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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a Karajan...
This set of 5 CDs, which are sometimes confusingly referred to as the Karajan `1963 version' of Beethoven symphonies, are in fact recordings of performances between December 1961 and November 1962. This is according to the sleeve notes, which also state the publishing date of 1963 so I assume this is the cause of the mis-quotes.

The collection has also received...
Published on 25 April 2007 by Mart

versus
22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No Clothes
This is the so-called 1963 cycle, Karajan's best complete cycle in many critics opinions, before he started to get too grandiloquent.

It is played with very great skill and polish by the BPO. Karajan's vision can seem a compelling one- the performances have an exhilarating quality, with fast tempi and powerful dynamic underlinings and emphasis. It must have...
Published on 18 Aug. 2010 by LR


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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a Karajan..., 25 April 2007
By 
Mart (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
This set of 5 CDs, which are sometimes confusingly referred to as the Karajan `1963 version' of Beethoven symphonies, are in fact recordings of performances between December 1961 and November 1962. This is according to the sleeve notes, which also state the publishing date of 1963 so I assume this is the cause of the mis-quotes.

The collection has also received much criticism for its quality of recording, but I couldn't hear any evidence of this on my set. Maybe recording techniques have improved since the 1960's but I would find these CD releases difficult to fault, and while the much-hyped vinyl pressings of these performances may have great nostalgic value and appeal more to the audiophile, I would find them rather difficult to play while driving to work!

It is worth remembering too that Karajan was a key figure in the development of the CD format, where he attended the first press conference announcing this new medium, although the decision to extend the maximum playing time of CDs from 60 minutes to 75 minutes in order to accommodate Karajan's rendition of Beethoven's Ninth may be a little fanciful.

This is a lovely packaged set of CDs, neatly presented in a slim-line box with 52 page booklet (21 pages in English), and including the words to Schiller's `Ode to Joy' in case you want to sing-a-long.

My favourite of the set is the powerful, yet immaculately controlled and refined, Ninth symphony.

The conductor is dead, long live the recordings...
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The whole is greater than the sum of its parts?, 25 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
Before we start - please forgive any inevitable over-simplifications (and spelling mistakes).
Whilst the debate pertaining to which interpretaition (the Wagnerian 'Germanic' idiom as propounded by the philosophical Furtwangler or the leaner 'Italian' reading by Toscanini) of Beethoven's superlative symphonies is the stronger/more acurate/more enjoyable is, possibly, an adventure slightly wasteful of time that could be better spent on savouring magnificent music. It is enough (hopefully) to say that these interpretations are a more than convincing marriage of the two roads - Karajan's 'third way' of Beethoven - though Karajan leans towards Toscanini in tempo but compensates with lyrical phrasing and that stylish polish that makes his flare shine all the more.

Much has been comented about such surface gloss and superficial beauty and, for good or ill, it is in evidence in these performances. Here, though, for me, there is a side to Karajan that may not be in evidence elsewhere in his discography. This is a conductor who cherishes the music he makes - one can here it in the mystical forces active in the hypnotic oppening to Symphony no. 4; in the dramatic presence of the unmatched 5th; in the intoxicating rhythms of 'the aptheosis of dance', Symphony no. 7; in the touching humour and straightforward melodies of the 8th.

Enough of defending the conductor. What is the music realy like?

Symphonies 1 & 2 are satisfactory. It is a strugle to find inspirational performances of these symphonies but these are more than adequate for a building a collection.

'Eroica'! An initial testimony to Beethoven's superiority over most - if not all - other symphonists. This masterwork catalysed Beethoven's career and, strangely, it was a live performance with a small provincial orchestra that launched Karajan into the realms of notoriety. From this recording it is easy to see why Karajan's interpretation caused such a sensational stir. Typicaly, the oppening movement has all the power and drama one expects from this conductor and orchestra. The second movement has a swirling darkness of despair - marcia funebre this is and more. The scherzo has a delightful magnificence and rousing sense of heroism. The whole symphony is performed in a heavily inevitable manner that befits this, the first of romantic symphonies. I strggle to think of a rival but Klemperer's recording with EMI is a classic. Interestingly, it was a live performance, lead by Klemperer, of 'Eroica' that left an indelible mark upon Karajan.

No. 4 - easy to be brief her. Many critics wax lyrical about this performance. It is one of the greats - Karajan never had it so good in this symphony again. Few can match this.

No. 5 - the greatest symphony ever? Simple answer - yes. Again, this was probably Karajan's best 5th though the new release of his mid-late 70's 5th in 24-bit is worth investigating. Few can match the demonic energy, power and drama of this recording. With the inspired BPO lead by an equaly inspired maestro this music comes to life in spite of its overtones and undercurrents of death and unremiting sorrow. The transition from scherzo to finale, from dark despair to immutable human victory, is handled well and with a subdued vigore that allows the finale to burst dramaticaly from the chains that the previous movements bind it with. Carlos Kleiber's first rate performance with the VPO is perhaps the only rival to Karajan.

Symphony no. 6 is a let down - simple as. Karajan is unresponsive to wuch of Beethoven's finer composition in this recording. This is disapoining considering the wonderful 6th he recorded with the Philharmonia in London in the 50's. The mid-late 70's 6th also has wonderful detail and is also available in lush 24-bit with the 5th and 9th of the same era. Karl Bohm's interpretation of the sixth is highly thought of but his 'haphazard' way can turn people off though it is a decent recording and performance. Bohm has everything that Karajan lacks here - a relaxed drive, due care and attention and an orchestra that seems to have been more connected with the music at the time.

Karajan seemed to have a special connection to the 7th. He only recorded it blandly once - with the VPO (I think) in the 40's or 50's. This performance shows potential and promise but is not the best seventh around. Karajan's later 70's performance is similar but in every respect superior. Of course, we cannot mention the seventh without regard to Carlos Kleiber's monumental account though 70's Karajan does come very close.

Symphony no. 8 - 'my little symphony' as Beethoven referred to it. This is the best Karajan 8th but, if you hunt around, there may be superior accounts to be found but they will only have thier heads or noses in front of this one.

No. 9 - what a joy. Here, the first movement has great tragic elemnt throughout that has, almost, the ability to move to tears. The drama builds throughout the movement to a point where every note seems to have a punch of its own no matter how small it appears in the grand scheme. The second movement has the typical beethovenian demonic force fed by the overwhelming forward force of Karajan. The adagio is a thing of beauty that must be cherished for posterity's sake. This is paced between the swifter modern interpretation that places great emphesis on the intercourse between the various elements of the orchestra and the older stately pace that speaks of deep human emotion - in all it comes off well and Karajan concentrates to the very end (unlike some who seem to wander aimlesly in this movement). Yet, to think that Beethoven contemplated leaving the symphony here at the disintegration of the adagio - not to include the 4th movement would have been a crime against humanity. The Choral finale is in a class of its own. Though some have maligned this interpretation for being too swift I find it strange to discover that, often, the same people recomend Mackerras or Gardiner for this symphony. Personaly, I find the tempo near perfect throughout - it lends itself to the rest of the cycle regarding the interpretation being slightly more Toscanini than Furtwangler. The quartet of singers are fantastic - few recordings can match this one on that account - though the choir is backwardly balanced but not as badly as some older recordings. The orchestra are also superb throughout. A big concern in this set is that in crucial double or treble forte parts the recording equipment sounds like it has been overdriven to the point where much sound has been lost - a very big negative. The recent releases of this cycle on hybrid-SACD has meant considerable remastering and rebalancing which has gone a long way to rectifying the recording issues (one cannot expect miracles, though).

Overall, a very good cycle but by no means perfect. As individual components each symphony can be seen as a let down but as an holistic vision, the cycle comes off rather well. Personally I think it quite ecellent but you must make your own mind up. You will not hear what I hear and you may not like what I like. I would advise collecting these symphonies one or two at a time in their best preformances by various orchestras and coductors. For instance Klemperer's third could be considered superior to the present third and Kleibers 5th and 7th are considered difinitive. In the world of music, however, it is for the individual to make their own way - would we have it any other way?
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beethoven and Karajan, a perfect union, 16 Feb. 2006
This review is from: Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
To a certain extent everyone is familiar with these symphonies,as over the course of them Beethoven transformed the classical style and pushed it to it's limits eventually culminating in the Romantic style. The playing and inerpratation on this collection is flawless, perhaps a little understated in the 2nd symphony but overall an unbeatable collection, showing both Beethoven and his interprater(Karajan)at their very best. I don't understand the comments regarding the quality of Deustche Grammophon's recording! I have found the digital restoration to be fanatastic and actually enhanced my enjoyment, definetly not a cause to discard the collection. Whatever your musical backgroung this collection is true MUST HAVE.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original Image Bit Processing - cleaned up sound quality of older classic, 29 Mar. 2007
By 
rc_rc (Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
This is an "original image bit processing" remastered version of the great Karajan 1963 Beethoven cycle, catalogue number 463 088-2. This is clearly printed on the individual CDs themselves (if you don't believe me, go to your record store and ask if you can see the disks from the box! This isn't documented elsewhere, but I'm sure it's true - the sound quality has that cleaned up fresher sound that you get with the DG 'originals' series that have been remastered this way).

As such it has considerably clearer better sound quality than the previous incarnation of this complete set, in the old maroon box (search amazon for the amazon ASIN number B000001GBQ for this older set of the same recording, but much inferior sound transfer)

Whether other reviewers who are diminishing THIS set's qualities on the basis of sound quality are actually reviewing the older incarnation of these 1963 performances, I do not know. But, although clearly not a recent crystal clear recording, it is actually very good, warm, focussed, well balanced, obviously well recorded in the first place, and the old degraded master tapes have been cleaned up by the clever technical wizardry of DG's modern remastering, perhaps a compressed dynamic range, but completely liveable.

I believe that the SACD remasterings of these same recordings go one better with sound quality, but nevertheless, this CD set is a bargain. This is one of the finest Beethoven cycles ever, with a solid rounded yet unmannered approach combined with a near-perfect modern symphony orchestra. For me the weaknesses may lie in the 5th and 9th symphonies (tho I am listening to the 5th now as writing this - a shade less electrifying than Kleiber or tingling than Bernstein, still darned thrilling, and improved no end from the previous ropey sound transfer). The 3rd, 7th, and possibly 4th are, for me, unsurpassed, electric and virtuosic. And the 6th is excellent - providing you like the brisker side of pastoral country life, if not then look up Bohm instead. So you might find yourself getting additional recordings of 5, 6, and 9, but it's a marginal thing, and if you want one introductory, sane but brilliant Beethoven symphony cycle for a knock down price, and which only takes up 15 millimetres of shelf space in the compact box, then I can't think of a better recomendation than this original image bit processed freshly remastered edition of a musical monument.

Edited to add: I have since listened to the George Szell/Cleveland Orch remastered cleaned up set of Beethoven Symphonies - and I can only reiterate the general acknowledgement that this Karajan set here is musically superior than Szell's Beethoven Symphonies. Fresher and more musical; both have equally good new remastering.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Karajan..., 8 Dec. 2008
By 
Mart (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
This set of 5 CDs, which are sometimes confusingly refered to as the Karajan `1963 version' of Beethoven symphonies, are in fact recordings of performances between December 1961 and November 1962. This is according to the sleeve notes, which also state the publishing date of 1963 so I assume this is the cause of the mis-quotes.

The collection has also received much criticism for its quality of recording, but I couldn't hear any evidence of this on my set. Maybe recording techniques have improved since the 1960's but I would find these CD releases difficult to fault, and while the much-hyped vinyl pressings of these performances may have great nostalgic value and appeal more to the audiophile, I would find them rather difficult to play while driving to work!

But seriously, it's worth remembering that Karajan was a key figure in the development of the CD format, where he attended the first press conference announcing this new medium, although the decision to extend the maximum playing time of CDs from 60 minutes to 75 minutes in order to accommodate Karajan's rendition of Beethoven's Ninth may be a little fanciful.

This is a lovely packaged set of CDs, neatly presented in a slim-line box with 52 page booklet (21 pages in English), including the words to Schiller's `Ode to Joy'.

My favourite of the set is the powerful, yet controlled, Ninth symphony.

The conductor is dead, long live these recordings
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Karajan and the Beethoven Symphonies, 31 Jan. 2010
By 
Phillip Sorensen (Poole, Dorset, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
I am a Beethoven enthusiast. In order to form a balanced view of the Beethoven recordings of the late 20th century's most prominent conductor one must have heard, and studied, the 'competition'. Besides Karajan I own more than half the Beethoven symphony output on record of such as Weingartner, Toscanini, Koussevitsky, Furtwaengler, Klemperer, Erich Kleiber, Carlos Kleiber, Harnoncourt, Gardiner, Vanska and Paavo Jarvi. Without this sort of context how can one judge?
This so-called 1963 set of Karajan with the BPO was a slick, and perhaps for the first time integral, production, the second of Karajan's four complete sets, the first with the Philharmonia Orchestra in the 1950s and the other three with the BPO. It is generally considered the best of the three BPO versions and is distinguished by an outstanding performance of the Fourth Symphony, more dynamic and exciting than the equivalent performance in the other three Karajan sets. The set also contains very satisfying performances of Symphonies 1, 2, 3 (Eroica), 8 and 9 (Choral). I find the 5th Symphony under Karajan overheated, the 6th (Pastoral) too unloving and the 7th lacking in the proper expression of the dactylic rhythm of the second allegretto movement and very hectic in the finale.
To get a proper perspective it is necessary to understand that the '1963 set' arrived at a fortunate time for DG because there was a gap in the market. Weingartner, Furtwaengler and Toscanini (at least his pre-War efforts before he became too tense and fast!) were better conductors than Karajan but they all died before the stereo era and their wonderful efforts are therefore cast in dim mono sound. The real competition should have come in stereo from Szell, Bohm and, above all, Klemperer. However, Szell to me always sounds as if he is conducting in a kind of straightjacket, especially with the Cleveland Orchestra, Bohm is relatively 'ordinary' apart from his very well regarded 'Pastoral' and Klemperer (23 years older than Karajan) had markedly slowed up by the time he recorded his stereo set of the symphonies in 1958 and 1960, If you examine Klemperer's mono recordings you will find the same wonderful sense of structure as in the stereo set but played at tempi up to 30% faster. Therefore, Karajan's main competition in 1963 was old and slow on EMI, although arguably still a greater master of structure than Karajan.
Since Karajan there have been many other attempts at the 'immortal 9', including several on period instruments which often exhibit very fast tempi, such as Norrington, Gardiner and Jarvi. Harnoncourt and Vanska are more mainstream and generally very good but not without their quirks. However, the '1963 Karajan' still markets well because it is in good stereo (the possibly more musical set with the Philharmonia in the 1950s is in mono only apart from the Eighth Symphony) and the two later Karajan sets with the BPO in 1977 and 1983/4 (the latter in original digital sound) are not an improvement musically over '1963', indeed rather the reverse.
All the above explains why the '1963 Karajan' remains such a good, and cheap, starting point for those acquiring a first set of the Beethoven symphonies and is indeed good listening for those more acquainted with them. But you can't really claim to understand these works fully until you venture into the 'dim mono'. Weingartner was an Austrian 45 years older than Karajan and his general approach is similar but he phrases the music much more incisively rather than smoothing it out and was the first to record all 9. Toscanini is best appreciated via his 1936 recording of the 7th with the NYPO and his BBCSO reading of the Pastoral in the following year. Furtwaengler was glorious in his, admittedly rather subjective, interpretative insights (probably explains why he detested the smooth, younger Karajan so much)! And Klemperer in mono, including his 5th and Pastoral with the VSO in the late 40s and EMI 3, 5 and 7 from 1955, was the supreme master of structure. Good listening after Karajan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!, 1 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
Karajan’s musicians play like gods and provide definitive renditions of the odd numbered symphonies. These performances are a model of supreme stateliness, a stateliness that includes heroism and dynamism. Think Churchill in war leader mode.

In the odd numbered symphonies, Karajan provides a heady luxury that matches Bohm, when appropriate, and the fleetness and brimming vitality that characterise the best of the modern HIP crowd, when necessary. Terrific dynamic control and shimmering contrasts of texture and balance make these recordings indispensable. Karajan's strings have a wonderful weight and gravitas, while maintaining beauty and coherence. The orchestra persistently makes incredibly subtle changes in tempo and dynamics, going from slow/quiet to fast/loud in such a way as to generate intense excitement and manifest awe. Dramatic points are heightened but not inappropriately dwelled upon. In each symphony, tightly woven rhythms repeatedly coalesce, with an overwhelming nervous energy, creating mighty cobras ready to strike. And when they strike, their whiplashes are accompanied by thunder and lightening. These intense sequences are complemented by stretches of wide open, sweeping playing that takes your breath away. Some necessary relaxation is provided by the extreme beauty and control of the wonderful wind solos.

Unfortunately, in the even numbered symphonies, Karajan's stateliness slips into brashness and tedium too often; think Churchill in peacetime. Here, the orchestra appears unable to discard the seriousness and find the smiles and warm feelings. To find them them I would recommend Zinman (2), Harnoncourt (4), Bohm (6) and Walter (8). Use them to recover from the overwhelming experiences that Karajan generates in Beethoven's more dynamic symphonies.

In summary, the odd numbered symphonies in this box set are wonderful, and not to be missed.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Recording., 25 Jun. 2002
By 
A. Ip - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
This is the better of the 2 recordings which Karajan did. This was the 1963 version, which is without doubt one of the best renditions I have every heard, the energy with which karajan takes the orchestra through the entire set of symphonies is amazing. When I first heard this recording, I was a bit indifferent as it sounds somewhat faster than a lot of other conductors have paced it at, but after a while, it grows on you and you will want to listen to nothing but Karajan. Without a doubt this is singly the best version of #9 I have heard.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good buy; but get one or two others as well, 2 Mar. 2005
By 
Matthew G. Mccabe "MM" (Milan Italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
This is, of course, a classic set and the playing is gorgeous. I have a slight Karajan-phobia but these are great recordings and the over-control and the show-offy stuff, of the older Karajan, is absent. It is a great counterpoint to the Klemperer set (late 50s EMI) which is much more solid, less beautiful, more "truthful", less elegant and lyrical, more elemental etc. (I think I prefer the Klemperer- in his set it seems to be the music speaking more than the conductor if that makes any sense- but it is worth getting both). I have never heard the vinyls (someone commented that these recordings are better on vinyl) but the transfers to CD are really quite poor quality and compare badly to, for example, the EMI recordings which are slightly older but excellent quality- I cannot believe the original tapes are that bad/or cannot be cleaned up somewhat. I am not totally conviced by the 9th, I think the first movement is too polished (I have a version from 1947 with the Vienna Phil and Karajan which is superior- with a truly incredible cast Patzak, Hotter, Swartzkopf...)- best go for the live Klemperer on Testament for that; or a Furtwangler. Sound quality aside, however, as a complete cycle this a great buy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Von Karajan!!!, 13 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
What else can one say. It's a digitised version of probably the greatest recording ever mafe of the entire 9 symphonies of Beethoven!
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Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition)
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