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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Beethoven ever!, 3 May 2014
By 
T. Crossley "Tom" (Chesterfield) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beethoven: Symphonies 1- 9 (Barenboim) [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
As a very long lover of the Beethoven symphonies, going back over 60 years, this DVD for pure enjoyment is the best ever for me.

My first recording was of course long play records in the fifties by the renowned Toscanini with - if my memory serves me, and most likely it doesn't! - the New York Symphony. His interpretation to say the least was brash and had pace, but was certainly exhilarating!

Then cam Klemperer (if I have spelt it right) the exact opposite who to say the least was ponderous, and whose interpretation I could not take to. I believe this was with a German orchestra.

My next set of the symphonies was the indomitable Karajan and the Philharmonia, first on Cd then lately on DVD, but the DVD was spoilt for me by the regimentation of the orchestra, and I have never been enamoured by an all-male musicians. The production was poor, seeing only very small sections of the orchestra and far too much of Karajan himself.

But already having Barenboim pieces, I purchased the Beethoven set, and was completely bound over. For me, the little idiosyncrasies that seem to bother some, have no meaning at all, I just go for the sheer enjoyment of the playing, and with a DVD the production, the playing is superb as is Barenboin's interpretation, by far the best. Mind you, recorded at the Proms the production had the might of the BBC behind it, and was faultless. Yes we saw the individual players, but much, much more of the orchestra, and larger section of it too, with Barenboin himself so much more of a performer than the rather staid Karajan.

Though I expect many will not agree, as I mentioned, the whole production for me is for the enjoyment, and these symphonies I enjoyed as never before, with the Westeaston Divan Orchestra a real mix of performers, who certainly were not restricted by that German regimentation, giving the works a fresh and enjoyable outlook.

Tom Crossley
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Barenboim and Beethoven., 18 May 2014
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This review is from: Beethoven: Symphonies 1- 9 (Barenboim) [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Excellent perforformance and camera work. I saw a comment recentlt that There is Claasical Music and then there is Beethoven, should be updated to There is Classical music and Barenboim & Beethoven.

A worthy successor to Bruno Walter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beethoven, 10 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Beethoven: Symphonies 1- 9 (Barenboim) [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Bahrenbohm's interpretation is exactring and close to what the composer asked for.
The recording is well balanced and shows how Beethoven used different orchestral colour as he developed his symphonic ideas.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Music and Performances., 19 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Beethoven: Symphonies 1- 9 (Barenboim) [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
I only leave reviews for products when they are either exceptionally good or bad. These DVDs are above exceptionally good. I've always enjoyed listening to Beethoven's symphonies on CDs and only rarely seen them being played. Watching this orchestra in full-flow gives the music so much more depth and passion. I could watch these over and over again such is the beauty of the performances. It works out at £10 per DVD so is also excellent value for money.

I would recommend this DVD set to anybody.
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5.0 out of 5 stars There is a saying "you cannot teach an old dog ..., 5 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Beethoven: Symphonies 1- 9 (Barenboim) [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
There is a saying "you cannot teach an old dog new tricks" but the East-West Divan has this impact on Daniel Barenboim. His wisdom and their energy. Wow!
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5.0 out of 5 stars See Hear., 28 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Beethoven: Symphonies 1- 9 (Barenboim) [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
I do enjoy seeing the orchestra while listening to an excellent recording. This fits the bill perfectly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 22 Jan. 2015
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Noel Maw - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beethoven: Symphonies 1- 9 (Barenboim) [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Very good value, nice interpretation, good delivery. A good trader.
Noel Maw
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 17 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Beethoven: Symphonies 1- 9 (Barenboim) [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Excellent music, presentation and performance.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Buy for Beethoven Fans, 14 July 2013
This review is from: Beethoven: Symphonies 1- 9 (Barenboim) [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Obviously I have not seen this DVD as it hasn't been released yet. However I listened to every scrap of coverage at last year's proms and so I can tell you all that you are in for a great treat. This will become the bench mark by which all other Beethoven cycles are judged. In addition there was real electricity in the live performances which didn't seem to transfer to the CD collection.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barenboim: No mere Furtwangler clone & a Beethoven cycle from a Postmodern Romantic, 30 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Beethoven: Symphonies 1- 9 (Barenboim) [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
The critical consensus is right on this one: This cycle Beethoven For All: Symphonies 1-9 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: 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 hefty, but rich, idiosyncratic, and 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 a traversal through the piano sonatas and piano concertos. Both of these, Barenboim has performed and recorded before (to mixed results, but never better than here.)

Part of that package was a filming of the nine symphonies and five concertos, along with the aptly named documentary: "The Nine Symphonies that changed the world." The documentary, directed by Michael Waldman, is thorough and revealing as the filmmakers follow Barenboim and musicians (which include Barenboim's son) to China and South Korea. Barenboim's extensive musicology is both metaphorical and analytical. He theorizes as much about music as Mengelberg reportedly did. Even if one does not agree with some of his aesthetic choices, Barenboim is clearly passionate, which can be seen when he takes some of his players to task. That infamous Barenboim ego is no mere legend.

The filmed performances of these symphonies (and concertos)Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 - 5 ( Daniel Barenboim Staatskapelle Berlin) [Blu-ray] [2009] [NTSC], really is the way to go with this cycle (as opposed to the CDs). Yes, they are the same performances, but are so lush and lucid in the visual documentation that "seeing" the event, filmed in the splendor of the BBC Proms setting, with 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)Der Ring Des Nibelungen - Widescreen [Blu-ray] [2013] Doris Dorrie (Cosi)Mozart: Cosi fan tutte -- Berlin/Barenboim [DVD] [2007],the late Patrice Chereau (Wozzeck,Tristan), Berg: Wozzeck Staatsoper Berlin [Franz Grundheber, Waltraud Meier, Daniel Barenboim] [Euroarts: 2066758] [DVD] [2013] [NTSC] and Heiner Muller (another excellent Tristan)Wagner - Tristan und Isolde (Barenboim) [DVD] [1995] [2008] (Barenboim, Bayreuth Festival) . Barenboim has also ventured into modern music with generally good results: His recent Schoenberg is superb, ranking with the likes of Karajan and Stokowski. Barenboim probably conducts Boulez better than Boulez (as he conducts Furtwangler better than Furtwangler, his Corigliano is still reference, 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).

Less consistent is Barenboim's handling of French music, although he is an excellent Debussian, and has long devotion to both tango music Barenboim, Daniel: Tango Argentinaand jazz.

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.

* With a plethora of great Beethoven cycles, including Barenboim's earlier one, this CD version of the 9 symphonies, simply is not competitive. However, the DVD version is a visual standout. Still, it is overpriced and the suggestion would be to wait until that price is reduced. There are many excellent filmed cycles available on DVD or Blue-ray, including The top choice of Karajan's indispensable, innovative DG traversal (avoid the 80's Sony issues). Other, recent, well-filmed cycles would be Abbado's with the BPO (which, as we can see, now has many female members. It appears HVK won the unisex battle posthumously) and Thielemann's with the Wiener Philharmoniker. All of these are far more competitive, price-wise, but as a visual cycle, Barenboim's is second only to Karajan.
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