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25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: The 'Pastoral' Symphony

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To wrap up our month-long survey of the 25 essential Beethoven recordings, we meet the composer's "folk" side. Beethoven wasn't the first composer to depict scenes from nature, but with his "Pastoral" Symphony, he fashioned a compelling new language of musical portraiture. Everything from a cuckoo to a summer thunderstorm are captured with loving detail. And the sounds of nature aren't mere effects but part of a larger musical fabric.

On the podium, conductor George Szell was not known for his sunny, light-spirited personality — quite the opposite — but his touch is just right in this 1960s recording with Cleveland. Each of the movements is leisurely, detailed and quite lovely but he whips up the drama in the climaxes too. The Severance Hall acoustics come through with remarkable fidelity in this remastering.

You can read the complete list of our 25 Essential Recordings here, and in the comments below tell us: What is your favorite Beethoven recording of the Sixth Symphony? Of all time?

Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 1 & 6
Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell
Sony
Available at Arkivmusic.com