From expectant pizzicatos and hallowed strings to the blazing brass at the finish, for eighty-two minutes Christian Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic engage and illuminate us with this majestic, sonorous and deeply expressive account of the mighty Fifth (Nowak’s edition), captured during March last year in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein, resplendently and with focus within the generous acoustic.

It’s an eloquent and powerful performance, detailed, dynamic, as capable of cathedral hush and awe as being sonically magnificent in Heaven-reaching fortissimos, the latter avoiding coarseness and brass-heavy balances. Drama, too, in the way Thielemann adjusts tempos without losing the movements’ threads and invests such as a quiet bass line with significance.

The first movement has a feeling of ritual about it, the slow one concerns Holy Orders, climaxed step by step with patience, and if this is all becoming too religious for the reader, the Scherzo is an outdoors romp – sacred has become secular as dance rhythms are alighted upon, to which Thielemann is a flexible master of ceremonies, and then bringing languor and relaxation to the Trio. The massive and contrapuntally complex Finale – including a double fugue – reminiscences for a while with lookbacks to the previous movements, a cheeky clarinet chiding things along to new wonders, and when they arrive conductor and the seasoned Philharmoniker members know exactly what they are doing – all the way to a triumphant arrival. Sony Classical 19658706142.

The story so far:

to be continued