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Carlos Kleiber, WCLV, Beethoven, Goosebumps (October 25, 2015)

Carlos Kleiber, WCLV, Beethoven, Goosebumps

WCLV, in Cleveland, is kind of amazing in that it exists. Few cities have full time commercial classical radio stations anymore (Chicago used to have several), and even if its signal quality is many steps below Chicago's WFMT, long the industry standard, any classical music fan has to appreciate its endurance.

I just tuned in halfway through the 2nd movement of Beethoven's Fifth symphony. Beethoven's symphonies were my entre into classical music, and I feverishly collected them when I was a young guy, to the tune of 50 complete cycles on LP and many more individual recordings (maybe obsessed would be a better word). So, at least up until about 20 or so years ago (I haven't kept up), I was familiar with most recordings that had been made of the Beethoven symphonies. As I mentioned, WCLV's sound quality leaves much to be desired, somewhat muffled, with lots of limiting/compression. There have been times when I have been listening to a performance of something that it turns out I was already pretty familiar with, but I didn't recognize because of the signal's deficits.

When this Beethoven 5th was playing, I said to Karen that I would be pissed if it turned out to be some original instruments version (I have never been a fan of "original instruments," aka, "historically informed performances," aka HIP, now the standard for many people for performances of Beethoven and everything that came before -- blech), because this was a great performance, great strings, great brass, amazing thrust, weight, drama, it had everything. I found myself wondering if it might even be Carlos Kleiber, it was so overwhelming.

And even through the veiled sound, Kleiber is Kleiber, and that is exactly the performance it turned out to be. Kleiber's Vienna Philharmonic recording from the mid 1970s came out around the time I was getting into classical music, and almost immediately was considered among the greatest recordings of the Fifth ever made, with many reviewers, listeners, and musicians saying flat out it was the greatest ever. For the past 40 years, I have agreed with them. My goosebumps tell me that I still do.

October 25, 2015

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