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Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies Box set

4.2 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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  • Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies
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Product details

  • Audio CD (4 Feb. 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: EMI
  • ASIN: B000ZBPQF8
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 80,856 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
  • Sample this album Artist - Artist (Sample)
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Disc 4
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Disc 5
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Product Description

Product Description

Herbert von Karajan (right, right, right and right) recorded the symphonies of Beethoven four times in his remarkable career -- once with the Philharmonia in the Fifties and three times with the Berlin Philharmonic (1961-2, 1975-7, 1982-5). In many ways, his 60s cycle stands out from the other three. It was the first recording of the Nine to be conceived, planned and sold as an integral set. The initial purchasers had to pay a subscription for the LPs which were sent to them symphony by symphony. Thirty-six years later, this cycle has become somewhat of a benchmark for these cornerstones of the symphonic repartoire.

About the Artist

Herbert von Karajan was an Austrian orchestra and opera conductor. To the wider world he was perhaps most famously associated with the the Berlin Philharmonic of which he was principal conductor for 35 years. Although he was not without criticism, he is generally considered to have been one of the greatest conductors of all time, and he was a dominant figure in European classical music from the 1960s until his death. Part of the reason for this was the large number of recordings he made and their prominence during his lifetime. By one estimate he was the top-selling classical music recording artist of all time, having sold an estimated 200 million records.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
After many years of both Beethoven and Karajan, I have come full circle and must now insist to the casual reader that this particular cycle is HvK's best Beethoven offering. These mono recordings, made in the excellent Kingsway Hall, are more personable and more successful in conveying Karajan's stated aim - a blend of Toscanini's precision and Furtwangler's fantasy. The Philharmonia were a brand new orchestra, not created for karajan as such, but it probably felt that way.

For me, the celebrated 1962 set with the BPO is Karajan with his Toscanini hat on: too fast, too brilliant, too soulless. The 1977 box restores the depth and heart to Karajan's Beethoven, but now the overall sound picture begins to bother me. The strings are too dominant and the timps too...well...tea-tray like. Don't get me wrong, it's a great cycle but the Philharmonia sessions are a joy from start to finish.

So what if it's mostly mono? This was the high noon of mono, Karajan had a great recording team and believe-you-me, people more interested in technology than music are already calling DDD stereo 'old' and starting to drool over Blu-Ray audio or whatever. No, remastered mono can be as satisfying as any incarnation of stereo, and at this price, why hesitate. These days, it's becoming harder and harder to find a set where all nine symphonies are done superbly. EMI's latest reissue is timely and really a must have, if only to complement your latest fashionable conductor's Beethoven (be it Zinman, Abbado, Rattle, etc).
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Format: Audio CD
I admire many of Karajan's recordings some of which are truly great but not, as a rule, his Beethoven. This is mainly because of his later stereo recordings, the last of which in the 1980s was frankly a mistake which did him no favours. This set is something different. There is still the freshness that was so admired in the 1940s and one feels a sense of greatness at times. I too return to these recordings if I wish to listen to his Beethoven, by far the most satisfying of the 4 cycles. But, if you are looking for truly great Beethoven and don't mind mono or ADD etc I would say go for a mixture of Erich Kleiber and son Carlos the mono Klemperer and Furtwangler, not forgetting Weingartner of course. I'm sorry to say the more modern accounts leave me a bit cold, too "fashion" conscious for me and not getting to the heart of the music. If you don't have a complete cycle and are looking for one, this is strongly recommended.
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Format: MP3 Download
...not the sound quality! The one-star reviewers are welcome to listen to the latest squeaky clean digital Beethoven on their super-duper expensive systems, but for those of us who rate the music making above mere technical considerations this set is a must!
Yes, it's in mono (apart from the 8th). Yes the dynamic range and clarity are not what can be achieved today. But the playing of the 1950s Philharmonia is to be cherished (Dennis Brain rounding off the "Pastoral" symphony with a solo like the "horns of Elfland faintly blowing", the matchless woodwinds)... it's all just fabulous, and this "Pastoral" is unquestionably the finest of HvK's four studio attempts by far.
I own three of Karajan's Beethoven cycles but not the final, digital one! Not that I have anything against digital, it's just that the final cycle seems to me to be too sleek, too manicured. Here, in the 1950s, Karajan marries his matchless sense of sonority (which has not yet become homogenised) with his famous drive (which has not yet become overbearing). Hence the finale of the Seventh is a giddy, intoxicating whirl compared to 1977's annihilating impetus (also great, in its way). The Ninth is not quite the equal of Karajan's two subsequent recordings, but still fine.
At the price, forget the technology, just enjoy the music, and the music making.
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Format: Audio CD
I've been trying to get my girls (aged eight and ten) to listen to classical music. They showed no interest in the classics at all until I got this set. We have listened to the music together and they have put this on several times when I was not even around. The eldest has mentioned the possibility of taking piano lessons. I am so pleased to find something that sparked their interest. I feel like it might be time to throw a little Bach their way too.
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Format: Audio CD
Although the original recording is four decades old, this is still one of the landmrk interpretations of the nine symphonies. The re-working is excellent, and the performances, especially on the ninth symphony have rarely if ever been equalled
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Herbert von Karajan is not my favourite conductor, because despite the consistent excellence of the individual components of the sounds produced by the orchestra under his direction, somehow for me the later recordings are often a little metronomic and lack the subtle feeling for the music that one senses in, say, Karl Boehm notwithstanding the latter's sometimes eccentric tempi. These recordings, however, were my first real introductions to Beethoven's symphonies and for me they retain their original attraction - not for nostalgic reasons but because my sense is that the conductor is still reaching to understand all there is to know about the music, rather than showing off his undoubted command of it. Yes they are mono, and they must be diminished to some extent for that, but not much and are less expensive.
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