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Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011

San Francisco Symphony

Beethoven Symphony No. 5/Piano Concerto No. 4 (SFS Media)

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The voice of God opening of Beethoven’s 5th is among the most familiar pieces of music in the world, and in this recent recording, the music that follows never falls slack. Under conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, the San Francisco Symphony is rhythmically strong, neither florid nor merely accurate in its reading. The dramatic performance is reason for classical buffs (who already own several versions) to seek out this release. For novices, the CD is a good place to start, both for the sweeping grandeur of the performance and for the composition itself, whose movements offer a superb example of how composers from the high classical period worked by exploring a theme and taking it in many directions and through many emotions. Shadow dissolves into light and light fades to the shadow of apocalyptic fury. Esteemed pianist Emanuel Ax joins the symphony for the piano concerto.