I have two versions of the 6th Symphony:
- Otto Klemperer with the Philharmonia Orchestra on EMI
- John Eliot Gardiner with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire Et Romantique on Archiv
In fact I have all of Beethoven’s symphonies by both conductors, and they make excellent companions. Klemperer is firmly in the ‘romantic’ camp: big sound, slow tempos, wonderful gravity. His version of the 6th is one of the highlights – The Pengiun Guide To Compact Discs & CDs calls it: ‘…one of the very finest of all his recordings.’
Gardiner provides the ‘period performance’ perspective. His versions are generally faster, observing Beethoven’s own fast metronome markings, and some of his interpretations are revelations (listen to his version of the 9th and you’ll feel like you’re hearing it for the first time). This is felt by many to be the clear first choice for period performances, although David Zinman’s set with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich on Arte Nova is also many critics’ favourite.
As for the 6th itself, the Penguin Guide gives its coveted Rosette award to Bruno Walter’s reading with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra: ‘The Pastoral represents the peak of his Indian summer in the American recording studios, an affectionate, finely integrated performance from a master, with beautifully balanced sound.’