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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Bargain, 30 Dec 2011
By 
Graham (Fife, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beethoven - Complete Edition (85CD + CD ROM) (Audio CD)
I have a large collection of Beethoven recordings and did not really need yet another set of the symphonies, the piano sonatas, piano concertos, violin sonatas, cello sonatas, string quartets, etc. I therefore bought this very reasonably priced complete edition to be able to hear all the works, and there are many of them, that are virtually unknown, whether these are orchestral, choral and chamber works of some size or things like the pieces for musical clock, minuets and many other sets of dances, sonatinas for mandolin (yes, mandolin!), a large number of works for wind instruments, an early piano concerto, many sets of variations and other things for piano, works for organ, folk song arrangements: all of those works without opus number that outnumber those with one! Truly a complete picture of Beethoven, who was not always on the mountain tops but often busily writing pieces just to earn a living.

What then of the music that is so well known? Does this edition do justice to the works that display Beethoven's unique and all embracing genius? It most certainly does. There is Herbert Blomstedt's superb set of the symphonies with the Staatskappele, Dresden. Then there is Stanislaw Skrowaczewski's recordings of most of the overtures with the Minnesota Orchestra - absolutely magnificent. Alfred Brendel's first set of the piano sonatas may not have all the insights that he was later to reveal in his distinguished career, but they are still well worth hearing. The performances by Arthur Grumiaux and Clara Haskill of the violin sonatas are surely as good as any in the catalogue and soon make you overlook that the recordings from the mid-fifties are not of the quality that we expect today. The cello sonatas are beautifully played by Heinrich Schiff and Till Fellner, as are the string quartets by the Sharon (op.18) and Guarneri Quartets. Sir Colin Davis may not scale the heights in the Missa Solemnis in the way that Klemperer or Jochum do, but it is a perfectly valid and acceptable view of this most difficult and challenging of Beethoven's works. Herbert Blomstedt returns for a fine account of Leonore, which makes one think that there was not very much wrong with the original version of Beethoven's only opera. Fidelio is in the hands of Christoph von Dohnanyi.

Taken as a whole, this edition is a superb bargain, particularly at Amazon's price, and it will give endless inspiration and pleasure, as well as providing a comprehensive view of the miracle that is Beethoven.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive...MOST impressive!, 2 Jun 2011
By 
Kelvin Brown (Ashburn, VA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beethoven - Complete Edition (85CD + CD ROM) (Audio CD)
This Beethoven Complete Edition Box is one of the best investments you could make in your classical music collection. Brilliant Classics has done a remarkable job in presenting 85 CDs that cover just about everything Beethoven ever composed, and to my ears, probably a tad more than most of us will over really listen to. Almost nothing in this set would get a one star if I were rating it alone, and the majority of the set would get somewhere between four and five stars. As a beginning set, or one to fill out your existing Beethoven collection, this is simply a knock out.

Let me address the major groupings in the set, and try to rate them in a way that make sense - one rating for performance and the other for sound quality.

Symphonies and Piano Concertos. Performance: 4 stars, Sound: 4 stars. Herbert Blomstedt and the Staatskapelle Dresden performing the symphonies. While not Solti, Walter, or Karajan, I am glad to have added these recordings to my collection. Tempos are a little slow, and the equalization is a touch dark - partially due to recording location. However the performances are clear, stereo separation is remarkable. Gulda on piano with Stein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic on most of the piano concertos is a real find. I had never even heard of pianist or conductor before purchasing this set, but these are as fine a performance of these works as anything in my collection. But the hidden treasure in this part of the collection is Stanislav Skrowaczevski conducting the Minnesota Orchestra on overtures and orchestral showpieces. Clear recordings and fantastic performances. I own his Bruckner recordings, and he is one of the most under-rated conductors of the modern era.

The Chamber Music. Performance 4 stars. Sound: 5 stars. The highlights of this part of the collection are the Piano Trios by the Borodin Trio, the Cello Sonatas by Heinrich Schiff, and the flute discs. The only slight disappointment here is the violin sonatas. They were recorded in the 1950s, and sound it. Performances by Grumiaux and Haskell are quite good, though, and make up for the dated sound.

The String Quartets: Performance: 5 stars. Sound: 4. I don't exactly know what to say here. If you can find this set separately, it is going to set you back at least 40 American bucks. I have an nice stereo with a Nu-Force digital-to-analog converter, and Linn speakers. Audiophile stuff. The Guarneri Quartet plays these pieces with precision, conviction. Detailed, almost three dimensional sound. I think the Alexander Quartet box set is the gold standard for the Beethoven string quartets, at least to my taste. But what you get here will be all most people ever need or want.

The Piano Sonatas. Performance: 5 stars. Sound: 3 stars. This is Alfred Brendel's early 1960's set - originally offered as a Vox Box. Dating myself, but that was the budget label of the sixties. And back then, budget usually meant substandard sound and engineering. Love the performances. The sound varies from really good - clear with great acoustics - to slightly muddy, boxy sounding acoustics. But folks, this is Brendel and he turns in one of the best performances of Moonlight Sonata, and the Pathétique Sonata on CD. I am quite tickled that I now own a complete Brendel cycle, even if the critics say it's not his best.

The Stage Works. Performance: 5 stars, Sound: 5 stars. This set contains two versions of Fidelio. Leonora, the earlier version, is a 1970s recording with Herbert Blomstedt and the Staatskapelle Dresden. Fidelio is conducted by Dohnanyi with the Vienna Philharmonic. The singing is competent, the recordings are top notch. My only complaint with this section is the recording of the oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives. A slow, amateur performance with unacceptable engineering. Worst CD in the set. But I cannot subtract a star for one bad CD.

The Songs and Arias. Performance: 15 stars. Sound: 1000 stars. Enough said. If there was any doubt by now that this set was worth the asking price, these CDs pushed it over the top. Songs in German, English. You get Irish songs, you get Welsh songs, you get Scotch tunes, and even riddle and jokes pieces. No famous opera singers, but the singers all turn in convincing, reliable performances. This kind of music sounded wonderful in the Mozart set, and likewise here.

Summary. Can you get better recordings of these pieces? Yes. But it all comes down to time and money. 84 of 85 discs in this set are top drawer performances, most sound like they are of the digital age - the rest you accept because of the quality of the performances. I picked the set up for 27 dollars here on Amazon. Knowing what I know now, after hearing these CDs - they really are worth the asking price. This is an obscenely good deal, and I am feeling quite of a bit of "pride of ownership."
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who could complain?, 27 Dec 2011
This review is from: Beethoven - Complete Edition (85CD + CD ROM) (Audio CD)
Okay, so I ordered this boxed set from Europe to get a much cheaper price than I could in the ' States (even when S & H are added in) and I now own "the complete" Beethoven on CD! I have listened to the entire set and of course there is a range of quality but who could complain about having 87 CDs of Beethoven for less than $1 per disc? Most of the versions are quite serviceable or even very good.

HOWEVER....
I decided that there are some things that I really have to complain about, despite this being a good deal.

1. The tracks are often "run together" with absolutely no break being provided between them. Thus, as soon as one movement ends we often hear a new movement or even a new work (of entirely different character) starting up with no pause whatsoever!

2. Whoever wrote up the information on the disc sleeves apparently knew nearly nothing about classical music. The information about the timings isn't 100% reliable, it is common that fast movements with an introduction will be marked only with the tempo of that introduction (andante, adagio) instead of including the predominant tempo (allegro, presto, vivace), and the completeness of the set is difficult to verify due to the different numberings used in the Hess and the WoO listings.

3. Indexing is inferior - there's a general overview of the type of content on each disc, for a quick reference, but if one is looking for a specific work, it helps to speak German, and even then it's really hard to predect how they've classified things in the alphabetical German index. I went looking for a particular set of Lieder (Op. 48) and eventually found them listed under "Bitten" - how would I have known?? Other song sets are listed by the name of the individual song - I try to figure out where to find the songs in WoO 99 and they are split semi-randomly among two discs and then I have to do a web search to see why number 8 appears to be missing (My best guess at this time is considered part of WoO 119 and they didn't feel the need to duplicate it?). Then I can't find number 12 of the WoO 99 set at all! Maybe it's there if I scrutinize the tiny listings on each disc, or read through the entire 16 page index booklet? The only solution, I think, is to do just that - I have had to create my own indexes so that I can find smaller works in the set, based on catalog and opus numbers. What a chore!

4. The disorder of the set is a real problem for scholars. Ok, sure, if I want to listen only to the symphonies and concertos and overtures, like the average casual listener, there's no problem - those most popular works are all at the front of the set. But if I want to listen to the complete piano sonatas in order, a bit more searching is required. The real problem comes with more obscure works like WoO 99 (or, more specifically, all those works Beethoven wrote as an exercise for Salieri, in the transition from his early to middle period, numbered from 208 to 232 in the Hess catalog). That's when the problems of the set's construction become very clear. Perhaps things are disordered to cover up for some missing minor pieces, and this set really isn't complete? Did they think that listeners couldn't bear to hear the full sets of folk songs and other minor works at one sitting, and needed these tracks shuffled between discs, for listening variety? Did they have to piece these sets together from different performers and recording sources, and felt it was therefore simpler to place random partial clumpings of them on different discs? I do know that when I want to listen to particular collections of works from a specific year or genre, I have had to switch discs a great deal... in some cases only to hear a 30 second or 15 second micro-work (mini-songs or exercises or fragments) rather than having such things more reasonably organized chronologically, or at least by catalog number or at the very very least by not having the same song/dance or other collections split across multiple discs. There is a semblance of order preserved, but I should be able to listen to compendium works in their original order without having to switch between 2 or 3 discs! Ridiculous.

Thus, many things about the set are designed for a casual listener, it seems. However, can one really complain about having at least a practically complete box of Beethoven CDs for less than $1 per disc? This set has problems, but in terms of a listening experience it's still a very good value. On the other hand, there may be (and likely are) other boxed sets that have a much better organization, indexing, and recording quality than this one...without paying too much more for those benefits.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars simkinc, 7 Oct 2011
This review is from: Beethoven - Complete Edition (85CD + CD ROM) (Audio CD)
Am pleased with this product; a well presented box set, with good quality recordings at a fair price. Recently retired, I've set myself the task of listening to all Beethoven's, Mozart's, Chopin's and several other classical musicians' works. These Complete Edition box sets have been a quick, inexpensive and enjoyable way to achieve this. I'll leave it to professional musicians to judge the true quality of these recordings but to me, the relative newcomer, they sound very good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing quality and value, 24 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Beethoven - Complete Edition (85CD + CD ROM) (Audio CD)
I am staggered at the quality of the playing and recordings that Brillant have put together.This is an absolute bargain. anyone wanting to hold a solid basic library to learn and appreciate Beethoven need look no further.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Can't be beaten., 25 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Beethoven - Complete Edition (85CD + CD ROM) (Audio CD)
Anyone considering buying this edition will surely be familiar with most of the music anyway and will know what they're in for so I don't think this is an appropriate place to write about how brilliant that is! The performances vary from good through very good to absolutely sublime, if in any doubt try the Ukrainian folksong setting 'Schone Minka, ich muss scheiden' WoO158a No.16 (disc85/6)Can that performance be beaten? For me that's worth the price of the set alone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Super collection so many to hear ++, 22 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Beethoven - Complete Edition (85CD + CD ROM) (Audio CD)
Brilliant series, love the quality of the recordings i have listened to so far. . Still not heard them all. fast service
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