Artist: Karl Bohm, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Title: Beethoven Symphony #6 ("Pastoral")
Year of Release: 1971
Record Label: Deutsche Grammophon
This is one of my favourite Beethoven symphonies (perhaps second only to the Ninth). It is a "named" symphony, i.e. "Pastoral", intended to evoke images of the countryside so beloved by Beethoven (he used to take long walks in the woods). It opens with joyous music corresponding with cheerful feelings upon arrival in the country, followed by a scene at the brook, and a merry gathering gathering of country people. Then comes a storm, which is depicted very cleverly by Beethoven, so much so that the music is used in movies to this day. This is followed by a slow movement that is one of the most gorgeous in classical music. It is very lyrical and calming. This is an album that makes you want to listen to it from start to finish, rather than just individual movements.
I started my collection of Beethoven symphonies by buying all of von Karajan's 1962 recordings. I really liked them all except for the 6th, which just seemed to me to be too fast. It sounded like Herr von Karajan was in a rush to get to his next appointment!
I heard Kurt Sanderling with Radu Lupu, live, doing Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto, and it was electrifying, so, figuring that Sanderling was an all-round good interpreter of Beethoven, I bought his 6th. It was incredibly slow and boring.
I then bought the Bruno Walter recording on the series of the World's 100 Greatest Recordings, but it failed to move me.
I picked up a copy of the Penguin Record Guide, in which they gave the Karl Bohm recording a rosette for an outstanding performance. So I bought it. They did not lie. This is a superb performance, with tempi between those of HvK and Sanderling. A truly amazing performance. This happened a long time ago, so it was all on vinyl. In order to be on the safe side I bought 3 copies.
I subsequently bought the highly-rated reissued Reiner, but still prefer the Bohm.