Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7
If the old analogy holds true -- that Beethoven's symphonies are to an orchestra what Shakespeare's plays are to a theater company -- then the Fifth Symphony is the composer's "Hamlet." And Beethoven's Fifth is just as fiercely concentrated and propulsive as "Hamlet" is hauntingly dramatic and brooding. Carlos Kleiber's celebrated recording is so sharply focused that even if you think you know the music inside and out, you'll think you're hearing it for the first time. None other than Richard Wagner described the Seventh Symphony as "the apotheosis of the dance." It's not hard to hear why, as the entire score -- even the dark and melancholy second movement -- communicates a sense of infectious, balletic vitality. Again, Kleiber's interpretation sweeps the field. Few other versions communicate the joyous energy of the music so effectively.