The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This big and lively vintage London pressing of Beethoven's masterpiece boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom
- Good weight to the brass, huge hall space, wonderfully textured string tone - it's all here and more
- A top performance from Solti and the Vienna Phil - it's classic Solti: fast-paced, exciting and powerful
- This is Beethoven played with gusto - Solti brings this music to life like no other conductor we know of (with the exception of Dorati, perhaps)
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We like our recordings to have as many of the qualities of Live Music as possible, and those qualities really come through on a record such as this, especially when reproduced on the full-range speaker system we use. It's precisely this kind of big, clear, yet rich sound that makes audiophiles prize Decca/London recordings above those of virtually all other labels, and here, unlike in so many areas of audio, we are fully in agreement with our fellow record loving audiophile friends.
This Golden Age tape has been mastered brilliantly with "modern" mastering equipment (from the mid-'60s, not the low-rez junk they're forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.
You may have noticed that Beethoven's symphonies rarely make it to the site. There's a reason for this: most of the recordings of them don't sound very good. We are happy to report that, at least when it comes to the Fifth, that problem has been solved, by this very record in fact.
Solti's Beethoven has always been underrated. In some respects it's more satisfying than his ventures into the late Romantic repertoire on which his reputation largely rests. His Fifth Symphony, for example, has all of the drama and flair one could ask for in its outer movements, and his treatment of the Third's epic funeral march is truly gripping, with a hair-raising fugato climax.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
What The Best Sides Of This Wonderful Classical Masterpiece Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1959
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
The Leibowitz from Readers Digest that we also like is tubier and richer, and more lyrical in performance.
The Solti from 1959 here is cleaner, clearer and both more exacting and lively. I would have a hard time choosing between them.
The Best Sound
The strings are not as dry as they usually are on this recording, a big problem with London as a rule, but not so here.
The sound is rich, Tubey Magical and very clear, all at the same time. There are recordings that are richer, but none we know of that are more clear as well as rich.
What We're Listening For On Beethoven's 5th
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Powerful bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
London Circa 1975
The complete cycle was recorded with Solti and the Chicago Symphony by the Decca/London team, but like so many later Londons -- say, those made after 1970 -- the sound is opaque and lacking in hall ambience.
If there's one thing live classical music never is, it's opaque.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
A Must Own Record
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Classical Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- 1st Mov.: Allegro Con Brio
- 2nd Mov.: Andante Con Moto
- 3rd Mov.: Scherzo (Allegro)
- 4th Mov.: Allegro
In an essay titled "Beethoven's Instrumental Music", E. T. A. Hoffmann further praised the "indescribably profound, magnificent symphony in C minor":
How this wonderful composition, in a climax that climbs on and on, leads the listener imperiously forward into the spirit world of the infinite!... No doubt the whole rushes like an ingenious rhapsody past many a man, but the soul of each thoughtful listener is assuredly stirred, deeply and intimately, by a feeling that is none other than that unutterable portentous longing, and until the final chord—indeed, even in the moments that follow it—he will be powerless to step out of that wondrous spirit realm where grief and joy embrace him in the form of sound....
Notes on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
by Christopher H. Gibbs
In Beethoven's Time
The Symphony was premiered later that year together with the Sixth (their numbers in fact reversed) at Beethoven's famous marathon concert at Vienna's Theater an der Wien on December 22, which also included the first public performance of the Fourth Piano Concerto (the composer was soloist), two movements from the Mass, the concert aria Ah! Perfido, and the "Choral" Fantasy, Op. 80. Reports indicate that all did not go well.
But inadequate performance conditions did not dampen enthusiasm for the Fifth Symphony, which was soon recognized as a masterpiece. The novelist, critic, and composer E.T.A. Hoffmann wrote a long and influential review, ushering in a new era in music criticism that hailed "Beethoven’s romanticism … that tears the listener irresistibly away into the wonderful spiritual realm of the infinite."
A Closer Look
Another reason for the great fame and popularity of this Symphony is that it distills so much of Beethoven's musical style. One feature is its "organicism," the fact that all four movements seem to grow from seeds sown in the opening measures. While Beethoven used the distinctive rhythmic figure of three shorts and a long in other works from this time (Tovey remarked that if this indeed represents fate knocking at the door it was also knocking at many other doors), it clearly helps to unify the entire Symphony. After the most familiar of openings (Allegro con brio), the piece modulates to the relative major key and the horns announce the second theme with a fanfare using the "fate rhythm." The softer, lyrical second theme, first presented by the violins, is inconspicuously accompanied in the lower strings by the rhythm. The movement features Beethoven's characteristic building of intensity, suspense, a thrilling coda, and also mysteries. Why, for example, does the oboe have a brief unaccompanied solo cadenza near the beginning of the recapitulation. Beethoven's innovation is not simply that this brief passage may "mean" something, but that listeners are prompted in the first place to ask themselves what it means.