- Performer: Emmanuel Axe
- Orchestra: San Francisco Symphony
- Conductor: Michael Tilson Thomas
- Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
- Audio CD (8 February 2011)
- Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
- Language: German, English
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Hybrid SACD, SACD, Import
- Label: San Francisco Sym
- ASIN: B004HARL92
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
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Beethoven: Symphony No.5 Hybrid SACD, SACD, Import
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Pianist Emanuel Ax joins the SFS and MTT for a rendering of Beethoven s Fourth Piano Concerto, perhaps the most
introverted and thoughtful of his concertos. Its presence creates a perfect pairing with the mighty Fifth Symphony.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
We begin with a well-managed but cautious run through of the Beethoven Fifth that is almost perverse in its refusal to generate excitement. Is "sleek" the adjective that should come to mind in this, of all symphonies? Nothing amiss happens, but my attention was never captured fora moment. The orchestra plays well, but with the wattage turned down so low, does it matter? After a sleepy first movement, the Andante co moto proceeds nicely enough, even if it is underplayed for accents and contrast - the whole thing flows like syrup out of a bottle. The Scherzo has no mystery, the finale marshals some energy but no triumphant joy.
I had higher hopes for Emanuel Ax, a pianist with a huge career who has fallen into routine playing and lack of emotional involvement over the years - he's the essence of a PBS pianist. But his recent Beethoven concerto readings have taken off in concert (I attended two), showing a willingness to probe the score, add variety, and show off his superb technique. Ax isn't helped by MTT's handling of the long orchestral introduction to the Fourth Cto., which is so square and prosaic that it makes Haitink look like a firebrand. Ax can't build upon such a platform, but he tries. His passagework shows some sparkle and life in the first movement. But he's not willing to snatch the performance out of the conductor's hands, so we get a hit-and-miss movement where flashes of impressive pianism are snuffed out by dull accompaniment.
MTT rises a notch in the slow movement, making a convincing contrast between the orchestra's roars and the piano's whispers. There's not much tumult or thrust in the roars, though. Ax isn't hindered from delivering a lovely, poetic account of the solo part. The tricky opening to the finale poses no trouble for either Ax or MTT, and the conductor pays some attention to Beethoven's marking of Vivace; he's robust and vigorous. I'd like the pace to be dazzling, as it is in Mikhail Pletnev's wonderful reading on DG, and Ax could be better at softening the mood for the second theme. Even so, this emerges as the most successful movement.
All told, with the Fifth as nearly a bust and the Fourth Cto. being half a loaf at best, the only lasting virtue of this recording is the excellent sound (as heard in two channel format) and the memory of what must have been a nice subscription concert.