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Ryan Kernaghan "Joanie, Herbie and Lenny" (New South Wales, Australia)

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Beethoven: Complete Symphonies 1-9
Beethoven: Complete Symphonies 1-9
Price: 19.97

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harnoncourt's Solid Cycle: Where Past Glories Shine', 30 Mar 2012
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Beethoven Symphonies 1 - 9. Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir. With Charlotte Margiono, Rudolf Schasching, Birgit Remmert and Robert Holl. Recorded 1991. Teldec.

Harnoncourt's cycle starts off very impressively, aided by superb sound. It is hard to believe that this cycle was recorded live - it has the feel of a spacious studio acoustic. As with Karajan and Solti, Harnoncourt treats the First with just as much vitality and strength as the more mature symphonies: the tempi are solid not rushed and the instruments have a beautiful sheen to them, whilst never sacrificing body. The climaxes are just that - not the trashy bashing of a drum which so often disfigures Norrington's earlier period performances. I particularly liked the middle movements in this recording: the splendid playing is balanced with knife-edged drama and really spot-on tempos. The same is true of the Second: Harnoncourt really makes a dramatic statement about the piece and the result is really electrifying.

Undoubtedly any performance of the Eroica will have to bring out its harsh edges at times - especially in the first movement. Harnoncourt particularly excels in those moments - the characterisation of the first two movements is very powerful: dramatic and almost violent without being vulgar. Sometimes more repose is required in the marche funebre, but it all comes off quite nicely - the credit also due to the continued excellent playing of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

The Fourth does not quite equal the some of its parts. It starts out very beautifully and with a real sense of mystery, but much of it is a bit all over the place. I didn't really feel a cohesive vision. The slow movement was a particular movement - not as beautiful as it can be. Tempos were a bit erratic and the playing less refined than elsewhere in the cycle.

The Fifth is certainly a strong performance: tempi are never rushed and you don't feel like the whole thing descends into farce like the one in Norrington's cycle. The superior playing from Harnoncourt's forces also make it streets ahead of Norrington's version. I would probably rate this Fifth in front of Karajan's and Solti's 1970s recordings as well. At times, you might feel that the performance is just a little too hard pressed - but I don't really object: I think the tension and uplift of that final glorious movement is well caught. What I like is that nothing feels 'clipped' in this version and it is also not rushed - a great boon. Still, it fails to displace Bernstein 1961 as my all time favourite recording of this great work.

The Harnoncourt Sixth is another completely satisfying performance. It may be surprising how the first two movements are quite slow. I personally think the pace throughout the symphony is well judged. The central movements are accelerated, but the beauty of the symphony is always foremost. But I wouldn't call it the most dramatic or tense account of this elusive masterpiece. I think Karajan, for all of his detractors in the Sixth, captures those qualities more than any other (except perhaps Bernstein).

Harnoncourt exploits every possible dynamic contrast and instrumental detail in the Seventh. It is a richly dramatic reading and the octane level just keeps rising as the symphony moves through its third and fourth movement. The very last, the allegro con brio, is played here better than any other recording I have - the conducting and the playing are simply inspired. For once you feel that everything is just right in this movement and the joy and attraction of this amazing movement is really exploited. Earlier, however, I find that some of the playing is scrappy and the strings thin. Still, it's all quite involving. For period enthusiasts this clearly outmatches the Norrington in every way (as usual).

The performance that most strikes me in this cycle is the unassuming Eighth. It is given a marvelous performance here. Whilst the playing isn't as good as that of the Berlin Philharmonic, for example, it makes up for that with a really outlandish account. It is lively and elegant and always surprising.

Like the other period performance of this symphony with which I am familiar (the Norrington), the Ninth is the low point in Harnoncourt's otherwise solid cycle. It is bland and uninspired, capped off by uninvolved contributions from the four soloists in the finale. It could very well be that this symphony requires something deeper than scholarship and fizzy tempos. These conductors seem to overlook this symphony and treat it like it's just a run-through rather than one of the cornerstones of symphonic literature. For a truly inspired account, one is urged to go to Furtwangler's Bayreuth 'vision' above all, followed closely by Solti and then Karajan in his 1977 account. They convey something of the perfection that this symphony represents.

Overall, then, this is quite a good cycle. Originally, I thought it to be rather boring. On second hearing, it strikes you as being quite fresh and spontaneous without sacrificing either nuance or some of the grand old tried and true methods of conventional performance (hence the title of this review). This proves the importance of listening more than once to cycles like these. Unlike Norrington's ghastly approach in many of these works, there is genuine respect and feeling for the spirit of Beethoven in most of the works. With the exception of the Fourth and, more seriously, the Ninth, this cycle is a safe bet for first timers, but an even stronger recommendation for seasoned collectors who have yet to visit the period 'scene'. But because the Ninth is so piecemeal, I couldn't give it a full five star rating. Four stars then.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 9, 2013 12:31 PM BST

Beethoven: Complete Symphonies
Beethoven: Complete Symphonies
Price: 18.88

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Disastrous and the Ugly, 30 Mar 2012
Beethoven Symphonies 1 - 9. London Classical Players and the Schutz Choir of London. With Yvonne Kenny, Patrick Power, Sarah Walker and Petteri Salomaa. Recorded 1987 to 1989. EMI/Virgin.

This cycle obviously purports to do something fresh and spontaneous. In the end result, however, these recordings smack you in the face and the scrappy playing and overly aggressive tempos will hit listeners hard. In general, the interpretations are pushed hard and fast: often to the breaking point.

Over a few years of reading reviews and gossip on recordings of Beethoven symphonies, I get the distinct impression that this cycle is an also-ran amongst period performances. I am beginning to understand why. Admittedly, this was a pioneering set and admirers will always be wedded to this set when they think of period performance. Even though other sets with similar performing practices, like Harnoncourt, also have their problems the playing in those sets are often glorious (I am speaking of the Harnoncourt). For Norrington, it all sounds like the works are about to come apart. True, some may like this and I like my fair share of ferocity in this music too. But it's too much at times and really distorts the beauty of the music. It's always good to hear pounding percussion, but in Norrington's hands the percussion is too heavy and often destroys the whole effect of these symphonies. Strings are often thin because of their eliminated vibrato and the brass often sound insecure and messy. Some of the instruments in that section also sound like they are from a jazz ensemble: it sounds a bit bizarre and out of place to my ears.

In taking a look at each symphony, there are some virtues. The first symphonies get the best treatment, in fact, I would go as far as to say that Nos. 1 through 3 and 6 are quite good. The Eroica in particular gets quite unusual tempo adjustments in the marche funebre and they work quite well. I also liked the Pastoral: even though some tempos were a little fast it had a buoyant feeling to it and, in the storm sequence, this heightened the drama - the quirky percussion worked best in this symphony. I should also point out that the overtures in this set are excellently played, the Egmont is particularly fine.

Beyond that, many of the others range from ordinary to downright appalling. The ordinary interpretations are clearly the Fourth and the Seventh. In the former, there is not one touch of depth or contemplation, it's like a fast motorcycle being spotlit in the showroom. Some of those lovely quiet and reflective moments that the likes of Karajan and Solti explore so beautifully are completely lost on Norrington. In the Seventh, the playing is scrappy and there is not much charm. Even the fantastic allegro con brio loses its momentum. The 'downright appalling' interpretation is the Fifth in my view. I really like what Norrington does with a lot of the final movement: the great big juicy climaxes are thrilling. Also, things start off nicely in the first movement: the tempos are fast but not too much and the paired down orchestra enhances the tension. Unfortunately the playing comes apart throughout the rest: and the second and third movements, in particular, suffer from downright atrocious playing. Because of such a massive chunk of the work being massacred, it's hard to be satisfied, much less convinced. The Eighth isn't too bad, but like the Fourth, is really rather faceless and bland.

The Ninth is, diplomatically speaking, a controversial reading. There are some enjoyable climaxes in the first movement, but as with so many readings in this cycle it deteriorates and fails to convince as a whole - the finale is rushed in places and ridiculously slowed down in others. The fugue is too slow: so much so that things almost fall apart: the tension is completely lost and one almost becomes bored. Unforgivable in a work like this. The quartet sing nicely - but their vocal parts are so warped by these speeds that their contribution is soon forgotten. The whole point of the grandeur and majesty of this work is completely obscured. If you listen to this too often you'll just get angrier at irritating nonsense that passes itself off as 'enlightened' or representing the 'true' vision of Beethoven.

Overall then, I would only recommend this cycle to seasoned listeners who want a completely different ride along a well trodden path. Beginners should stay away, which is strange considering that this was actually the first cycle I owned! Some individual symphonies merit attention (like the Third and Sixth), but as a cycle seeking to compete with the very best: this is a write-off. This set represents curiosity value only. At the end of the day, I find Norrington's claims about these works to be wholeheartedly pompous and altogether missing the point. Re-interpretation is the key in Beethoven, not butchering some of the most haunting and beautiful moments in music history to try to replicate an outdated sound.

Beethoven: Symphony No.3
Beethoven: Symphony No.3

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heroic, meditative and beautiful: Karajan's better Third, 20 Mar 2012
The 1977 Eroica is comparable to the interpretation of the Seventh from the same cycle. In both cases, Karajan is more tender and the beauty of the writing comes out more fully than in the rugged accounts from 1963. This Eroica is one of the very best. Like the fourth movement of the Seventh, Karajan goes for extreme speeds, and it is very convincing. The funeral march is also much better in this version than in 1963: the impression is much slower, more deeply impassioned and meditative. The drama is never compromised either. Listeners will remain disappointed that Karajan again fails to observe the repeats in the first movement. Personally, it doesn't affect the fact that this is a very impressive performance. The recording is noticeably better in 1977 than in 1963, the Eroica in that cycle tends to be a bit dry and scratchy (instrumental movement is much clearer in the earlier one).

The spaciousness of this recording of the Leonore No. III overture is impressive and theatrical. The performance is both white hot and elegant and is probably Karajan's finest recording of the Beethoven overtures (much better than his Egmont which is as heavy as a plum pudding).

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 1 & 4
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 1 & 4
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 7.95

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Karajan's Weightiest Readings, 20 Mar 2012
In the 1977 cycle, excerpted here, Karajan's approach to the First Symphony immediately sounds 'heavier' than in 1963. The expansive opening is immense. Some may prefer more bounciness and sometimes the sparkle of this work is better observed in his 1963 cycle. However, the second movement is absolutely beautiful. It is as if Karajan is presenting this symphony as Beethoven looking forward to the Romantic era rather than casting the work in eighteenth century light. Personally, it works very well and serves as a beautiful introduction to Karajan's highly successful 1977 cycle and more importantly to Beethoven.

Karajan's take on the Fourth Symphony in the 1963 cycle had a mysterious glow that was simply superb. In his 1977 recording, that beauty comes as a mixed blessing. You can be astonished at times by just how enchantingly beautiful this work can be and Karajan's interpretation certainly emphasises these qualities. In the first movement however, some of the bouncy rhythms are smoothed over and the sense of 'legato' can be overdone at times. Much like the Seventh, the Fourth is a symphony of contrasts and the best interpretations capture both the ebullient and the soulful. Still, it is quite lovely.

I must say that the Egmont overture here is extremely foreboding and if I thought the First was heavy, this is comparable to dynamite. Even though it is one of Beethoven's most dramatic pieces, I wonder if it is all just a bit too much in this interpretation. Karajan's other recordings of the Beethoven overtures (like The Ruins of Athens, The Creatures of Prometheus and especially Leonore III and Coriolan) are generally fabulous. But I think here he drives too hard. The recorded sound is particularly stodgy for the overture: perhaps that enhances that 'heavy' impression. It brings this album down to three stars, with the symphonies both deserving four.

Beethoven: Symphony No.6
Beethoven: Symphony No.6
Price: 9.07

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Undeservedly Harsh Criticism, 20 Mar 2012
This Sixth, like all Karajan Beethoven Sixths, gets unfairly harsh criticism from most quarters. I disagree with those reactions. For one thing, it's very detailed and beautifully played: again Karajan sustains lovely woodwind playing from the Berliners and the recording highlights the piccolo in the storm, which I like (an effect that sounds like a squeal, or lightening in a thunderstorm). Additionally, it's more complete than its more rigid 1963 predecessor: that notoriously neglected repeat is observed this time. Altogether, I found this a totally convincing Sixth and it joins with the Fourth and Eighth in this cycle as great displays of the Berliners' magnificent and seamless playing.

Additionally, the overtures provided here are beautifully and powerful played. Very enjoyable fill-ups.

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 5 & 8
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 5 & 8
Offered by cdworld-ireland
Price: 9.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Less Impressive Sides of Karajan's Beethoven, 20 Mar 2012
I suppose once I heard Leonard Bernstein's out-of-this world recording with the New York Philharmonic, no single interpretation of this incredible masterpiece was ever going to be the same again. Still, I find Karajan's 1963 account quite enjoyable (see my review of that set). The Fifth in the 1977 set represents the low-point of what is otherwise a fairly enjoyable cycle. Unfortunately, any merit the second, third and fourth movements in this interpretation earns is ruined by a break-neck tempo in the first movement: which really ruins the depth of this great movement for me. There are several points in the 1977 cycle where Karajan accelerates the speed of these works and it is sometimes quite successful (listen to the finale of the Third and the Seventh). Unfortunately in the Fifth, it all just comes off sounding artificial and dull. I also find that the first movement is almost like it is detached from the rest: the tempos make no sense - there is no consistency. There are some moments of exquisite playing in the rest of the symphony, but the inconsistency (almost disconnect) between the first movement and the rest of the work ruin this performance in my eyes.

Karajan's third recorded Eighth is a typical example of the glossy, overweight approach towards some of the lighter symphonies in the cycle. Some of the exciting, bouncy moments in this delightful symphony are a bit subdued. However, it still 'works' as a performance: the playing is so beautiful. Karajan rushes through the final movement with great gusto and, again, it just works. I think tempos like that seem to work better in a lighthearted, more jolly setting than in the opening movement of the Fifth, for example.

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos.2 & 7
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos.2 & 7
Price: 8.20

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Seventh. A Strained Second., 20 Mar 2012
These recordings are derived from Karajan's third complete cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic, recorded mostly in 1977. The Second is beautifully played, but a principal victim of Karajan's weighty approach in this cycle. The scherzo and allegro-trio is altogether too smooth, a more frothy lightness would surely be more appropriate. I think Karajan was making the Second sound bigger than it is.

This Seventh is a true gem. It vies with his Eroica for the most impressive installment of this 1977 cycle. The playing is gorgeous, the emphases just right and the brass and timpani are both allowed their moments to shine. The symphony opens like some great Olympian force, it very much has the feel of a triumphant march. Although Karajan conducted a great, muscular Seventh in 1963, this time around he is even more impressive. Here he is more sedate in the allegretto, but even though the tempos are astonishingly beautiful, the spirit of the dance is never lost. Most surprisingly, the Allegro con brio is given a frantic speed - probably faster than I've heard - and the results are certainly dazzling. However, I still prefer Karajan's earlier effort in this particular movement - sometimes the legato of the playing is at odds with such fast speeds. Overall, a very impressive interpretation that just overtakes its predecessor. You really get the impression that Karajan is getting close to an ideal 'Beethoven sound' in this symphony. Wonderful.

The album deserves five starts because of the Seventh. For the slightly less impressive Second, it gets a four from me.

Beethoven: Symphony No.9 'Choral'
Beethoven: Symphony No.9 'Choral'
Price: 6.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Glorious Ninth - Possibly Karajan's Best, 20 Mar 2012
This recording of the Ninth is widely celebrated and sometimes ranked as the best version Karajan offered (the Penguin, for example). I haven't heard all of his recordings of this symphony, but would agree that, in comparison with his 1963 version, this is much better. I also agree that it is one of the great Ninths. Karajan is never just routine in this recording, he always surprises you with great lush playing alternating with fast and biting tempos. The finale is particularly impressive: the playing is just tremendous. The lovely passages at the end of the third movement are hauntingly beautiful and the first two movements are exciting, whilst not sacrificing genuine feeling. This is all capped off by a very successful quartet of soloists. Jose van Dam really deserves highest praise and he never sounds strained. This part isn't easy to pull off, so he's work is notably impressive. Tomowa-Sintow is completely different to Janowitz, but sounds just as good. Baltsa has that distinctive voice to offer and Schreier's performance is satisfactory but nothing more. Overall, it ranks third for me in the list of Beethoven Ninth recordings: the Furtwangler 1951 performance at Bayreuth and Solti's 1972 version reach Olympian heights. But that doesn't take away from Karajan's achievement here, which definitely deserves five stars.

Beethoven: 9 Symphonies; Overtures
Beethoven: 9 Symphonies; Overtures
Price: 20.47

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Summit of Beauty: Karajan's Third Beethoven Cycle, 20 Mar 2012
Beethoven Symphonies 1 - 9. Berliner Philharmoniker and the Wiener Singverein. With Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Peter Schreier, Agnes Baltsa and Jose van Dam. Recorded 1977. Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft.

Karajan's second cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic immediately strikes you as 'heavy'. This is especially so if you have been listening continuously to performances more conscious of historical practices. This, as opposed to those performances where a conventional orchestra is used and a more 'lofty', personal view is imparted. From my perspective, many of these performances are often quite beautiful and have all the best hallmarks of what could be called the Karajan middle-late period (1970s). I think what I like best is the fact that he seems to have never compromised on his 'vision' of these works - even though the individual interpretations changed quite a lot between the 1963 and 1977 cycles - he never sacrifices his own feeling for precision and seamless beauty. That commitment is why I admire this conductor so much.

Between the two cycles (1963 and 1977), there are sharp contrasts and with mixed results. On the plus side this time, Karajan observes the repeats in the Sixth and the performance is more reflective as a result. Additionally, his more relaxed approach (more distinctively 'Karajan' than 'Karajan looking back at Toscanini') tends to let these amazing works radiate with more humanity. I have read elsewhere that Karajan's approach can be rather strict and icy cool - in the 1977 cycle at least, there is a much stronger sense for a human touch (in the Eroica and the Choral, the impression of the latter is 'dramatic' rather than 'firebrand' as in 1963).

From an orchestral viewpoint, not much needs to be added the superlatives rightly bestowed by the critics on the virtuosity of the Berlin Philharmonic. However, I must say, in direct comparison with the Chicago forces under Sir Georg Solti, the timpani are not always particularly enjoyable - they have a 'clamorous' rather than a pounding and 'deep' sound (this is apparent especially in the Eroica and the Fourth). This may have a lot to do with different performing practices between European and American orchestras, as I have noticed that the percussion in many of the New York Philharmonic's recordings from the 1960s have that wonderful 'punchy' quality which I prefer. A small point perhaps. As with almost all of Karajan's later recordings, the strings are incredibly beautiful. This is especially the case in the Eroica and the Ninth, with perhaps the best playing from the basses you are likely to hear. Overall, people who prize orchestral fullness and a rich, opulent approach to Beethoven will be totally satisfied. There is almost no hint of error or ensemble breakdown: this is playing of the highest order.

Concluding thoughts? Comparison will endlessly link this cycle with Karajan's more famous accounts from 1963. Personally I think this cycle just edges its predecessor, but only by a small margin. Certainly, in the case of the First and Fifth symphonies, the predecessor is streets ahead. But when it comes to the Eroica, Seventh and Ninth, this set clearly outranks the 1963 versions. This recommendation is of course for people who do not object to the conventional 'old style' of Beethoven interpretation. The newer school of historically informed performance is completely foreign to these interpretations and listeners should go elsewhere if that is their priority (Harnoncourt or Norrington, as just two examples). Overall this is an often inspired set, and with such gorgeous playing, you will be able to indulge in Beethoven's many joys and passions.

(PLEASE NOTE: I have reviewed each symphony in this cycle in the Amazon pages for those works).

Beethoven: The Symphonies
Beethoven: The Symphonies
Price: 24.47

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solti's Nine Unsung Heroes, 20 Mar 2012
Beethoven Symphonies 1 - 9. Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. With Pilar Lorengar, Stuart Burrows, Yvonne Minton and Martti Talvela. Recorded 1972 to 1975. Decca/London.

There is something delightful to be found in almost every corner of Sir Georg Solti's first cycle with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I find it bizarre that this cycle never seems to get the rave reviews it deserves. I, for one, would rate it as the best. Individually, his interpretations may not suit all tastes for various reasons (personally, his Fifth does not attain the incredible heights it can). Overall, however, there is a vitality to these performances that is most rewarding. I found every single performance in some way revelatory. Part of this is Solti's gift for bringing out orchestral detail as well as his passion and genuine feeling for dynamics. Overall, this remains the most satisfying cycle I have yet acquired (in comparison with Bernstein's 1960s cycle, Karajan's 1960s and 1970s cycles, the Norrington and Harnoncourt cycles).

Here is my response to each interpretation:

Nos. 1 and 2: This is a buoyant and totally endearing recording of the First Symphony. The rhythms sparkle and the percussion is bouncy. Both 1 and 2 in this cycle are handled with nice playing and tempos that are just right.

No. 3: This remains my favourite interpretation amongst a strong list of contenders. Solti's tempi may surprise some - they are not fierce, but impassioned. The orchestra seem to love every moment of this wonderful symphony and every movement seems just about right. What is uniform throughout is a strong sense of mystery and power, with strongly articulated timpani and especially magnificent playing from the brass and strings. The scherzo is the best rendering I have heard of this particular movement, especially because it has a genuine scherzo feeling, rather than a glossed over, grandiose one. Best of all is a rapturous and deeply committed rendering of that magnificent adagio.

No. 4: The cycle moves along to yet another surprising and continuously captivating interpretation. In particular, the second movement in this Fourth is beautiful, quite enchanting. As with the other recordings in this cycle, the orchestra continue to be buoyant and full of life. One of the best Fourths.

No. 5: Solti's Fifth has strong contrasts and some of his ideas are excellent. Overall though, it just doesn't come off like some other strong individual interpretations. But the concept of the playing (especially in the percussion and brass) is very strong.

No. 6: This is a lovely and strong account of the Pastoral. It is quite lively and the tempi match it - the merriment of the symphony is very much underlined. Still, the storm sequence is powerful too (although that piccolo could be more pronounced amidst the clamour of the thunder).

No. 7: This is one of the highlights of a consistently enjoyable cycle. Solti, as with the other symphonies, brings out so many orchestral colours in this score and the results are very enjoyable. Tempi are generally broad, surprisingly so in the finale. Whilst this recording doesn't quite have the taut and knife-edged drama with sharp contrasting joy (a symphony of light and shade if ever there was one), it still ranks as one of the best for its exploitation of various orchestral colours. As with the rest of the cycle, Solti excels as a master of orchestral detail and it is often surprising to hear instruments stand out in parts which are at other times glossed over.

No. 8: This is a fairly delightful account and Solti observes the dynamic contrasts astutely.

No. 9: If it wasn't for Furtwangler's incredible 1951 Bayreuth recording, which is a transcendent listening experience, this would rank as my absolute favourite interpretation of the Ninth. This is an overwhelming, deeply felt performance with high energy and genuine pathos. Every movement is laid out with extraordinary care and the tempi are rarely rushed. The recording tends to be in the Furtwangler camp as a whole, the drama of the piece is almost bursting out of the speakers. It makes an immediate contrast with such interpretations as Karajan's 1963, which sounds tame and overly refined by comparison. Best of all, the quartet of soloists is gorgeous and very well balanced in the recording (no one is blocked out and Lorengar, Burrowes, Minton, Talvela are all heard to maximum effect). The Chicago Chorus, Orchestra, the soloists and Solti all triumph here, giving their all in a glorious, heartfelt performance. Highly recommended.

Overall, this cycle is truly the most consistent I have yet found. Solti has clearly thought out each and every symphony in great detail and there is so much to enjoy throughout. Even though individual performances are eclipsed in other cycles, the overall quality of these recordings is unsurpassed.

I should add that this set includes some of Beethoven's greatest overtures as well (Egmont, Leonore III and Coriolan). Each of them receives a magnificent performance, very much in the line of the symphonic recordings - both intense and vital.

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