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on 18 July 2013
I had this set in DVD format and I love it, I just don't enjoy watching DVD and when I noticed the Blu ray edition I bought it. The picture quality disappointed me. The improvement over DVD is minor. It looks that the original recording is DVD that was somehow improved. The ninth is especially bad. Pity, it doesn't worth any price increase.
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on 21 June 2013
The new blu-ray version of Abaddo conducting Beethoven's Symphonies 1-9 has very poor video quality - it is little better than a standard DVD. The music is superb, but the blu-ray video quality is not up to Euroarts' usual high standard. At £75 for the blu-ray and £29 for the DVD (which has similar video quality), the blu-ray is not worth the price.
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on 10 July 2013
I have waiting for this cycle to be released on blu ray with great anticipation. I have not been disappointed. The performances are beautifully clean and transparent, and quite exhilarating. These performances are the equal of any that have been released over the past decade. I would welcome these performances, more so, if they were released on SACD.
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on 30 September 2015
Don't miss it !!
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on 6 September 2015
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on 18 February 2009
These are live recordings made in early 2000 before enthusiastic audiences in the Santa Cecilia Academy Rome.
They are vigorous, direct and rich in detail due to smaller string forces, giving a nod in the direction of period practice. Lighter and generally faster than earlier Abbado cycles but similar to the set he made for DGG in the late 90's. Slow movements flow nicely but there is plenty of pep elsewhere.
The 9th was recorded the previous year at the Philharmonie in Berlin and has a good quartet of soloists led by Karita Matilda and Thomas Moser.The finale is very well balanced, and like the rest of the set has an added intensity which wasn't present in Abbado's earlier sets.
The BPO are on top form with beautiful string tone and really lovely woodwind playing ; the Pastoral is gorgeous.
Camera shots are generally well chosen with the added option of a 'conductor camera' to show the maestro from the musicians perspective.
In all nearly seven hours of glorious music making,with both conductor and orchestra rising to the challenge and obviously enjoying it.
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on 19 February 2014
Nice Music but old recording . Audio but particulary video quality are not at the state of the art .
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on 26 May 2015
Superb A1 DVD
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Please note that this review is the result of comparing the new Blu-ray set with the previous DVD set issued earlier. This review has therefore been completely re-written with that in mind and has replaced the earlier review which has now been deleted.
The new review:

Abbado has recorded this set of symphonies several times and this is his last set recorded in 2000-2001. It represents a considerable modification of his previous interpretations and this series reflects his thinking in the light of recent research into period performing practice. The set of performances is centred around the Del Mar edition which is the latest thinking on the subject and is based on Beethoven's final markings. It is generally thought to be Abbado's finest whole set.

As mentioned in the introductory paragraph above, Abbado uses the new score prepared by Jonathan Del Mar which incorporates `the very latest Beethoven research and represents a valuable supplement to the experience gained by Abbado over many years' (booklet quote). Although Abbado does not go as far as using authentic period styled instruments, he nevertheless often uses much reduced orchestral sizes, even in the Eroica, and avoids part doubling in the wind.

The speeds are generally fleeter without losing necessary gravitas in the slow movements. Speeds are kept constant and avoid the Romantic period type of fluctuations to be found in the recent set of Thielemann performances for example. The same can be said of phrasing. Textures are leaner but not acerbic as in some early examples of early instrument performance. Timpani are usually struck with semi-hard sticks which could be said to be a fair compromise. This set will not offend traditionalists or disappoint period practice enthusiasts. It could be the best of compromises therefore.

The Blu-ray issue follows exactly the same disc layout as those in the individual DVD issues. The bonus feature of conductor angle in four of the symphonies is the same as before as is the bonus interview with Abbado, recorded in 2002, in which he puts forward his current views on Beethoven performing practice. The imaging has been sharpened up and gives enhanced skin tone and instrumental detail in all but the furthest shots, which are rare. Even those have been tightened up to a significant degree beyond normal eyesight capability at the range of the camera.

The image does not withstand close viewing in the way that the latest issues can - but that would not seem to be a good way to view the discs anyway and is fine at reasonable viewing distances. Camera work is sympathetic and typical of the fine work of producer Paul Smaczny. It gives close detail or not as seems appropriate and is not oppressive in its closeness. Nor does it suffer from hyper-activity. The sound is presented in excellent DTS and stereo, both of which are well balanced and of good dynamic range.

A striking feature of the grouping of the symphonies in this set is that it becomes very apparent that these performances can be grouped as distinct character groups. The first disc brings together three symphonies that share a genial mood. The next disc has a dramatically incisive coupling. The third disc pairs two symphonies sharing a sense of the epic and the final disc couples two symphonies through a strong sense of dance. Obviously these are broad generalisations and all of Beethoven's symphonies also have elements of all these characteristics. Nevertheless the groupings here do actually make sense in the context of these performances.


Symphonies 6, 1 and 8 making a genial set as performed here.
This is the first disc and presented in this order. Speeds are quite brisk but not excessive in the sixth. The first movement is the steadiest and the storm is unusually exciting. The concluding movement and the second movement have an easy lilt to them which bring about a clear sense of joy. The first symphony has more reduced forces but the speeds are very close to traditional and therefore pretty steady. The mood is genial but kept alive by being sharply articulated. The last movement builds to an exciting conclusion largely as a result of excitingly precise articulation by the strings and woodwind especially. One interesting point to note is that Abbado goes from movement to movement without a pause. This gives an enhanced sense of continuity of thought. Symphony 8 follows traditional lines as regards general tempi and phrasing. The tempi fall firmly within the traditional range but towards the top and the phrasing is also traditional. The joy of the performance lies in the precision of the execution and ,as throughout the set, the quality of the string and woodwind work is especially notable. This is a sunny performance generally with drama mainly built into the accenting from within rather than imposed by interpretation additions from without. This is also conveyed by the smiles to be seen flitting among the players.

Symphonies 2 and 5 making a dramatically incisive pairing as performed here.
Both of these symphonies are played for maximum drama. The tempi are within traditional speeds but accenting and phrasing is pushed home incisively. For the first time the brass have edge, especially the horns. The orchestra is a little larger in number 2 but the scale of their playing is much larger in concept. This is Beethoven with attitude and far removed from number 1. The fifth symphony likewise is played for maximum drama but within normal traditional parameters of tempi although the final two movements are at normal top speeds. To achieve this extra power Abbado fields a full-sized orchestra without doubling in the winds but otherwise with no further restraints. Once more the effect is mainly in the impact of the playing which takes no prisoners so to speak but this time amplified by the scale of the orchestra and modern instruments. The dynamic scale is considerably greater in the playing in these two symphonies than in the three on the first disc. The playing is more markedly dramatic in both symphonies rather than exciting in apparent intention. This is conveyed by the clearly determined concentration to be found on the players' faces.

Symphonies 9 and 3 in fleet performances that still have a sense of the epic
The ninth symphony opens this disc and is the one symphony not recorded as part of the Rome sequence. It was recorded nine months earlier in Berlin with a full orchestra and a stellar set of four soloists. This particular performance is notably a speedy event at 1 minute 51 seconds faster than Ozawa's fleet 'live' Japanese performance of the first movement, 52 seconds faster in the second movement and 64 seconds faster in the third movement. The final movement is about the same overall duration but with greater contrasts of tempi with the faster sections being very fast. He is also faster than Immerseel's 'live' 'period' performance. The first movement has great clarity and rises to particularly powerful climaxes. The second movement has a strong sense of the 'dance' about it rather in the manner of the seventh symphony. The trio section of the movement is noticeably faster than the outer sections which makes it very fast. The slow third movement keeps a strong forward pace at a slow one in a bar instead of 3 in a bar pacing with the emphasis being on on flowing lyricism. The final movement is one of tempi extremes with the faster sections being fast and exciting and the slower sections being periods of contrasting calm. Throughout the performance the drama is emphasised with the timpani using much harder sticks than in any of the other symphonies as per period considerations.
Symphony 3 follows the same pattern as with the rest of the Rome performances with fleet and incisive playing, accenting and phrasing. The scale of this is larger than the first symphony with a substantial orchestra. However the effect is not so dramatically powerful as the second and fifth pairing but is focussed on scale of concept instead. This comes over as more of an epic symphony rather than as a dramatic symphony. This is a subtle but important differentiation.

Symphonies 4 and 7 making a pairing linked together by a strong sense of the dance
Both of these symphonies share strong dancing rhythms brought out clearly in these performances. There is a sense of joy too, but this joy is no laughing matter as it is underpinned by a clear dramatic drive. This dramatic drive reaches its climax in the finale to the seventh symphony with tightly controlled rhythm delivered at a pace that requires utmost concentration from the orchestral members. This is a virtuoso performance and gets the most enthusiastic standing ovation of the whole series from the audience. It is richly deserved. The orchestra is reduced quite a bit in the fourth symphony but is almost up to full strength in the context of this series for the seventh. The timpani make more use of hard sticks in these symphonies to keep a tight hold on the developing drama. In the seventh symphony the hard pressed horns do well at the end of the first movement supported by bright trumpets but at the end of the last movement the roles are reversed with the horns gamely supporting the more dominant trumpets. Tempi in both symphonies are within traditional boundaries. By that I am aware that such speeds were achieved by Erich Klieber/VPO, Beecham/RPO and Monteux/LSO at the transition between the mono and stereo eras and were every bit as exciting then, although maybe not as well executed as the BPO on this disc.


This is a major investment and the presentation on Blu-ray makes the most of what were good DVD discs. Imaging is of good quality, if not the equal of the very latest HD technology. The sound is very good indeed. This set is firmly placed within the Classical Period with few, if any, modifications of tempi and phrasing more suitable for the late Romantic Period.

As such the performances can be described as 'period aware' without actually being period performances. This is likely to please both traditionalists as well as period enthusiasts. More importantly, the set seems to be completely true to the spirit of Beethoven and as such deserves to be seriously considered as an important artistic statement and therefore also a very tempting potential purchase.
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on 10 April 2009
In 2001, during the month of February, the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Claudio Abbado, were in residence at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome to play all nine of the Beethoven symphonies. The first eight symphonies were recorded for television by the renowned music film producer Paul Smaczny and directed for television by Bob Coles. The 9th had already been recorded in Berlin the year before with a distinguished cast of singers -- Karita Mattila, Violeta Urmana, Thomas Moser, and Eike Wim Schulte, along with the Swedish Radio Choir and the legendary Eric Ericson Chamber Choir -- and it is that performance that is included here. These performances have been released on four single DVDs previously, but this compilation box set of four discs is now available from Euroarts for an amazingly low price, much lower than than if you bought the single discs. You can read other customer reviews of the single issues here: Beethoven - Symphonies 1, 6, and 8 / Claudio Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic,Beethoven - Symphonies 2 and 5 / Claudio Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic,Beethoven - Symphonies 3 and 9 / Abbado, Mattila, Urmana, Moser, Schulte, Berlin Philharmonic, and Beethoven - Symphonies 4 and 7 / Claudio Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic. I have not reviewed the single issues but will not linger here to offer a review of each disc. I will simply say that for me Abbado is the master conductor of the present age and that his Beethoven interpretations, using the recently completed Bärenreiter edition of the symphonies done by English musicologist Jonathan del Mar, are almost universally hailed. The main achievement of this edition is the removal of hundreds of errors that crept into the first edition and have been perpetuated, or have multiplied, in subsequent editions. Abbado chooses to use somewhat reduced string sections in Symphonies Nos. 1, 2, 4 & 8, as is fitting for their gentler spirit. These same Rome and Berlin performances have been issued in a CD box set Beethoven: The Symphonies [Box Set] and in my view are generally preferred to his earlier issued traversal on Deutsche Grammophon Beethoven - Die Symphonien (Symphonies 1-9) / Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic, which in addition is hugely more expensively priced. Interestingly, the present DVD box set costs less at Amazon than the CD box set. Go figure!

Interpretively these performances tend to be a bit on the fast side, with absolutely clear sonics and transparent balances. The men and women of the Berliner Philharmoniker, a younger group than we had been used to even a decade earlier, play like angels. Abbado himself had just been through a harrowing bout with stomach cancer and looks very thin but otherwise healthy in these performances. He says of this period, 'Music is the best medicine. More than any other form of therapy, it is music that has helped me through these last few difficult months.' Visually, the performances on DVD are neatly photographed. In several of the symphonies -- Nos. 3, 5, 6 & 7 -- the viewer has the option of viewing the performance in a 'Conductor's View' in addition to the usual 'Concert View' by use of the 'angle' button on the DVD's remote control. The 'Conductor's View' simply focuses on Abbado from the orchestra's perspective.

In addition to the bonus of the 'Conductor's View', there is, on the disc with with Symphonies Nos. 4 & 7, a half-hour interview with Abbado talking about his understanding of and response to the music of Beethoven.

These performances gave me enormous pleasure and I can't recommend them highly enough.

Running time: 6hrs, 34mins; Format: NTSC 16:9; Sound: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1; DTS 5.1; Substitles: German, English, French, Italian, Spanish; Region code: 0 (worldwide).

Scott Morrison
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