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Beethoven: The Symphonies Box set

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (11 Aug. 2010)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B000SSPL26
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 444,940 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Ludwig Van Beethoven - The Nine Symphonies - 38 tracks on 5 CDs - Ludwig van Beethoven

Product Description

PLETNEV MIKHAIL / RUSSIAN NATI

Customer Reviews

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Format: Audio CD
Mikhail Pletnev's new Beethoven Symphony cycle with his Russian National Orchestra is definitely unique. It is the most original Beethoven cycle I've heard period. But does it really add anything to our understanding of Beethoven's symphonies that we've heard before? The short answer is no, since there are other, more insightful cycles that are available now, ranging from Daniel Barenboim's traditional take with the Berliner Staatskapelle (Warner Classics/Teldec) to Nikolaus Harnoncourt's intriguing cycle with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (Warner Classics/Teldec) and finally, to the rather swift, quite insightful, ones from Bernard Haitink and the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO Live) and Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker (Deutsche Grammophon); of these my personal favorite is Haitink's. Pletnev's new cycle is most noteworthy for the exemplary playing by the Russian National Orchestra; otherwise he opts for rather sudden changes in tempi (e. g. opening movements of the 3rd, 5th, 6th adn 7th symphonies) without rhyme or reason, without trying to make a persuasive case in these interpretations for such changes, but rather, as though they are mere personal whims (Pletnev claims that they are based on his own historically-informed examination of performance practice as followed by Beethoven and his contemporaries emphasizing such ad hoc tempi changes; however, it is rather odd that Nikolaus Harnoncourt did not follow such practices in his cycle, since I presume that he read the same correspondence which Pletnev said he had read in the liner notes to this cycle.).Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
The first time I hear Pletnev's Beethoven Symphonies I was left surprised and confused. Much of what I heard seemed alarmingly unfamiliar - as if it was being played by an orchestra who had never heard Beethoven before. The Morecambe and Wise sketch with Andre Previn came to mind - where Eric said to Andre Previn "I am playing the right notes sunshine, but not necessarily in the right order".

The tempo through out the symphonies here vary significantly from the usual and have a tendancy to gallop of frantically or slow down markedly at unexpected moments for what seem like no good reason.

So my initial reaction was disappoinment, bafflement and regret for the money I had spent.

However, after listening to the set again several times, I have begun to understand what Pletnev is trying to do here and I think Beethoven would approve.

It's like discovering Beethoven all over again, you can't listen to these recordings in the same way as other cycles, which in the nature of things are, well, predictable, because we've heard them so many times before.

Something unexpected is always a few seconds away here, keeping your ears on their toes, so to speak. The musicianship is second to none and the recording is wide and very clear. I just wish Mr Pletnev would stop humming or grunting frequently, it is noticable in many parts especially when listened to with headphones.

The more I listen to this the more I like it. I can imagine Beethoven playing or conducting his own work in what today's critics would deem an irratic, idiosyncratic manner - and that's exaclty what we have here.

Some may think Pletnev's Beethoven Symphonies to be a train wreck. I prefer to think of them as an attractive accident - yes there was an incident with the train, and everyone was shaken up, but no-one was badly injured and it stayed on the rails - just.
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Format: Audio CD
The booklet proudly announces that this is Beethoven as we never heard it before. True, and we must be grateful for that. The new thing about this set is that Pletnev make strange musical decisions with sudden ritardandi, small pauses and extreme tempi. The sixths first mvt. goes in a hurry and is totally unidiomatic. The wind section, french horns in general, are seldom allowed to be heard. Listen to the finale of the fifth and seventh symphonies. The coda of the eroica is not exciting at all. The orchestra responds very well to Pletnevs direction but nothing sounds spontaneous just odd. I applaud Pletnevs view that a good musical performance must be personal and not based on authentic schoolarship, but in my ears, this is almost a total failure. Avoid!
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
fantastic and well worth the money. New insights which sound natural and non-gimmicky or affected in each and every symphony.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x96721084) out of 5 stars 19 reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x974847e8) out of 5 stars A boldly eccentric Beethoven cycle--there's nothing else like it 12 Sept. 2007
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Russia doesn't really have a Beethoven tradition that has made its mark on recordings, so this complete cycle of the nine symphonies from Pletnev and his Russian National Orch. is something of a milestone. Even Mravinsky, who showed flashes of inspiration as a Beethoven interpreter, gave us nothing close to a complete cycle. Yet no one could say that Pletnev's style is "typcially Russian" or typically anything else. He has thrown caution to the winds, following any whim that occurs to him. Since he has an original musical soul, the results are strange and wonderful, and totally unpredictable.

I am giving Pletnev's efforts five stars because the only alternative is to throw up my hands. There are times when the whole enterprise seems like an elaborate prank--witness the three different tempos that Pletnev applies to the first four bars of the Pastorale before deciding to race off at lightning speed, only to slam on the brakes thrity bars later. Balances are at times extremely different from the norm; there are sudden enormous slow downs, as in the Trio of the Eroica's Scherzo; Pletnev flirts with the lightness of the period movement, only to wallow the next moment in a voluptuous romanticism that would have made Mengelberg blush (only the wayward, brilliant Dutch conductor can be offered as a parallel). By comparison, Bernstien seems like the village priest.

As for a detailed review of each symphony, I'll leave that to others -- or to a later entry after I've absorbed this shockingly original set. But my first impression is one of exhilaration blended with total bafflement. What is this wild man doing to Beethoven? You'll have to give him a listen to find out.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x968162a0) out of 5 stars Taking Liberties To Breathe Live Into Warhorses 6 Jan. 2008
By L. Wiviott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Classical music performance by definition must balance the constraints of written score with the interprative vision of conductor and ensemble. Without question, Mr. Pletnev's Beethoven Symphonies stress this equation heavily to the latter. His tempi are varied, his sensibilities and sonorities unique. Yet like Janine Jansen's recent reworking of Vivaldi's Four Seasons for small ensemble Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Janine Jansen the bold choices reinvigorate the transcendent timelessness, the soul stirring / wonder-inducing sense of inevitable truth that Beethoven's masterorks induce in this listener. I appreciate and admire the more conventional achievements of von Karajan, Sir Charles Mackerras, Simon Rattle, Roger Norrington and others but perhaps it took the jolt of Pletnev's radical conception to reawaken my more visceral response to these symphonies.

So while the purists will recoil (see James Leonard's review at All Music Guide) I will rejoice that there is still something fresh to be brought into these revered works, so that rather than a complacent nod of "yes, that's how it should be played" we can prick up our ears with re-engaged interest and acknowledge, "oh yes, that's how it can be played." Such is the bold spirit that keeps classics alive.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9682c7b0) out of 5 stars Personal Pletnev 29 Sept. 2007
By philvscott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I agree with the first reviewer. One's reaction to this set can only be love it or hate it. I've yet to decide.
Pletnev's tempi are inconsistent, changeable and sometimes very fast- the Finale of the 2nd for instance. In fact, they sometimes sound uncomfortably fast for the musicians to articulate, although the Russian National Orchestra achieve amazing results. But do things have to go hell for leather merely in order to illustrate the point (expressed by Pletnev in the booklet) that Beethoven's genius was white-hot? After the formality and restraint of the RNO/Pletnev DG Tchaikovsky symphonies (which I rate highly), this set comes as a shock.
I guess that's the point. I would rather be brought up short and challenged by a new Beethoven set than be bored by it (hence 4 stars). In the 1st movt of the Eroica is a ragged passage where the violins get out of time with the rest of the orchestra, if only for a couple of measures. That kind of detail is hard to live with, once you notice it.
Against that, one has to weigh the undoubted excitement of these very personal performances. They are not scaled down for reasons of 'historical authenticity', nor are they Klemperer-magisterial, or Abbado-elegant. They are spontaneous, wilful even. Not a first choice, but certainly an interesting one. The sound quality is excellent.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9681839c) out of 5 stars Going boldly where no conductor has gone before. . . . 2 Nov. 2007
By Charles W. Batten - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I own over 35 sets of Beethoven symphonies and these sound like no others. I don't quite buy the explanations in the enclosed booklet as to why Pletnev interpreted these symphonies in this manner. Those "Pleasant, cheerful feelings awakened..." were squashed at breakneck speed in the Pastoral. These recordings are not all bad, though. The Russian National Orchestra is an excellent ensemble and they have many great moments here. It seems that Pletnev took it easy on the lesser known symphonies (1,2, &8) as these are pretty good. Even in the 4th and 7th, the conductor only took limited liberties with tempos. For the most part he let the classical-style symphonies remain classical. Except for a rather swift second movement, the Ninth is very good. As for the rest, you have to hear them to believe them. Tempo changes abound. It's definitely not your grandfather's Beethoven !!
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97aa9dd4) out of 5 stars Beethoven for the 21st Century mind 25 Jun. 2008
By Kimba W. Lion - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I note with amusement that the objection consistently raised against this set is that it doesn't sound like other people's Beethoven. Isn't that a good thing? If I wanted to hear someone else's Beethoven, I'd go put on one of the other sets I have.

With these recordings, Pletnev has allowed the pendulum of performance practice to swing back, after decades of misguided interpretations by the Historically Informed Performance crowd--rigid, lifeless performances that focused on the marks on paper (to quote one such conductor's notes) instead of the visceral quality of real music making, in an attempt to recapture what was heard at the time the composer was alive.

Sorry, but our modern minds are filled with completely different experiences than those of times past, and we cannot possibly recapture the subjective experience of other eras.

Wisely, Pletnev has given us Beethoven for the 21st-century mind, for the person who has heard all that has come after Beethoven's time. But don't think this is "hooked on Beethoven" or some other tawdry, demeaning reworking of the master's masterworks. Pletnev's recordings show a thorough understanding of the music, a visceral reaction to it, and reflections of having heard other great masters' works. Sibelius and Tchaikovsky came to mind most often as I listened to this set. But again I must stress that there are no cheap tricks involved in any of these performances; it's just that Pletnev's performances embrace the entire consciousness of the contemporary musical mind. This is not destructive to Beethoven's music in any way; it places Beethoven in context in today's world.

No matter how others may complain about Pletnev's tempo changes, every one makes sense. He brings out amazing details, highlights bits of melody, and allows you to hear things as you never had before.

The recording engineers helped greatly, too, with a sound that is rich, balanced, and marvelously detailed.

I would recommend this set of Beethoven symphonies above all others.
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