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VINE VOICEon 10 October 2006
With outstanding performances of Symphonies 5 and 9, very good Symphonies 1,3,4,7 and 8, a goodish number 6 and a disappointing number 2 this set represents wonderful value for money. Anybody looking to get to know Bruckner symphonies should buy this set straight away at its give-away price and supplement it with Georg Tintner's superb Naxos disc of number 2 and Otto Klemperer's yet to be equalled number 6 on EMI. Burckner fanatics like me will already have bought it!
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on 23 December 2011
i did not know that these recordings were live.
this does not detract from the excellent quality produced.
the symohonies are vast soundscapes i think one should live with them for a long time.
daniel barenboim is world class performer you cant get better value.
i highly recommend this box set.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 October 2011
The great detail of kmo "1612" (Liverpool UK)'s review makes another full review a little redundant, especially as I tend to agree with much of what he wrote. I came to Barenboim through du Pre's Elgar cello concerto, then followed a range of performances, e.g. his televised Beethoven Masterclasses, his complete piano concertos at the Festival Hall in 2009/2010 and so on.

Although I find some of his writing a little challenging, his podium performances seem to reach the heart of composers and his conducting always seems assured, certain and positive, drawing out the orchestra, encouraging them to play for him. His recent programmes for aspiring conductors on conducting with Pierre Boulez showed his style and approach clearly.

The booklet and CDs are helpfully clear about what many refer to as the "Bruckner Problem", i.e. (the Wirkungsgeschichte or discussion over authenticity since various version of them symphonies are available, some the result of collaboration and the Fourth is particularly complicated as it was revised many times between 1874-1892. For the Fourth Symphony, Barenboim performed the 1878/1880 version although in the earlier part of the twentieth century Gutman's 1888 version was used most often. (A good summary of this and other Bruckner symphony issues are on Wikipedia [Just Google or Wiki "Bruckner" or individual symphonies to see more information; reviews do not allows website addresses.)

Barenboim performs the following:

Symphony I in C minor - Linz verson
Symphony II in C minor - 1877 version
Symphony III in D minor- 1877 version
Symphony IV in D flat major - 1878-1880 version
Symphony V in B flat major - Original version
Symphony VI in A major - Leopold Nowak/Robert Hass edition 1935
Symphony VII in E major
Symphony VIII in C minor - Robert Hass edition 1939
Symphony IX in D minor

Barenboim, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Bruckner are an ideal team and, at this budget price, this is an excellent set. Buy one before they all go or someone at Warner Classics discovers they have made a marketing mistake. All the Barenboim Warner sets I have are in the very sensible and practical cardboard and papers cases too, complete with a very helpful and interesting little booklet.

Highly recommended.
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on 1 March 2015
For me this box set of complete Bruckner Symphonies by Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic, recorded during the 1990's for Teldec/Warner Classics, is just stunning. I have tried other recordings such as the Georg Tintner/RSNO NAXOS box set but was disappointed by these because of the lack of power in the strings. Of course there is no such problem with the Berlin Philharmonic with their powerful rich sweeping strings that can match the brass in the big Tutti sections of Bruckner's epic Symphonies. If anyone can do justice to these Symphonies it's the Berlin Phil and I would also have to say that Barenboim's interpretations are spot on.

They do a wonderful recording of the 7th Symphony with Barenboim pacing it perfectly especially in the first movement that many other conductors rush through. The richness and quality of the string playing throughout, but particularly in the second movement, is a delight to hear with sensitive woodwinds. The dramatic and emotional ending is also a delight to hear with the brass strong but not over blowing, as is the case with some British orchestras.

Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic also deliver fine performances of Bruckner's 4th (Romantic) 9th,5th,6th and 8th Symphonies in this excellent box set.
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on 25 November 2005
this set is tremendous value for money and offers generally fine performances of every symphony in first class sound. the highlight of this set is barenboims etherial rendition of the 9th. It is as near to perfection as is possible, arguably the greatest performance ever committed to disc. those wishing to purchase a complete set need not hesitate in aquiring this excellent release.
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on 4 August 2013
This was my first venture into the world of Bruckner and from the 1st movement of the 1st Symphony I was hooked - this really is breathtakingly powerful music.
From the first listen it was easy to see how reviews of Bruckner Symphony cycles would draw a wide range of views: the music is obviously very open to interpretation, and "each to his own". However I can say that these Symphonies are all wonderfully performed (you wouldn't expect anything less from the BPO or Barenboim) and although I often try to avoid live recordings, this recording alone may have converted me.
I have since tried other recordings and interpretations, including Wand's live recordings of 4, 7 and 8 with the BPO, Karajan's complete cycle and Rattle's completion of the 9th, again with the BPO, and as fantastic as all of these recordings are I still have no complaints whatsoever about any of the performances in this collection.

As for the music itself:
Paul-John Ramos puts it excellently in his Bruckner biography: "A Bruckner symphony does not refer to concrete images, nor does it undergo a familiar style of "development"; it simply exists as a vast, autonomous body of sound."
One striking feature is the way he masterly builds intensity by sending it at you in waves; he will build and build, then pull it back, only to unleash it again, wave after wave, until the intensity reaches such epic proportions it literally has no where else to go, and collapses under the weight of its own brilliance like a dying star.
For me the music conjures up images of huge, epic landscapes; each movement a journey over mountains, desserts and oceans. The scherzos are the best I have heard from any composer, the climaxes are out of this world, and after reading a biography of the composer it is difficult to connect the mild-mannered devout-Catholic man to this music.

Throughout my voyage of classical music discovery I occasionally meet a new composer, a particular piece, a performer or a specific recording that is quite literally life changing - Bruckner's Symphonies have fallen into that category and Mr. Barenboim (who until now I've only had chance to admire as a pianist and interpreter of Beethoven) has done an excellent job of delivering.
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on 18 February 2012
What a mixed bag this is! If Barenboim was hoping to incarnate - not imitate - his lodestar of Furtwangler, the embodiment is fitful at best.

On the Credit side of the ledger, the performance of the Ninth is close to being the best on the market - what a performance and the Berlin Phil sound like the days of yore. Richard Osborne, who reviews Bruckner performances for the Gramophone, lauded it as the front-runner and he is no mean critic. 5 / 5

The Fifth is a fast and punchy performance which means that the slow movement is less moving than others - but the last movement is incandescence itself and second to none - again, the Berlin Phil plays like gods. 4 /5

The First Symphony is right on the money and highly enjoyable. 4/ 5

On the other side of the ledger 3 & 4 are good concert performances and no more. They are superlatively played and well recorded - but in each instance, Barenboim fails to impart a unified view of the music. Both performances avoid being episodic - a cardinal error in Bruckner - but they lack an overarching 'vision made flesh'. At no point in either of them does one detect an immolatory act of consummation. Both 3 / 5 (and this is being somewhat unfair to the performance of the Third, which is very listenable).

The Seventh Symphony makes all the right gestures but fails to lodge in the memory - magic, there ain't. The first movement is nearly as slow as the Maazel / BPO performance from the late 1980s and it is just as tensionless. 2 / 5

The Sixth Symphony is the nadir of this cycle - it is clearly the end-product of multiple edits taken from a range of performances (it is not a patch on the Karajan, for all its flaws, or the Stein). 1 / 5

The Eighth, sad to say, is not a success: at no point does it take one in the hand and say 'we are going on a journey together.' One loud climax follows another - and the Berlin Phil appear to be sight-reading the score, such is their lack of assurety. 2 / 5

The Second Symphony is also unsettled - it lacks a still turning point. As with Eight, one wonders how much rehearsal time was allocated beforehand. 2 / 5

All in all, 26 / 45 is barely a pass-mark. Perhaps Barenboim aced the Ninth on the night. So where does that leave Danny as a Brucknerian? Above Rattle, Abbado and Maazel but not by much. Some might say that his first cycle with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra - such as it is - is more impressive than this outing: and they might be right.

Pick up 9, 5 and 1 separately if you can.
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These performances were recorded between 1990 and 1997. The sleeves advertise that all are live performances except symphonies four and seven, but the audience's coughing in the fourth's andante indicates that the only studio performance is the seventh. Rather than expand on each symphony in turn, I think in this instance a few general notes for the potential purchaser would be better.

First, which versions has Barenboim chosen? The first is the original Linz version; the second is the revised 1877 version. Personally, Barenboim makes a mistake by using the 1877 version of the third symphony, whose fourth movement is more laboured than the symphony's final and more usually-recorded version. The final version of the fourth symphony brings us back to the standard repertoire. In the seventh, Barenboim includes the arguable cymbals and triangle at the climax of the adagio. And in the eighth symphony, Barenboim chooses the 1939 Hass edition.

What about performance? By and large Barenboim is respectful, taking time where it needs to be taken, giving breath to the themes. In places his interpretation is superlative, such as the re-appearance of the trumpet ostinato in the first movement of the second symphony, and later the finale's Beethovenian first subject's development running headlong into it, a fruitful transformation that is brought off fantastically. I would also like to highlight his and the Berlin Philharmonic's rendition of the ninth, which - for a live recording - is a stupendous performance, perfectly paced: I wish I had been there! The warm sound glows, the brass are superb, and careful consideration is given to the orchestration underlying the main themes. It's not perfect, but is mightily impressive all the same.

There is good clear sound throughout the series, although perhaps not as soft in the tuttis as I would like it. Indeed, there can be a raw edge to the interpretations that may please some listeners. The tuttis can sound crowded (especially the violins) in the more confined spatial dimension that live recordings often produce. This is unfortunate where Bruckner engages so many themes or their permutations, such as in the double fugue of the fifth symphony's finale and its vast peroration.

With these live performances there is the occasional cough from the audience and even some exhortations of Barenboim himself to the players can be heard, but none of these potential defects - apart from the coughing in the coda of the fourth's finale, and the noise of Barenboim in the development of the eighth's first movement - detracts radically from my recommendation of this CD set. With live concerts, there is also the pressure of pulling off a perfect performance: Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic almost achieve this, save for occasional split-second momentary confusions. However, the performance of the eighth symphony should be singled out for some poor playing and bad timing.

The discs come with sleevenotes by a variety of authors, although those for the second symphony seem to describe a different work altogether through his unenthusiastic review. The writer talks of Bruckner's lack of resolution and his hesitation and fragmentation of structure. But we can at least agree that in portraying the crisis of Romanticism in an industrial age, Bruckner "is thoroughly modern". Barenboim himself is helpful in this context, for instance seemingly heightening the discord at the harrowing yet glorious climax of the second symphony's second movement.

There is an extra, in the shape of Bruckner's last completed work, his choral-orchestral piece `Helgoland'. The performance is vigorous and it is surprising how in places the writing is reminiscent of the masses he composed almost thirty years earlier.

Barenboim's set is not my first choice for Bruckner's integral cycle of first to ninth symphonies, but it is highly recommended all the same. Gains made in the recording process mean we are today spoilt for choice with so many good performances to choose, but this has also led to a culture of blandness with performances also becoming virtually indistinguishable in the round from others. Barenboim's is certainly worthy of four stars, but cycles by Celibidache, Chailly, and Karajan still outrank him, in my opinion.
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on 11 November 2015
The playing is, of course, superb. But the interpretations do little to counter these symphonies' undeserved reputation (in some quarters) for turgidity and rambling. Continuity is not pursued with any particular zeal, and some of the crescendos do not resolve onto the written climaxes as satisfyingly as one might hope. The dividing line between lushness and wallowing is not easy to navigate; much of the time Barenboim wanders on the side of the latter. There are better controlled, crisper and more characterful versions from Wand and Karajan out there.

The prize is good, though, giving me an opportunity to appreciate and compare all these symphonies together. Wonderful, energising and thought-provoking music.
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on 14 November 2008
This box set is great value for money. The recordings are generally excellent, the only disappointments for me were the 6th and 8th; I just don't get Barenboim's hurried reading of the 8th symphony and would recommend Wand with the BPO on RCA or Haitink Concertgebow on Phillips as an alternative. As for Mr. Fortune's comment on Klemperer's 6th being unequalled, I would recommend he give the Celibidache recording on EMI a listen. The sound is superior to the Klemperer and the performance has more drive without being rushed.
All in all this is a superb set with outstanding performances of symphonies 3,4,5,and 9. At a little over £20 it's a real bargain!
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