward the end of his illustrious career. Yet there are exceptions, and this Beethoven Fifth is one.

In every respect, down to the timings of each movement, this reading is a carbon copy of his much acclaimed version from the 1963 cycle. For the Karajan Gold edition DG has improved the sound quite a bit, and sonically it stands ahead of the Sixties version, giving it a slight edge. Expect an authoritative, dynamic reading without eccentricities; the finale is explosive, the Scherzo mysterious, just as in prime Karajan.

The Sixth is also a carbon copy of Karajan's earlier reading, down to the timings of every movement, but his view of the Pastorale was always eccentric. He begins very fast, ignoring Beethoven's marking of Allegro ma non troppo, and gliding over the sublime joyousness of the first movement. The brook is flowing too fast in the second movement as well, and the peasants in the Scherzo are sophisticated and nimble on their feet, ruining Beethoven's rustic jokes. Indeed, every movement sounds glib and uninvolved. I've bought four Pastorales from Karajan just to make sure this was his conception, and it was. If you happen to like it, then the remastered digital sound on this CD is better than the flawed analog sound on the 1963 cycle. (Note: that earlier set has been much improved in its most recent update to hybrid SACD.)"