The Observer on Beethoven: Symphonies 5 & 7

The Observer, by Stephen Pritchard, 14 October 2012

Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7

"It felt as if we were playing for our lives," writes oboist Michael Niesemann in his sleeve note on this recording of a Carnegie Hall concert given last year by John Eliot Gardiner with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, and (ignoring occasional wayward intonation) you can hear what he means: the electricity in the air is almost tangible.

Gardiner is merciless in his demands, pitching his troops into a demented assault against the wilder shores of the seventh and plunging them headlong into the fifth, ratcheting up the tension with maniacal precision. The tempo is often exhilarating, the playing always vital, edgy and thrillingly fluent. This is the most exciting Beethoven release you are likely to hear this year.