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Excellent 6th, though still not perfect
on January 25, 2010
A music critic -- I think it was M. Steimberg -- once wrote that an ideal performance of Beethoven's 6th is simply not attainable. He was right. I've listened to dozens of recordings of the 6th, and the single biggest problem is the forceful start of the music, which is also the case with the current recording. Also, the first movement here is too fast for me, just like with Karajan and most other great conductors from the post-War era. Ironically, Toscanini's first movement of the 6th sounds better to me.
Otherwise, though, this is a great -- perhaps the greatest, all considered -- performance of the 6th. Bohm was, and still is, a way underrated interpreter of Beethoven's symphonies, probably because he was the ultimate interpreter of Mozart (yes, even Mozart's music needs good interpretation!) and played Beethoven in the High Classical style, which was not politically correct with audiences atuned to Romantic playings of Beethoven.
Of course, the Wiener Philharmoniker, at its height at the time of this recording, is perfect here. The strings and the woodwinds are truly impeccable here, you simply can't find a more pure and sensible playing anywhere else.
So, other than a slightly flawed 1st movement, this 6th indeed comes close to being perfect.
Schubert's 5th is a less-than-memorable piece, and I own a total of three recordings of it (plus an old one on cassette that I lost after college). Bohm's version here is the strongest I've heard, again with the purity and discipline of playing he was able to get out of the Viennese orchestra.
A great album, and a must-have for Sixth lovers.