- Symphony No. 5 in C minor ("Fate"), Op. 67
- Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
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Lately anointed as a rising star among young maestros, Gustavo Dudamel followed up his victory in the 2005 Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition by broadening his renown with a high-profile, last-minute substitution for an ailing Neeme Järvi at the London Proms. Now, at age 25, comes the Venezuelan conductor's debut recording, and the venerable repertoire he's chosen shows a bold willingness to place his Beethoven interpretations alongside some of the greatest recordings ever made. Dudamel has been music director of Venezuela's Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra since 1999 -- well before he began to attract international attention -- and he seems to have achieved a striking rapport with these musicians. Even if the ensemble won't erase the Berlin Philharmonic from your memory, their responsiveness to Dudamel is striking; they're able to play almost inaudibly in some of the most breathtaking moments of this recording of the Fifth Symphony -- for example, the closing trio of the Scherzo movement -- but they also succeed in building to exciting and sonorous climaxes in both symphonies. Dudamel's version of the Seventh Symphony is in many ways the more satisfying of the two; his youthful vigor gives the work's irrepressible rhythmic energy a run for its money, with an especially furious approach to the finale, but he also makes ample space to showcase the orchestra's fine wind soloists in the symphony's more relaxed moments. With a calling card like this recording in his pocket, Dudamel is perfectly poised to make the leap from promising newcomer to permanent fixture on the classical scene.