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Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9 [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]

Dasch , Beczala    Exempt   Blu-ray
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 88.34 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9 [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free] + Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 - 5 ( Daniel Barenboim Staatskapelle Berlin) [Blu-ray] [2009] [NTSC]
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Product details

  • Actors: Dasch, Beczala, Zeppenfeld, Fujimura, Wiener Philharmoniker
  • Format: Classical, Widescreen
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Italian, Korean
  • Region: All Regions (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: C Major
  • DVD Release Date: 26 Sep 2011
  • Run Time: 956 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005H7WDTC
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,009 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

The complete Beethoven symphonies cycle featuring Christian Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The set features all nine symphonies, each complete with an accompanying documentary containing analysis and discussion with Christian Thielemann himself.

Product Description

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
have supplied reviews of the three sets this complete box draws together. This review, therefore is by way of a summary of my previous responses so there will be inevitable repetition.

This is, on the face of it, a very generous and tempting coupling of Beethoven's symphonies all on three discs. The recording company, C Major, is in my opinion one of the very best working today. As a result we get unfailingly excellent surround sound and high quality visuals with sympathetic and knowledgeable camera work. So what of the actual performances?

Thielemann is very much his own man in this important respect. What we have here is 'big band' Beethoven with a large modern orchestra. There is no effort made to reproduce in any way the sound world that Beethoven inhabited. The textures presented here are fuller and more luscious in contrast to the sparer and rawer sounds that 'authentic' instruments deliver. Thielemann favours a well upholstered sound world and for this he is much appreciated by his Viennese audiences. It will also appeal to all listeners at home who find the 'authentic' approach rather too lean for their taste.

Thielemann goes further than just the sound world though and adopts a 'Romantic Period' approach to expression that would fit easily with Berlioz (think of his Fantastic Symphony)and the later Romantics. This is achieved by extensive variations of speed and dynamics, none of which can be found in the score. Indeed by contrast, Beethoven's own instructions for speed, with very fast and steady metronome markings, have often raised doubts about the feasibility of performances at that rate.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beethoven symphonies 1-9 11 Feb 2012
Buying this set of 3 DVDs is more expensive than buying the 3 DVDs individualy? Why? I hope will rectify this a.s.a.p.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An imposing set of large-scale Beethoven but a rejection of current period-aware practices 14 July 2012
By I. Giles - Published on
I have supplied reviews of the three sets this complete box draws together. This review, therefore is by way of a summary of my previous responses so there will be inevitable repetition.

This is, on the face of it, a very generous and tempting coupling of Beethoven's symphonies all on three discs. The recording company, C Major, is in my opinion one of the very best working today. As a result we get unfailingly excellent surround sound and high quality visuals with sympathetic and knowledgeable camera work. So what of the actual performances?

Thielemann is very much his own man in this important respect. What we have here is 'big band' Beethoven with a large modern orchestra. There is no effort made to reproduce in any way the sound world that Beethoven inhabited. The textures presented here are fuller and more luscious in contrast to the sparer and rawer sounds that 'authentic' instruments deliver. Thielemann favours a well upholstered sound world and for this he is much appreciated by his Viennese audiences. It will also appeal to all listeners at home who find the 'authentic' approach rather too lean for their taste.

Thielemann goes further than just the sound world though and adopts a 'Romantic Period' approach to expression that would fit easily with Berlioz (think of his Fantastic Symphony)and the later Romantics. This is achieved by extensive variations of speed and dynamics, none of which can be found in the score. Indeed by contrast, Beethoven's own instructions for speed, with very fast and steady metronome markings, have often raised doubts about the feasibility of performances at that rate. This has now been answered by the authentic movement who can give lithe performances possible at those speeds with their reduced orchestras and playing on more flexible older instruments. It must be said that Thielemann's approach works best of all in the final three symphonies rather than the earliest in the set especially. This is simply because Beethoven has now moved along the road away from the more emotionally restrained Classical Period Haydn model of symphony writing towards the, as yet, close but uncharted territory of the Romantics which were soon to follow.

I myself, was initially taken aback by the degree of Thielmann's un-historic approach which I found to be somewhat questionable. In particular I struggled with his frequent choice of slow and very variable speeds. This applies especially to the first halves of the 7th and 8th symphonies which are particularly heavy-weight, but both of which finish more quickly. The first two symphonies inevitably stray the most from the Classical period of Haydn and a world which Beethoven also inhabited. The 9th symphony naturally responds best to this approach and works very well. Upon further listening my views remain much the same - but nevertheless I definitely enjoy this set of well performed, well recorded but somewhat anachronistic Beethoven conducting. There are extensive extras provided in which Thielemann discusses his view of Beethoven with Joachim Kaiser.

On its own terms this set comes with a strong positive recommendation but also with the proviso that this is unlikely to be first choice for purists who feel strongly about period performance style. I am certainly able enjoy it on its own terms, especially the 9th symphony but this set is really Thielemann's Beethoven rather the Beethoven that we have now been taught to recognise by current researchers at the very least or by followers of period instruments!

On that note, it is worth stressing that the period instrument movements has improved out of all recognition over the last 20 years or so. Gone are the acerbic strings and doubtful woodwind tuning as playing techniques have overcome the technical problems of the instruments. Gone also is the belief that all a conductor had to do was beat time. Now conductors are fully involved with interpretation as with any other orchestra or later periods of music.

I would suggest that this set is going to primarily appeal and be rewarding to those who resist any form of period-aware performance and are essentially followers of traditions going back to the days of Klemperer for example. It may well be a less than satisfactory set for those who are attracted to any stylistic modifications made since then. The recording quality is outstanding however and shows the VPO to very good effect.


Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)

I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)

I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
Keep up the good work!
Thank you (UK review)

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thielemann's Very Variable Beethoven 19 Jun 2012
By Mark E. Stenroos - Published on
These are willful interpretations that - IMHO - say a lot about Christian Thielemann and, occasionally, something important about Ludwig van Beethoven as well.

The performances of the earlier symphonies themselves are episodic, to put it kindly. It's one thing to fail to successfully link the sections of a given symphonic movement together into a whole, thereby unwittingly allowing us hear the seams in a work. It's quite another thing to create seams where none previously existed. This is a real debit in Thielemann's overall approach to the earlier works, IMO, especially as his performances of the later symphonies reflect a more traditional and moderate (read: successful) approach to Beethoven.

In the plus column, Thielemann observes nearly every repeat in every symphony (except the 7th and the 9th - more about this below), and the Vienna Philharmonic sounds wonderful throughout.

On to the works themselves:

Thielemann has no love and carries no brief for Symphonies 1 & 2. I get the feeling that CT would have been fine recording only Symphonies 3 - 9 were that an option. Sym I/iii is raced through with little regard for nuance of any sort. Ensemble problems abound, mostly on the small scale, but they are there.

The overt classicism of the two early symphonies holds no enchantment for Maestro Thielemann. Fast movements are uncomfortably fast, with the slow movements being self-consciously slow. I'm not hearing any great interpretive insights in either symphony. Thielemann seems more concerned with doing a physical impersonation of the "relaxed energy" conducting styles of Carlos Keliber and Wilhelm Furtwängler than attending to what's going on right in front of him. Unfortunately for the listener, Thielemann's relaxation often verges on the indifferent. To me, the relaxation comes off as a cover for a mild narcissism that - while expected in conductors - is striving here for new modes of expression. I wonder if, perhaps, Thielemann will revisit these works later in his career and find more in them than he does at this point in time.

The Eroica is the most successful performance out of the first 3 symphonies. I'm surprised Theilemann didn't double the winds in this symphony. It would have helped the balances in the tutti sections. The first movement suffers from Thielemann pulling the tempos around for no apparent reason other than that the orchestra will follow him. The second movement has suitable gravitas: I felt that the placement of the triplet pick ups in the double basses weren't always placed accurately. The orchestral sound gets a bit rough edged in the louder sections of this symphony. The third movement is highly energetic, with the French horns shining in their exposed calls.

In the Eroica finale, Thielemann provides an extended - and meaningless - unwritten pause before the oboe solo at the Poco andante (bar 348). The camera lingers on Thielemann as he freezes and extends this silence well beyond normal limits. It's a real, "look at me! I'm Christian Thielemann!" moment. You might think that your BD player has suddenly frozen up.

The oboe solo is then launched...and we get more extended visuals of Thielemann conducting. The camera then cuts away to the horns, who are providing supporting harmony for the oboist. The camera next cuts to the clarinet, back to the horns, etc. Who we don't catch a glimpse of is the effing solo oboist! At least not until the very end of the solo, when the camera gives a brief shot of his hands positioned on his horn (without showing his face).

Now, I'm no Agnes Meth - the person who directed this video - but I have to ask: why wouldn't you show the oboist during this solo? Is that too common an idea for this video? Are we making a statement by playing against expectations? I'd like to know.

Throughout these recordings (Symphonies 1 - 3), Thielemann seems particularly unconcerned about maintaining energy through the ends of phrases when those phrases encompass the "fall" that attends the natural rise and fall of a musical line. Oh, he's fine on the "rise" part, where energy is supplied in abundance. But when the musical line falls, the energy underneath it can sag incredibly. It's as if CT's thoughts are focussed on the "next point of interest" for him, a point that perhaps lies 8 to 12 bars in the future. For a person who thinks he's emulating Furtwängler, it's disappointing to hear the results of a conductor NOT being in the moment, at least when that moment represents the fall of a musical line. It's one thing to have a performance going on in your head that isn't being reflected by the group you're leading. It's quite another thing when the group you're leading is the Vienna Philharmonic, an orchestra whose pedigree in Beethoven performance SHOULD serve to engage even a conductor who has been leading Beethoven performances for decades. Thielemann? Not so much.

Not surprisingly, CT has no problems achieving an overly inflected diminuendo when it is indicated in the score. His diminuendi may be more diminuendi than those of the king of diminuendi! No sagging here. Too bad he doesn't avoid the energy sag elsewhere, ie: where a diminuendo occurs as the result of the musical line, where the composer didn't feel the need to mark a diminuendo because one doesn't mark those things that musicians sort of "get" - hors concours - because they're musicians.

Lest you think I'm singling out CT for such criticism, this problem seems to afflict many of today's conductors. It's more glaring when set against the work of the old-school conductors like Karajan, Walter, Szell and Bernstein, who paid attention and took care of such things as part of their normal modus operandi.

Finally, it bears mentioning that Thielemann has a penchant for speeding up and slowing down at cadential points for no apparent reason other than the fact that the music has reached such a point. These gestures add nothing to the music. In fact, they serve only to turn the spotlight onto CT in a "look what I can do/control" way. I hate to say it, but his is the kind of almost rank musical amateurism one encounters at the local band concert in the park gazebo, where Our Illustrious Locally Born-n-Bred Maestro leads the troops through their paces, imposing his idea of what constitutes an interpretive touch on the proceedings. One would have thought that the massive corrective to such provincialism that the musical world called Arturo Toscanini would have banished such gestures to the remotest of musical outposts. But, no. Here, we are through the looking glass, apparently with unwitting provincialism now channeled through an intellectual process and exiting the other end as the new, studied and intellectually embraced form of provincialism that passes for modern-day musical insight, on display for all to see and hear within the hallowed walls of the Musikvereinsaal itself!

Sound on the disc is excellent, as is the HD picture quality.

Coming to the BD of Symphonies 4 - 6 immediately after the disappointing disc of Symphonies 1-3, I was pleasantly surprised with Thielemann's approach to the Fourth. In fact, let me state right now that the first disc of this set isn't at all representative of the performances encoded on the other 2 BDs in this cycle, which are much more enjoyable, traditional and free of mannerisms, and that I found to be well worth viewing and hearing.

Back to the performance of the 4th: here, the conductor is fully engaged in the proceedings in a way he was not in the first three symphonies of the cycle. Tempi are more judiciously chosen than they were on Disc 1, and save for Thielemann's trademark accelerandi and rallentandi at cadence points (gestures that do nothing to enhance the music), this performance is pretty straight forward.

Thielemann obviously sees the second movement as the core of this symphony, and he lingers over the movement, bestowing ample helpings of love and insight along the way. There is some impressive playing here from the wind soloists - particularly the first clarinet and bassoon - who are often asked to play so quietly that lesser players would find their reeds failing to vibrate. It's a testament to the skill and art of these players that they can maintain a steady and beautiful tone at a dynamic level that strains the physics that lie behind playing reed instruments. Bravi tutti!

The third and fourth movements are simply delightful, reminding me once again why I find this to be my favorite symphony out of the 9. No less an authority than Karajan felt the 4th to be the most-difficult Beethoven symphony to pull of in concert, yet pull it off Thielemann does, in no small part due to the virtuosity of the Vienna Philharmonic. I'm also happy to report that the famous bassoon solo in the 4th movement is not only played for all it's worth, but that the video director allows us to watch the player going through his paces. That director would be the same Agnes Meth who failed to show the oboist going through the paces of his solo in the finale of the Eroica.

After the pleasant surprise of the 4th, Thielemann's 5th comes off as the weakest link in his cycle. The symphony is kick started by Thielemann launching the first movement before the applause that greeted his assuming the podium has subsided. There's a good generalized energy throughout the first movement. But, alas, we soon encounter the sags in energy that afflicted his performances of the First and Second Symphonies. It's a strange phenomenon: in tuttis, the brass peal forth, but the string body seems to lose the edge to its sound that is necessary to keep pace with and provide a counterweight to the brass. One would think the aggressive energy of this movement was self sustaining. Thielemann shows us that we've been taking for granted the performances by conductors who don't let the energy sag in this movement. At the end of the day, Thielemann's approach to this movement doesn't ever gel into a cohesive whole.

There are also changes to the wind personnel, and not for the better. The first-chair oboist is a much-inferior player to the man who graced the earlier works. The exposed oboe solo in V/i is weak and watery. His work in the 6th symphony is also underpowered, stringy and bereft of opulence. A bad choice.

The second movement of the Fifth fares well, but it comes off as being even more episodic than it usually is as Thielemann bends a few tempi, extends phrases and indulges his soloists. Overall, there's nothing to really complain about. Just the renewed belief that most conductors miss the opportunity to make a bit more of this movement, as does Maestro Thielemann.

The third movement falls just short of being a real winner. I could have used more presence from the French horns when they announce their big moment that breaks the quiet tension of the opening bars. Thielemann adopts a slightly slower and steadier tempo when the double basses start their virtuosic lick, which - while adding clarity - puts a bit of a straight jacket on the upward rushes of the violins. There's no edge or sparkle to their sound. Happily, Thielemann does NOT take the unwritten (and unwanted and unnecessary) repeat in this movement that seems to be *de rigueur* with the HIP crowd. Thank you!

The transition to the Finale is clear, but still mysterious. Not as mysterious as Karajan, but good enough.

The Finale itself is launched at a broad tempo that had me salivating at the possibilities. Alas, by the 6th bar, Thielemann has accelerated the tempo into what we normally get in 98% of recordings. Rats! Another opportunity missed! The two subsequent repeats of these opening bars (CT takes the repeat in this movement and the first movement, BTW) find Thielemann trying to again rein in the tempo, but with even less success than he did on its first iteration. One wonders - why even bother? Much of the finale comes off as a mad scramble, with lapses in ensemble mitigated only by the wall of sound coming from the speakers. At the end of it all, we've been treated to a decidedly run-of-the-mill run through of the piece, with a few errant gestures here and there standing in for involvement and depth. I didn't get the sense that Thielemann necessarily likes this piece. Perhaps he thinks it's over done at this point in history.

Thielemann definitely likes the Pastorale, and here, it receives an excellent all-around reading, though I'm beginning to believe that this piece is perhaps bullet proof. One wishes we had a different first oboist in this performance, as he has plenty of solo work to do. CT avoids his tendency to indulge himself and the orchestra in meaningless interpretive gestures. Tempi for each movement are well-judged, and balances are exemplary. That said, the playing doesn't have the sense of spontaneity that marks all really great performances of the Pastorale. The humor of the country band in the third movement is an on-paper humor here, not a fully realized aural humor. The strings make no effort to imitate the raw drone of a hurdy gurdy in the opening of the 5th movement. The 4th-movement's storm is more of a summer shower than the tree-toppling cataclysm we get from Karajan and others. Overall, the playing is a hair too cultured: a busman's holiday of a trip to the country, not necessarily a week spent working at the dude ranch.

Still, I would recommend this BD for the great sound and picture quality, even if the performances have been bettered elsewhere. Others may not be as off-put as am I about certain aspects of Thielemann's interpretive choices.

BD 3 gives us the final three symphonies in the cycle.

Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic turn in an exemplary performance of the 7th Symphony. It's the most-straight-forward performance to date in the cycle. Thielemann's tempo for the opening "Poco sostenuto" is a bit faster than most, and it builds confidently into the "Vivace" proper. He ignores the repeat (bar 176) that would return us back to the start of the Vivace and moves ahead into the remainder of the movement. Everything is well played and well balanced. Our oboist from the Pastorale even does a better job here (though I could have done with more wind presence throughout the Symphony).

The famous "Allegretto" is very enjoyable, with Thielemann taking a moderate view of the staccato markings that sit over the string parts. No complaints here. Just sit back and enjoy a great orchestra playing some great music to a tee.

The ensuing "Presto" is crisp, clean and exciting, even at a slightly slower tempo than the norm. While Thielemann observes most of the small repeats within sections of this movement, he ignores the "big" first repeat (bar 145) that leads back to the edge of the movement, and takes the second ending into the "Assai meno presto." This more-relaxed section of the movement is a real winner, with the brass ringing forth in splendor when required. The string writing in the off beats is well-weighted here. It all adds up to a powerful - and life-affirming - bit of music making.

The Finale is played for all its worth, and at a fair clip. Not as manic as Karajan and Abbado in their later Berlin recordings, but exciting, none the less. Thieleman ignores the "Dal segno" first ending (bar 121) that would return us to the start of the movement - a choice that I generally agree with - and forges on. The only debit in the movement is Thielemann's slowing the tempo to accommodate the quick 16th-note writing for the strings whenever it occurs, while accelerating in places free of these specific technical challenges. I would have preferred a steady tempo that accommodated both. But over all, there's little to complain about and much to admire here, as Thielemann seems to be truly coming into his own in the later Beethoven symphonies.

The Eighth Symphony also finds Thielemann on his best behavior, turning in yet another straight forward interpretation. There are many, many fine recordings of this symphony, a symphony that seems to be more appreciated than it is loved, and that has always suffered in the shadow of the 9th that follows it. Thielemann's performance marks another recommendable addition to the catalog, and in fantastic sight and sound, to boot.

Thielemann offers one of the best 9ths to come down the pike in a number of years. It's well-balanced, lyrical and energetic.

Those expecting the cataclysmic look into the abyss as provided by Bernstein's or Karajan's approach to the first movement will need to look elsewhere. There's no subtext to Thielemann's approach. This is absolute music, as it were. Where some see a Genesis-like beginning of the universe, Thielemann sees D Minor. There's nothing wrong with this approach, though it does tend to play down dramatic elements and effects that loom large in many other versions. There are the usual Theilemann underlinings of tempo changes and dynamics that I've come to expect in his Beethoven, along with his ignoring certain indications in Beethoven's own hand, opting to go his own way, as it were. Once one accepts that reality, things do fall into place.

The Second movement (Molto vivace) is just a tad slower than most, and that makes for a good deal of clarity in hearing the orchestra lines. Thielemann takes the first repeat (bar 150) that takes us back to the beginning of the movement, while ignoring the additional big first repeat (bar 388) later on. Overall, very enjoyable on every level.

The third movement is treated lovingly by Thielemann, reinforcing my feeling that this movement is the real center of this symphony. There are too many nice touches here to enumerate them all. Suffice to say that I felt compelled to listen to this movement again when it came to its conclusion...but I couldn't do that, as Thielemann segues directly into the Finale.

The Finale is very well done, and one can basically just sit back and enjoy the proceedings. The solo quartet is a bit above average, with the bass being too light, the soprano being too physically manic (though it doesn't effect her singing) the tenor being quite good and the alto...well, who ever really hears the alto? The chorus is also quite good and offers in-tune singing and tonal variety in abundance.

As usual there are a few novel choices by Thielemann. His solution to bridging the tempo change between the slower "Alla marcia" of the tenor solo and the ensuing (and quick) Fugato is to accelerate to the quick tempo of the Fugato over the final bars of the music for the tenor soloist and men's chorus (bars 96-101 of the Alla marcia section). It's not the usual solution, but it works. And while some may quibble that his final "Maestoso" is too Maestoso (it is, if one follows what Beethoven actually indicated), it's perfectly acceptable and in line with how most conductors treat this final choral utterance before the closing Prestissimo.

Over all, this is a pretty good set, even when put against the non-Blu Ray/video options out there. That said, it is pricey (my son got it for me as a Father's Day gift for $97, but the price has now climbed to $114 on amazon for the complete Blu Ray cycle). For those with unlimited funds, I would say go for it. For those on a stricter budget, I would suggest trying the discs in their reverse order, with the third BD (Symphonies 7 - 9) being the best and the first BD (Symphonies 1 -3 ) being the runt of the litter. Were I looking for ONE Beethoven Symphony cycle on video, I would probably recommend Abbado's BPO version from Rome, though there is no BD option right now, only DVD (On edit: the Abbado set was released on BD in 2013).

I've watched a few snippets from the various "Discovering Beethoven" extras included on each BD - they're rudimentary stuff aimed at the novice listener. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, if novice listeners make up the market for classical BDs.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome sound quality and informative commentary 11 May 2012
By Sei-Young Jang - Published on
Verified Purchase
DTS MA sound quality is awesome. Huge difference from typical DVD recording. Very satisfied. The commentary, that is, the conversation of Mr. Kaiser and the conductor was interesting, educational and dynamic. You can enjoy the conversation and the music at the same time. Excellent programming. Highly recommend to classical music lover. New horizon open with bluray media.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blu-ray Beethoven 6 April 2013
By H. Snyder - Published on
Just as Beethoven's nine symphonies are the standard against which all subsequent symphonies were measured, this set of recordings from the Vienna Philharmonic is the video production against which all classical music videos can be measured. Available as three individual discs (symphonies 1-3, 4-6, and 7-9) or a complete nine-symphony boxed set, these recordings establish a standard for excellence that has few peers. The viewer is treated to state-of-the-art 5.0 surround sound, presenting the justifiably most famous symphonic compositions in the repertoire, performed by one of the best orchestras in the world, as interpreted under the inspired direction of Christian Thielemann. The venue is the Golden Hall of the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, reputedly one of the half-dozen best orchestral recording sites in the world. Despite Amazon's indication that there are no special features on these discs, there are in fact nine significant special features, namely one-hour discussions between conductor Thielemann and noted musical critic and historian Joachim Kaiser concerning each of the nine symphonies. The discussions are in German, with subtitles available in eight languages.

Beyond the superb quality of the sound, there is also video which I personally have never seen equaled, with camera work and editing that bring an intimate view of an orchestra at work. A lifetime of attendance at classical concerts would not give the insight into the creation of magnificent music that is afforded by these discs. A viewer gets to know the orchestra members as individuals, with the video highlighting groups or single players as their specific moments arrive in the score. Detail is amazingly acute, showing every hair, wrinkle and bead of perspiration. Intimate moments abound, almost all of which would be invisible from the seats of the concert hall: the red faces of the oboe and bassoon players during a prolonged solo, the rapturous smiles or knitted-brow concentration of the string players, the swinging and swaying of the two clarinetists who look like they are playing in a jazz band, and the slightly bemused expression of the concert master when one of the horsehairs in his bow breaks and waves in time with the music.

This is music to be re-visited often, and fortunately the quality of the video component is such that it too is a delight to view over and over. All of Beethoven's symphonies are enjoyable, and listening to each of them in sequence provides some understanding of the growth of his prodigious musical powers, with the music becoming more complex and the orchestra larger. Each of the three discs contains at least one "blockbuster" symphony that is familiar even to those who are only casually interested in classical music: on the first disc is the breakthrough Third Symphony, the "Eroica", twice as long as the previous symphonies; disc two has both the Fifth Symphony with its famous four-note "Fate" theme and the Sixth or Pastoral Symphony; and the third disc has the monumental Ninth Symphony which includes the "Ode to Joy".

As one who already had several complete LP and CD sets of Beethoven's symphonies, I can state that this rendition has become my favorite, regardless of whether I am watching the masterful video or merely listening to the glorious sound. I took a deep breath before I bought this set, as it was a significant investment. It was one of the best purchases I have ever made.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Beethoven Set on the Planet 10 May 2012
By sergei kochkin - Published on
I started my Beethoven journey by ordering 5 Beethoven symphony #9: Abbado, Bernstein, Karajan, Ozawa and Thieleman. I am usually dissappointed on DVD video quality Pre-2000 thus experienced same poor video quality with all but Abbado and Thielemann. Thus I got the complete symphonies with Abbado and Thielemann on Blu-ray. The Abbado was a deal at $25 for the whole set or about the price of one of the Thielemann DVDs which contain 3 symphonies each. The quality of the Thielemann set with the Vienna Philharmonic is so superb that I do not see how it can be improved upon. Video both far and near is bright and crisp, the musicality of this orchestra is superb, and direction unheard of....though I admit the Abbado set is quite good also. DTS HD is breath taking. And I like the conservative conducting style of histrionics and little drama....just superb directing. And of course the Vienna Philharmonic building is one of the loveliest in Europe. A bonus on the first disk is the Coriolan and Egmont overtures. To top things off each disk has a lecture on each symphony. The price is about $90 new for the whole set but it is a good bargain because this is a set you will watch over and over again.
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