The 25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7

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Carlos Kleiber had one of the most confounding, frustrating and intermittently spectacular classical-music careers of the 20th century. He was unconcerned with career matters and, despite holding several prominent posts in Europe during the 1960s and 70s, he could have had a bigger presence. Indeed, some believe he could have been the greatest conductor of our time if he had simply conducted more.

Known for his mercurial personality, he had a penchant for walking out of rehearsals and canceling performances if things weren't going well. He spent many of his last years napping in a hammock and gazing out at the countryside at his home in Slovenia.

That being said, Kleiber had a seemingly innate musicianship and a profound knowledge of the scores he conducted. That much can be heard in his famous recordings of Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic, made in the mid-1970s. Even through all the repeats, he projects a constant sense of forward momentum in the Fifth Symphony. The opening motive has just the right weight and balance. For these reasons and others, it's pretty much the consensus view that these are the greatest modern recordings of the two symphonies (especially the Fifth).

What do you think of our choices? Tell us about your favorite versions in the comments below.

Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7
Vienna Philharmonic

Carlos Kleiber
Deutsche Grammophon
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