I agree with other reviewers here - the discs in this box are of exceptional quality, and represent the most outstanding bargain. Beethoven's music is sublime, of course, and the performances here are never less than very good and often outstanding.
(It is worth noting that the packaging is poor. The box itself is crudely made and looks it, and is at least twice as big as it needs to be. If storage space is an issue for you as it is for me you may want to make alternative arrangements - particularly as the envelopes containing the discs themselves are of flimsy paper and don't look at all durable. The quality of the music and performances is so high and the price so reasonable that I wouldn't dream of carping about this, but you might like to be forewarned.)
I thought that a list of the works in this excellent set would be helpful on this page, showing the great works and the quality of the musicians included in this outstanding box, and the astonishing value it represents
CD 1-5: The 9 Symphonies - Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich/David Zinman CD 6-7: Ouvertures - Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich/David Zinman CD 8: The Creatures of Prometheus Op.43 (Ballet music) - Lithuanian Chamber Philharmonic/Karl Anton Rickenbacher CD 9: Orchestral, Piano, Flute und Violin works CD 10-12: The 5 Piano Concertos - Yefim Bronfman/Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich/David Zinman CD 13: Violin Concerto Op.61 + The 2 Violin Romances Op.40+50 - Christian Tetzlaff/Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich/David Zinman CD 14: Triple Concerto Op.56; Septet Op.20 - Yefim Bronfman/Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich/David Zinman CD 15-18: The 10 Violin Sonatas - Pinchas Zukerman/George Neikrug CD 19-20: The 5 Cello Sonatas + Variations - Anner Bylsma/Jos van Immerseel CD 21-25: The 12 Piano Trios - Seraphin Trio CD 26: The String Trios Op.3 and Op.8 - L'Archibudelli CD 27: The String Trios Op.9,1-3 - Kandinsky String Trio CD 28: Piano Quartet Op.16; Piano Quintet Op.16 - Emanuel Ax/Isaac Stern/ Jaime Lardo/YoYo Ma/Ensemble Wien-Berlin CD 29: Chamber music for Strings and Wind - L'Archibudelli CD 30: Octet Op.103 / Clarinet Sextet Op.71 / March for Winds - Mozzafiato CD 31-39: The 16 String Quartets - Alexander String Quartet CD 40-50: The 32 Piano Sonatas - Yukio Yokoyama, Charles Rosen, Vladimir Horowitz, Justus Frantz, Gerhard Oppitz, Robert Casadesus CD 51: The Bagatelles for Piano Solo - Yukio Yokoyama CD 52: The Variations for Piano Solo - Yukio Yokoyama CD 53: Diabelli Variations + 4 Piano pieces WoO - Olli Mustonen CD 54: Songs of the British Isles - Elaine Woods/Carolyn Watkinson/Richard Salter/Helmut Deutsch CD 55: Christ on the Mount of Olives Op.85 - Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy CD 56: Mass in C Op.86 - Tokyo Oratorio Society/Ensemble of Tokyo/Wolfdieter Maurer CD 57: Missa Solemnis Op.123 - Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich/David Zinman CD 58: Choral Works - Regine Crespin/New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Schippers,Ambrosian Opera Chorus/London Symphony Orchestra/Tilson Thomas Martina Arroyo/Justine Diaz/Camerata Singers CD 59-60: Fidelio Op.72 - Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig/Kurt Masur
At Amazon price you get a huge box of Sony/BMG discs of performances of most of the Beethoven that you might listen to in a lifetime, for about 50 pence per disc! This is cheaper than buying hi-fi quality recordable CD's. The symphonies and concertos (complete and even including the first movement of an abandoned early Violin Concerto) are the very fine Zinman/Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra (with various soloists) discs and the chamber music and solo instrumental music (Trios, Quartets, Piano Sonatas, Music for wind instruments, and much more including some rare stuff) have performers like Zuckerman and Horowitz amongst the artists represented. You get the Missa Solemnis, the Mass, Christus am Olberg, and host of other items including things like the English Songs! If you were buying the symphonies alone it would cost you £21.99 from Amazon, and you would get one of the most exciting sets on the market with fast speeds and ornamented wind parts - all of which is dealt with in great detail by other reviwers if you look at "Beethoven Symphonies - Zinman" on the Amazon search engine. So your other £10 plus gets you all the other works, some of which are of exceptional standard and none of which is less than acceptable. The notes and texts come on Disc 61 which is a CD ROM (you need Adobe Reader for this) - slightly inconvenient but at this price hardly something to be complained about.
This is a wonderful bargain and gets 5 stars for value and for the large number of superb performances the set contains. Makes a superb present for somebody just starting out on listening to Beethoven and is a valuable addition to the collection of anyone who has been listening to Beethoven for years, mainly because of the fresh point of view to be found on the Zinman discs. Buy without fear!
This set is the ultimate Beethoven bargain. With David zinman's symphonies, overtures and concertos included there is the chance to hear one of the more intriguing versions of these works with generally fast tempos and occasional wind variants. Then zukerman in the violin sonatas and Bylsma in the cello works, q chance to compare a great traditional performer and a historically informer performer who has a good reputation. Maybe a single pianist in the sonatas might have been welcomed but that would have meant forgoing Rosen, casadesus and Horowitz amongst others. And with Fidelio, the masses and even a selection of British songs there is little of value omitted. Okay, the box is three times as big as necessary but it's the contents which matter, not the wrapping. Certainly this set deserves consideration against the mainly analogue Emi set despite that including cluytens, gilels and oistrakh amongst others, and the Brilliant set with blomstedt, grumiaux, and the early brendel sonatas. And if price is taken into account there can only be one winner.
This year has seen the release of three highly desirable Beethoven big boxed sets. First came EMI's 50 CD collection, (a bit of a mixed bag, with highlights including the Symphonies under Cluytens and the Giulini Missa Solemnis. However, it does also have Karajan's Fidelio from the early '70s, which must surely be the low point of the set).
Next came this Sony/BMG set which offers a delightful mix of modern, historically informed modern, and period instrument performances. Again there are highs and lows, but this time I find a more consistently rewarding selection of recordings than in the EMI set.
Finally we now also have the Brilliant Classics set, which claims to included all of Beethoven's works, mainly in fine recordings licensed from the big boys, but also with some brand new recordings of some of the more obscure works. For me, the high points are the piano sonatas and concertos played by Gulda, but then there are the piano and violin sonatas with Grumiaux and Haskil (mono, but what the Hell?).
Yes, I know there is another so-called complete Beethoven set, but as far as I can see its one merit is the inclusion of the 'Emperor' in the famed recording by Hanae Nakajima, but that does not in anyway compensate for the decidedly third rate quality of most of the rest of the set.
So, three complementary sets. If the budget runs, get all three, but if not, I would forget about completeness and go for this one.
I won't lie to you all; I haven't worked my way through all 60 discs yet. I imagine it will be years before I've actually heard every piece on here. Having said that, I feel like I've heard enough to offer my opinion to potential consumers, so here goes. I'm going to try to break the review down a bit for ease;
Presentation The set arrives in a cardboard box that should fit nicely on your shelf - it's the height and width of a CD case but obviously much longer/deeper. The CDs all come in paper sleeves with a track listing on each sleeve. It's not the most elegant of designs and I worry about the presentation box getting damaged, but if you treat it with respect it should hold together fine for years to come. In a perfect world the booklet would be printed out and available to read. As it is, it's available in a pdf document on an additional CD. The document itself is pretty good and contains interesting information. I will probably print this out one day as firing up a laptop every time I want to read the booklet is somewhat of a pain. All in all, presentation is effective and fit-for-purpose. And, to be perfectly honest, for the price of this set I can totally understand why.
Interpretations of the pieces For the price I was concerned about how good the playing of all this wonderful music was actually going to be. But they're good, very good! Not groundbreaking, not the best in the business. But solid recordings. I thought the famous fifth symphony would be a good test, and I would say this recording is very good. Perhaps a little too fast initially for my tastes, but non-the-less it was good. My fears about the quality of the recordings are so far unfounded.
Quality of the Recordings Again, like the playing itself, everything is good here. The recordings are clear and defined and really, I've not heard anything yet that made me think "cheap". There's nothing more I can say here.
Summary In summary as a standalone product, I would say this is a collection of solid recordings, recorded in good quality audio. I'm sure you can collect better works for the individual pieces - I, for example have the Murray Perahia Piano Concertos set, which I think is better than the playing here - but please don't underestimate the quality that's on offer here.
If I'd paid £60 for this I would've been delighted so to get it for less than half that then I can only be, erm, doubly delighted. When you factor price against quality I have no hesitation in awarding this the full five stars.
Let me add a few words to the reviews written by others about the virtues of this set: I bought this box mainly for David Zinman's recordings of the symphonies, and when I bought it only cost £1 more for all these extra disks - it would've been rude not to!
The highlights for me: 1) The symphonies sound so remarkably fresh, and reminded me of why I liked Beethoven so much when I first started listening to classical music. I gained a new perspective of these symphonies that I was familiar with already - they became "new" again - always good! I have enjoyed these performances very much (especially symphonies 4 and 8). Truly, each one of Beethoven's 9 symphonies is a masterpiece. (However, I would say I found the 9th a little disappointing here).
2) The Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II" - a hidden gem. It was written when Beethoven was only 20 (which suprised me very much - a work of great skill). The movement entitled "Venit Joseph" is very exciting, and the aria that follows it is really beautiful. A cracking performance here, too, by NYPO and Thomas Schippers. Sometimes you have to put up with mediocre performances as the only way of hearing more obscure works - but not in this case!
3) The string trios - I had never heard them before - good, clean perfomances.
[Just to correct the other customer's track listing - disk 28 doesn't contain a piano quartet Op.16 (with Emanuel Ax/Isaac Stern/ Jaime Laredo/YoYo Ma) but in its place...]
4) The Piano Concerto No.0 (WoO 4) - also very interesting - it is like one of Mozart's (but still Beethoven) - another hidden gem in the set, and well played.
5) The regular arrangment for piano and winds of Op.16 is present, with a good performance by Stefan Vlader and the Ensemble Wien-Berlin (members of the great VPO and BPO).
I was impressed by the sound quality of many of the recordings here. Although I think this has the downside of making middle-of-the-road performancess more clearly so, when you can hear every detail.
This boxset contains 60 cods limited edition of Beethoves finest works/masperpeces. Some the finest recording by top artiste and Beethoven interpreters are contained in this collection.The works include- The complete symphonies, The complete Piano concertos, Fidelio op 72, Mass Solemnis,op 123, Mass op 86,The Violin concerto op61, The complete violin Sonatas, Triple Concerto op 56,, The complete masterpieces for Piano solo, The complete Cello sonatas, The complete Piano trios,the complete string trios, the complete String quartets, The complete overtures, The creation of Prometheus p 43, Christ on the Mount of olive op 85,Songs from the British Isles, twelve contradances,'Fur Elise', Minuet in G minor,Wellingtons victory op 91, piano quintet op 16 (version for wind), Sextet 0p 71 and op 81 , septet op 20 and octet op 103,Concert aria "Ah Perfido", Cantata on the death of Emperor Joseph 11, Bundeslied op 122.
The labels is Sony, RCA and Arte Nova and the recordtings are ADD and DDD. It also comes with a cd rom containing the text and liberaci. Much has been written about the packaging by other reviewers. I think the packaging is adequate and has not deviated from all recent complete works releases by Brilliant Classics and other notable labels .The cds are housed in cardboard sleeves and all are contained in a hardy cardboard box. I have almost all the complete works release of various composers by brilliant classic and the cardboard boxes have lasted several years, not been damage and above all it made it possible to acquire such wonderful recordings . I am sure if they were housed in the regular cd plastics the cost would have been higher and the environment poorer.
I'll try keep this short. This represents incredible value for money. Highlights for me are the symphonies with Zinman/Tonholle, Zurich, Missa Solemnis, Charles Rosen's wonderfully paced and insightful 'Hammerklavier' Sonata, Jeannine Altmeyer's Leonora (Fidelio), Regine Crespin's concert aria Ah! Perfido!. However, everything is well performed and recorded. It was my bargain of 2008 and, in my view, represents the best of the Beethoven 'compilation boxes' by a long shot. You will find the accompanying notes for download quite acceptable too. However, I will still hold onto and cherish my Perahia piano concertos, and the Alban Berg complete string quartets series. Nevertheless this set can be strongly recommended to Beethoven devotees and newcomers alike. Go on, treat yourself..... you wont be disappointed !
This set of 60 CDs is consistently good throughout. The performances, the recordings and the production of the whole set is of a consistently high quality and at the price, you can't go wrong. I am no expert, and this set is giving me a great chance to get to know all the Beethoven work here included, much of it for the first time, and I am very, very pleased. Such great music, and presented in a way that is very pleasing to a non-initiate - you don't have to struggle through poor productions or low-quality recordings; this is a joy for anyone who is used to modern high-quality music recordings and would like to get to know Beethoven's work. The accompanying CD-ROM is also useful to give background information (as someone else pointed out it would be nice to have it on paper, but at the price this is obviously understandable) (Also the packaging is perfectly adequate - I wouldn't want anything more than the paper slips for so many CDs - I think they are quite well presented really: all the slips are perfectly labelled - I don't agree with this complaint. And the box looks like it was made to house also the Mozart and Bach editions of this series which have more CDs but it still houses these very well) My only disappointment was that I wanted to hear Opus 132 and it isn't part of the set - well you can't get everything I suppose!
Thank you SonyBMG for bringing this music within the easy range of us all!
Monumental set,not quite complete,but such a bargain as to be almost incredible.All performances are very good,if not always the (critic's opinion)acme of Beethoven playing/interpretation...but any such criticism is churlish.And quite honestly,critics have to carp over minor,not to say non existent,details...it's their livelihood.But as far as this set is concerned,on price alone this is far beyond any such criticism,but even if that were no consideration,it is pretty darned good all round.I find it hard to believe how good,in fact.I have many versions of a lot of the pieces,but at the almost laughable asking price,had no hesitation in acquiring this for those I didn't already own..and some I've never come across before,in 40 years of collecting! Outstanding! I've gone a bit mad lately with box sets,but regret not one...Callas 30 complete operas,DG's Originals box,Richter complete Decca,Schubert Lieder on record,and Wagner Great recordings,Karajan symphony edition...all very reasonably priced,they tempted me too much to resist! Spoil yourself,too...it's great!