Is difficult to believe that the symphonies were recorded more than twenty years ago. They follow obvious deep musicological research but lightly worn, with 'period' manners (not, I believe, slower than many historically informed' performances) but modern instruments (except for natural horns and wooden timpani sticks). They, in my opinion, were a turning point in the recorded history of this repertoire, and we could speak of a a time "before" and "after" Harnoncourt's Beethoven. The Eroica, for example, is my favourite of all times, and this includes versions as cherished as the ones by Klemperer (stereo and mono recordings), Erich Kleiber, Monteux and yes, Furtwängler and Toscanini. The then emerging COE (with already an award-winning release under their belt, the Schubert Symphony set with Abbado) play superbly, as singers sing in the always tricky Choral (what an intense, flowing adagio!), and the live recording is magnificent. Add to this a sensational Violin Concerto with Gidon Kremer, plus great versions of the pianos concertos with Aimard (plus Hagen and Zehetmair in the Triple Concerto), The Creatures of Prometheus and an Ouvertures disc and, in my humble opinion, we have an umbeatable bargain, the reference for Beethoven's orchestral music for years to come, a new 14-CD box in your mailbox for less than thirty quid (it's offered by Spanish amazon for a little bit more than twenty euros, less than £18). And, while you are at it, for a few more pounds you can get an excellent Fidelio Beethoven : Fidelio
. If yoy want a libretto, though, you shall have to get the older release Beethoven: Fidelio
and get it second-hand or pay £19.95.