Top positive review
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Listen to the music!
on 19 April 2012
...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.