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Symphonies/Barenboim Box set

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Product details

  • Audio CD (27 Mar. 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 6
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Teldec
  • ASIN: B00004S1EV
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 712,942 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By RX-01 on 11 Oct. 2002
Format: Audio CD
This must be the greatest Beethoven symphony cycle that has appeared since Karajan's 60s account. Barenboim follows the German performing tradition with high emphasis on dynamics, texture of sound (the fact that he divides the violins left and right helps to that), clear articulation and unmistakable precision (listen, for instance, to the second movement of the 9th symphony).
The first two symphonies are played in a very dramatic manner, emphasizing the fact that one listens to early Beethoven and not late Mozart, as is often the case. This doesn't mean that they lack humour, as in the last movement of the 1st symphony, which is brilliantly executed.
The Third symphony has all the grandeur that one would expect. Again, Barenboim takes Furtwangler as a model and underlines the structure of the symphony. Particular attention is paid to the dynamic contrasts, especially in the second movement which is full of drama and poetry.
The Fourth is characterised not only by very powerful dynamic contrasts again, but also a suitably paced first and last movement. The Fifth is taken slowly (again in the Furtwangler manner), however, it doesn't lack the power that, say, the Kleiber recording has. The transition from the third to the final movement is executed with breathtaking precision.
The Sixth is simply the best, more touching and detailed performance I have encountered, even better than Bohm's legendary recording. The pace of the first movement is ideal, while the scene by the brook reveals so much detail that one rarely notices in other recordings. Of course, the main element here is the humanity with which Barenboim approaches the whole symphony and this is very apparent in the heartfelt last movement.
The Seventh and Eighth symphonies have similar merits.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Autonomeus on 5 Aug. 2010
Format: Audio CD
I started investigating and listening to classical music in late 2000 and into 2001. This Barenboim Beethoven cycle was recorded in 1999 and first released in 2000, so I must have just missed hearing about it and the acclaim it received. Fortunately I have now discovered THE 2004 REISSUE, which was lost in Amazon's cloud due to faulty labelling. I'm not sure about this original 2000 Teldec box, but the 2004 WEA reissue is a true Brilliant-style box, no jewel cases, six discs in cardboard sleeves and an excellent 108-page booklet.

With the emergence of the HIP (historically informed performance) movement, some Beethoven listeners have come to prefer the sleeker, faster style that was apparently the way the works were originally performed, which can be heard in the cycles led by Gardiner, Harnoncourt, Mackerras, Norrington and Zinman. Some conductors, like Claudio Abbado, have embraced the movement and recorded new cycles in the stripped-down style. But Daniel Barenboim is not part of that movement. His inspiration as a conductor is the great Wilhelm Furtwangler, and he consciously extends the German tradition that was developed across the 20th century, well-known to most classical music listeners. This is a fantastic Beethoven cycle on every level, with that understanding.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 18 reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Old fashioned Beethoven at its very best 28 Mar. 2001
By John Kwok - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
In the liner notes to this superb set of Beethoven's symphonies, Barenboim notes that he has taken some liberties with the new Jonathan Del Mar-edited scores by following traditional practices established by great conductors such as Furtwangler. The results are a somewhat conventional set of Beethoven's symphonies that are brilliantly performed by the Berlin Staatskapelle; these well-balanced recordings are unquestionably among the finest produced by Teldec's engineers (I'm sure that the DVD versions of these are absolutely stunning.). The Berlin Staatskapelle's lush, warm playing is quite akin to the Berlin Philharmonic of the early 1960's under von Karajan's baton. Yet these performances don't have the loud brashness or swagger of Karajan's acclaimed 1960's cycle. In stark contrast, Barenboim seems comfortable assuming several personas as a conductor, ranging from lyrical in his conducting of the 6th Symphony to loud, almost Wagnerian, in his interpretation of the 9th Symphony. Aside from these, other exceptional performances include his interpretations of the 3rd, 7th and 8th. The only major disappointment is his rather sedate conducting of the 5th, which isn't as inspiring as the Kleiber/Vienna Philharmonic, Bernstein/Vienna Philharmonic, Giulini/Los Angeles Philharmonic, Harnoncourt/Chamber Orchestra of Europe or Abbado/Berlin Philharmonic recordings. Barenboim shows that he is a fine interpreter of Beethoven. I eagerly await any future recordings he may have with the Berlin Staatskapelle as both conductor and soloist of the entire Beethoven piano concerto cycle.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
One of the best beethoven cycles around. 27 April 2001
By A. Michaelson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I bought this box set of Beethoven's nine symphonies, and before listening to it, I was rather skeptical of the performance quality. I have other Barenboim performances and know of his talent as a musician, especially with the works of Beethoven, however I didn't think that he could transfer this ability over to conducting. This set proved me wrong. Barenboim gives one of the best conducting performances in what is probably overall the best Beethoven cycle around, both in performance and sound quality. The tempi are perfect, the orchestra plays magnificently with great articulation and emotion, and the digital recording offers a sound quality that cannot be surpassed by any of the other great Beethoven cycles. Some other reviewers have said that the set is good but the Fifth Symphony is weak. I'm going to have to say that the Fifth is the weakest of the set, however, that doesn't mean it's a weak performance, just doesn't seem as inspired as the others; it is, nevertheless, still better than a large majority of the other versions out there. Great, great, great box set. The ninth is probably the best performance around, and all the other symphonies are also great. Highly recommend this new recording of the most famous set of symphonies in music.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Magnificent in places, mannered in others 15 Feb. 2002
By cdsullivan@massed.net - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Barenboim's approach to these pillars of the classical repertoire is very similar to that of Furtwängler: modify tempi during the course of a movement in hopes of conveying the expression of the section to a greater degree. I have mixed feelings about this approach: one the one hand, it works very well in the most dramatic, intense works like the Fifth and the Ninth (when used moderately). On the other hand, in much of Beethoven's music, I don't think this shifting is appropriate. For example, in the Haydenesque first two symphonies, the relatively straightforward material needs an appropriately straightforward approach. In a Haydn or a Mozart symphony, you won't (or at least shouldn't!) find tempi fluctuating all over the place. And in general, I think switching tempi in the middle of the piece where the composer didn't indicate anything is both presumptuous and inappropriate ... at least in Classical pieces. Romantic pieces are a different story, and I think can greatly benefit from tempo adjustment, but Classical pieces have a clearer sense of structure and performances need to uphold that.
To choose a few representative examples of Barenboim's approach: in the famous first movement of the Fifth, Barenboim's acceleration from the quiet section immediatlely after the opening into the downward rushing of the strings works very well. Barenboim's slower tempo helps to convey the mystery of the quiet parts, and the contrast between it and the louder parts is heightened by the change of the tempo. However, there are more places where this approach does not work. In the booklet interview, Barenboim recalls a performance of the Seventh under Furtwängler where the finale was "not strictly in tempo," and he was incredibly impressed by it. He seems to have been attempting to recreate this effect in his current Seventh; unfortunately, the many tempo fluctuations come in what seem to me like completely random places, and don't make musical sense to me. The problem is even worse in the Ninth. The famous opening of the first movement is taken at an unbelievably slow pace - so slow, in fact, that Barenboim has to disregard Beethoven's marking of the second violins' tremolo as sixteenth-note sextuplets and turn them into a simple tremolo in order to retain the "drama." He rapidly speeds up from this ridiculous tempo, but switches back and forth throughout the course of the movement, which is extremely distracting. His justification for this is that it's a coming into being, and so it's not a crime to start it under tempo. My opinion is that the "coming into being" is all expressed in the music, and doesn't need a funereal tempo to help the effect.
However, when Barenboim resists the temptation to switch tempi, the results can be revelatory. His second and fourth movements of the Ninth are as fine as any I have ever heard, particularly the finale, which benefits from a fabulous chorus and quartet of soloists. Other highlights of the set include the Eighth, straightforward and joyful, the lyrical Pastoral (though not as glorious as Böhm's!), and the electric Fifth. The Eroica, despite many heroic and grand moments throughout, doesn't quite come off for me; it feels a little too eccentric, especially in the first movement. Barenboim takes over 19 minutes to get through it, and introduces many weird, distracting dynamics switches. The first two symphonies, where Barenboim is at his most straightforward, are very rewarding, as, to a lesser degree is the Fourth, which I feel lacks the last degree of rhythmic inflection and point.
Overall, though, these are fabulous performances, and raise you to heights undreamed of by many others. Barenboim's basic tempo choices are particularly strong, except for in several of the slow movements (1, 4, 7, 9) where he succumbs to the temptation to inflate them. Thanks to marvelous playing from the Staatskapelle Berlin, these performances are currently at the top of my list of Beethoven symphony cycles. I have yet to hear Böhm's complete cycle, however, which could prove to top Barenboim's. Another problem with Barenboim's recording is that it's much more expensive than the recordings of Karajan, Böhm, Toscanini, Furtwängler, et al. ...
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Barenboim's Beethoven Symphonies -- An Excellent Set 28 Mar. 2001
By Johnny Bard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I shop almost exclusively for mid-priced cd's (since there are so many good ones from which to choose, whether on-line, at brick-and-mortar book/music stores, or at used cd stores). So when I inadvertently came across Daniel Barenboim's newly recorded set of Beethoven's Symphonies on Teldec at a reduced price, I couldn't resist purchasing it. Reviews of the set (posted here at Amazon) have been quite favorable, but I wanted to see for myself how Barenboim's renditions compared with the interpretations of Beethoven's symphonies by other well-known and respected conductors.
There are currently plenty of mid-priced Beethoven cd's on the market. I love Karl Bohm's (ADD) version of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony (on Deutsche Grammophon); it's powerful and wonderfully performed. Herbert von Karajan's Sixth (ADD, also on DG) is another good buy offering beautifully interpreted music. Bohm's Sixth was recorded in the early 1970's, and Karajan's in the late 1970's. Although the remnant analog hiss is present on both discs, it's only really noticeable between tracks.
For digital recordings, Carlo Maria Giulini's recording of Beethoven's Fifth (on DG) is outstanding, as is Vladimir Ashkenazy's recording of the Fifth and Seventh (on London). I was also lucky enough to find a rare cut-out of Michael Tilson Thomas's recording of Beethoven's First and Second Symphonies on CBS Masterworks. And James Levine's version of Beethoven's Third (on DG), which I purchased used, is another fine recording of a symphony often lost beneath Beethoven's more popular works. I'm fond, too, of Bohm's recording of Beethoven's Ninth (DDD, on DG), though it's a bit too heavy and long for my tastes.
Barenboim's set of Beethoven's Symphonies 1-9 (on Teldec) represents the finest collection of Beethoven's symphonies that I have heard to date. The digital recording is crisp and clean without sounding either sterile or hollow. The Berliner Staatskapelle, under the careful direction of Barenboim, meets the challenge of performing each symphony with an amazing sense of precision that never sounds mechanical or detached. And Barenboim conducts each symphony with an emotional intensity that permeates throughout the entire set. From the First through the Ninth, each work reflects the true genius and talent of Beethoven. Barenboim and the Berliner Staatskapelle have recorded a set that I believe has established the standard for all future Beethoven recordings.
The Barenboim set, of course, is no doubt expensive, even for a six-disc set (about $14/disc, not including shipping). I paid nearly $70.00 for all of the ADD and DDD Beethoven discs referenced above. And while I love all of them, they all vary to one degree or another in terms of sound quality (ADD versus DDD) and quality of performance. Although costly, the Barenboim set offers excellent DDD recordings and consistent performances throughout the package. My only real criticism is with the set's packaging -- Teldec could have issued the symphonies on five versus six cd's, and reserved the sixth for Beethoven's overtures. But that's a minor criticism when compared with the quality of the symphonies and the set's exhaustive liner notes.
Rather than add to your Beethoven collection piecemeal and experiment via trial and error, I highly recommend buying the Barenboim set. It's an expensive investment, but one that you will be sure to cherish forever.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An essential Beethoven symphony cycle 29 Feb. 2008
By RaleighObserver - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Two of Wilhelm Furtwangler's protogees, Daniel Barenboim and Peter Maag, recorded complete Beethoven symphony cycles. Both came to it later in life - Barenboim at age 57, Maag at age 75. Maag was open about waiting because he felt Furtwangler's long shadow in this repertoire, and while Barenboim has not admitted as much I would not be surprised if the same were true for him as well. Both Barenboim and Maag imbibed Furtwangler's teaching at the deepest level, which means they are completely and spontaneously themselves and assiduously play not just the notes but also what lies beneath and between them.

Not surprisingly, these two cycles are amongst the most searching, satisfying and moving accounts of these symphonies. They are also quite different, showing both conductors' other influences (for Barenboim, his study with Furtwangler's soul-mate, Swiss pianist Edwin Fischer, and for Maag, his study with the mercurial French pianist Alfred Cortot and the Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet) and personal predilections. I've reviewed Maag's cycle elsewhere on amazon; suffice to say here that he recorded it with a small, obscure Italian chamber orchestra and it shows a romantic, intuitive approach tempered by rational analysis. Barenboim, on the other hand, recorded his with the large and sumptuous Berlin Staatskapelle and his interpretations, while equally intuitive, are squarely in the German romantic tradition.

As amazon reviewer David Hurwitz pointed out in his review of this set on Classics Today ([...]), Barenboim shares the German romantic tradition with Furtwangler but is not his clone. Hurwitz describes great performances in this tradition, and his description fits Barenboim's work on this set to a "T": "A great performance of this school displays a dark, weighty orchestral sonority built on a rich cushion of strings; seamless, legato phrasing over large musical paragraphs; rock solid bass lines and timpani; and flexible tempos that can vary considerably within the individual movements, but which never impede the music's overall flow." While Barenboim has internalized that tradition, he shows considerably more attention to instrumental detail and classical structure, as well as Beethoven's humor, than his mentor. Barenboim is also the better baton technician (certainly not one of Furtwangler's strong suits), and these performances show an exceptional degree of ensemble unity and textual clarity. Barenboim has clearly rehearsed these pieces carefully with the orchestra and communicates clearly what he wants. And Barenboim's grasp of Beethoven's heroic and spiritual dimensions rivals his mentor's. What more could we ask? For more detail, I strongly recommend going to Hurwitz' review; he says it better than I can.

What baffles me is that this set was re-released on Warner Classics at a (relatively) bargain price and shows up as available on Warner Classics' website (as it does on towerrecords.com), but does not show up on amazon. How such a profound and beautiful set of these symphonies, one of the very best and one which ought to be in everyone's classical music library, could be so unavailable on amazon baffles me. Perhaps amazon will have rectified this problem by the time you read this review.

This is an essential recording. Buy it wherever you can.
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