Stereo Times critic Russell Lichter has been “floored” by Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s new Beethoven: Symphony Nos. 5 & 7 recording:
“Like all aficionados of my longevity, I have heard numerous versions of the Fifth over the years, but when I alighted on Carlos Kleiber’s performance on the Deutsche Grammophon label, a decade or two ago, I stopped looking. Kleiber in my opinion is one of the supreme conductors of the Twentieth Century and every time I listened that CD, I emerged astonished. It simply didn’t get any better. No other version I’d heard before or since held a candle to it.
I was floored from the first bar of the Allego ma non troppo. Speaking of tempo, there are doubtless literalists out there for whom the letter of the law (Fast but not too much) is more important than the spirit. I wish them well, I wouldn’t dream of trying to change their minds. All I can say is that Maestro Honeck’s temporal conception of this symphony, which is quite fast, is so spot on, it makes what remains of my hair stand on end. I was literally lost for words. Once I managed to speak at all, I could only say, This is the greatest Fifth I’ve ever heard. Not a typical reaction for me. By nature I’m chary of hyperbole and I avoid absolutes like the plague they are. I offer my comment not because I am prepared to defend it in the lists, but because it conveys something of the intensity of my emotions.
And the clarity and control! The members of the PSO must love working with this conductor. It is apparent that he demands a lot of his musicians, and that they give it to him with knobs on. It is rare, very rare, to hear a large ensemble of musicians play with such impeccable precision and passion. … This is a Fifth that, like Kleiber’s, will go down in history.
I hope I have said enough to encourage you to buy this disc. Like every Reference Recordings disc I’ve heard, the sound quality is superb, microphone placement impeccable. And if you’re lucky enough to have an SACD setup (which I do not), you’re in business because this is a dual-layer disc.” —Russell Lichter, Stereo Times