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4.4 out of 5 stars32
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 14 January 2013
Magical. Worth every penny and certainly value for money. I would purchase any other Daniel Barenboim recordings if he were conducting the West-East Divan orchestra.
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on 24 December 2012
by B arenboim

marvellous orchestra
Saw on TV
V. precise playing
Orchestra held in thraw by conductor
Very disciplined approach
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on 23 September 2012
Superb cd! The symphonies are magnificently performed. A really refreshing approach to some fo the world's most famous symphonies. I defy anyone not to like these discs.
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on 19 June 2013
A present for my wife who loves it.
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on 29 November 2013
The critical consensus is right on this one: This cycle with the West-Eastern Divan, while having some expectant high and low points, cannot favorably compare to Barenboim's excellent and historical cycle with the Staatskapelle Berlin from a decade before. Beethoven: Complete Symphonies

The main reason is the orchestra. The West-Eastern Divan is, essentially, an orchestra in its adolescence. The Pastorale and the Choral symphony are high points. The Eighth, with its diaphanous composition, almost always risks suffering most under the romantic spell and does so here as well. Barenboim's Fifth is radically rooted in the German tradition, so dramatically, that it will probably remain a point of debate. The rest of the cycle, like the fifth, is idiosyncratic, but never dull.

There is a temptation to ask: "why?" of this cycle, after such an excellent traversal in 2005. Well, of course, it's part of a big marketing extravaganza called "Beethoven for All." This includes the piano sonatas and piano concertos. Both of these, Barenboim has performed and recorded before (to mixed results, but never better than here.)

The filmed performances of these symphonies (and concertos), really is the way to go. Beethoven: Symphonies 1- 9 (Barenboim) [DVD] [2013]Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 - 5 ( Daniel Barenboim Staatskapelle Berlin) [Blu-ray] [2009] [NTSC]

Yes, they are the same performances, but are so lush and lucid in documentation that "seeing" the event, committed music-making, and enthusiasm, considerably diminishes reservations to all but those who are already cemented in long-standing "bandwagon" biases; biases which are overdue in addressing:

The "general" rule of thumb in assessing Barenboim's art is to dismiss all the cliched, dull and, yes, inherently lazy "copying Furtwangler" crutches/accusations that so many armchair critics unimaginatively lean on and repeat like a broken record. That Barenboim has a lifelong admiration for and identification with Furtwangler's "better" performances is well known. Likewise (and less known), Barenboim holds a similarly strong identification with Klemperer, Celibidache, Walter, and Kubelik. In other words, Barenboim jumps from the Romantic diving board. He identifies with much in the German Romantic tradition, as opposed to being influenced by it. Essentially, Barenboim is, on the surface, a bit of an oxymoron: he is a post modern romantic. While his identification plane is clear, it is also eclectic and Barenboim comes up his own man.

Like Klemperer, Barenboim is not adverse to elements of modernism, and this includes his exemplary work with innovative stage directors like Harry Kupfer (Parisfal and the Ring), Doris Dorrie (Cosi),the late Patrice Chereau (Wozzeck,Tristan),and Heiner Muller (another excellent Tristan). Barenboim has also ventured into modern music with generally good results: His recent Schoenberg is superb, ranking with the likes of Karajan and Stokowski. Daniel Barenboim / West Eastern Divan Orchestra: Tchaikovsky/ Schoenberg Barenboim probably conducts Boulez better than Boulez (as he conducts Furtwangler better than Furtwangler), his Corigliano is still reference Symphony No. 1, and his occasional forays into Mahler have, on the whole, proven more interesting and sympathetic than committed Mahlerians, such as Abbado and Rattle. I include Mahler here because some attribute modernistic tenets to that composer (I am less reluctant to these days, with the exception of the 6th and 7th. Btw, Barenboim's 7th may be a reference that can compare to the likes of Scherchen, Gielen, Rosbaud, Kubelik,and Bernstein).Mahler: Symphony No. 7

Less consistent is Barenboim's handling of French music, although he is an excellent DebussianEntre Quatre Z Yeux [DVD] [2010] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] , and has long devotion to both tango music and jazz. Mi Buenos Aires QueridoTribute to Ellington

In an eclectic repertoire, Barenboim proves himself far more able and versatile than those he is often compared to (always to his disadvantage), but It does not end there. While Barenboim is an inconsistent artist (as all conductors are), his musicianship is consummate. Unevenness aside, in his commonly grounded German repertoire (mainly Beethoven, Wagner, and Bruckner) he proves himself a better conductor and more uniformly inspired than either Furtwangler or Klemperer (although R. Strauss and the Brahms symphonies strangely elude Barenboim).

While Furtwangler's Eroica and Choral are wholly deserving of their reputations, his various Fifths are a wildly uneven lot and the remaining symphonies, while generally good, have been bettered numerous times over, past and present (Barenboim being among those who have bested the master).

Barenboim's Wagner, while occasionally plagued by the dearth of good Wagnerian singers, is excellently conducted and, again, that excellence is far more consistent than Furtwangler (Although Furtwangler's Legge-produced Tristan and the wretched-sounding La Scala Ring are still performance references).

Furtwangler's Bruckner rep is well-deserved, but he had his clunkers (the mostly limpid '54 Eighth and wreck of a '51 Fifth). Additionally, Furtwangler, being a technophobe, immeasurably hurt his recorded legacy, as did Toscanini (and there were other conductors, during the period, who were insightfully committed to better sounding recordings).

Barenboim's excellence in Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Schumann (although, again, uneven) have rendered inefficient and are preferable to the bulk of Furtwangler's way with those composers. Similar comparisons could be made between Barenboim and Klemperer, Celibidache, et al.

The much missed, erudite musicologist Harold C. Schonberg (NY Times) was among those who, early on, rightly called out the "Copying Furtwangler" robotic catcalls as "ill-informed and sloppy listening" (this being in assessment of both Barenboim's conducting and pianistic skills). David Hurwitz is among the newer crop of critics who echo Schonberg.

Of course, it doesn't matter what Hurwitz or Schonberg write, those married to their pre-exisiting, tedious biases will still choose to pour over Barenboim's idiosyncrasies like a fundamentalist scrutinizes over every single line from their bible. This is their limitation and while I have immense admiration for that priest; Furtwangler, I have not canonized him. It appears to do so obscures and hinders an even-handed embrace of an authentic and original, contemporary, romantic tradition.
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on 1 February 2015
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on 10 January 2013
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on 5 November 2013
I am not a technophobe and do not pretend to understand the technicalities of different orchestras/conductors. I did enjoy listening to the music, it was better than the previous collection of Beethoven Symphonies. My one gripe is the digital ebooklet. I can access it via my kindle but the print size is so small it is impossible to read. I am sure that it only contains a lot of technical information anyway!
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on 29 August 2012
poor qualtiy recording and a very lack luster performance. will be returning cds as they jump which ruins pleasure of continuity.
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on 16 January 2013
I am very sorry to say that after waiting expectantly for the arrival of the cds ,I found that each cd was faulty with loads of skipping and jumping throughout .Needless to say ,I was unable to keep them and returned to you .
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