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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 20 May 2013
First a list of what you get:

Mozart symphonies 29, 33, 35, 38 - 41 all with the Orchestra Mozart , recorded from live performances between 2005 -2009
Haydn symphonies 93, 96, 98, 100, 101, 102, 103 & Sinfonia concertante recorded with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe between 1990-1996
Beethoven symphonies 1-8, Berlin Philharmonic, 2008, 9, BPO 2000.
Schubert symphonies 1-6, 8 & 9, Rosamunde, COE 1988
Mendelssohn symphonies 1-5, overtures, Midsummer nights dream, Hebrides, calm sea & prosperous voyage, fair Melusina, trumpet overture, Ruy Blas, overture for wind instruments, scherzo from octet, London Symphony Orchestra, 1984-86.
Brahms symphonies 1-4, Haydn variations, Academic festival overture, tragic overture, alto rhapsody, (Marjan Lipovsek), song of destiny,(Ernst Senff choir) song of the fates, (rundfunkchor), 1987- 1990, serenade 1 Mahler Chamber Orchestra 2006, serenade 2 BPO 1967.
Bruckner symphonies 1, Lucerne Festival Orchestra 2013, 4, 5, 7, 9 BPO 1990-1996.
Mahler symphonies 1 & 3-9 BPO 1989-2005, symphony 2 Lucerne Festival Orchestra 2003.

From the above you will note a couple of things: 1) you don't get complete sets of symphonies for Bruckner, or even all the London symphonies of Haydn. But that the sets of Brahms, Mendelssohn and Schubert are more than complete with much additional fine music. 2) That although the oldest performance in the box is from 1967, most are from 1990 to the present day.
Not surprisingly therefore the recordings are excellent.

Given the players it is equally unsurprising that the orchestral playing is superb. So what of the performances?
First Mozart: it is a long time since I heard Abbado conduct Mozart and I feared these were going to be heavy super glossed performances in the old style. How wrong! DG have included his most recent performances, not the old dated ones. They are light, elegant, wonderfully played, superbly balanced, with glorious light and shade, the themes are exchanged across the orchestra as if in a witty seamless conversation. Tempi are lively without seeming rushed or perfunctory: the important repeats are observed. The performance of the Prague, in particular, is just ravishingly beautiful. Writing about nos. 39 & 40 Nicholas Kenyon says, "This is Mozart perfectly in tune with our times."

So what of Abbado's Haydn? Let me confess at the outset that I never thought Colin Davis infectious performances of the London symphonies would be surpassed until Minkowski's set came along which I reviewed for Amazon in October 2010 and which I have enjoyed increasingly since. These Abbado performances do not fizz like them. But they are musical, well phrased and superbly played by the European Chamber Orchestra which was peerless when these recordings were made. They do lack the slapstick humour that is there in spades in the Minkowski and it is frustrating that Abbado never completed the set - but there are sublime beauties here in performances which are never less than enjoyable: eg the finale of number 100 which contrasts wonderfully the crude military percussion with the sophistication of the strings and winds. The delightful Sinfonia Concertante (called symphony 105 in some places in the booklet) included here but not in the Minkowski set is superbly played.

Abbado's set of the Beethoven symphonies recorded in Rome in 2001 (apart from the 9th which came from Berlin in the previous year) has long been recognized as a fine achievement. Abbado was still recovering from stomach cancer when he conducted these works. Whether it is a result of that or simply being at home in Rome the performances of 1-8 are much better than the ones recorded the previous year in Berlin. They are fleet of foot - with the impeccable phrasing that is a finger-print of everything Abbado does. The slow movement of the Eroica is deeply felt and achingly played with wonderful rich contributions from the cellos and double basses. Am I being too fanciful by suggesting that here the whole orchestra seems to be entering into the appalling suffering endured by the conductor in his recent battle with cancer. The other outstanding movement is in complete contrast with this: the 1st of the 8th. Of this Andrew Clements wrote, "it's the wit and delicacy of the even-numbered symphonies that provide the most ravishing moments of all - Abbado's featherlight handling of the opening movement of the Eighth, for instance, is a perfect example of the way in which his conducting is all about upbeats, about moving the music forward under its own volition rather than dragging it by the nose."

The performances of Schubert and Mendelssohn are the oldest in the box dating back to the mid 1980s. The Schubert cds were instantly acclaimed partly for the fact that Abbado used the autograph scores for the first time instead of later edited versions. Accordingly they were awarded the Gramophone award when they first came out. Since then there have been more performances of the early symphonies notably by Harnoncourt. There is an interesting comparison of these at [...]. The reviewer's conclusion is "In conclusion, though one may criticize this or that detail, I can recommend this DG set highly. Even if you have Harnoncourt's, Böhm's, Marriner's, Wand's or one of Colin Davis's versions, or are collecting Jonathan Nott's ongoing cycle, Abbado's will still provide you with hours of truly wonderful music-making and a fresh perspective on these masterpieces." Leslie Wright, MusicWeb International October 2010. For me the main glory of the set is the wonderful playing of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Just listen to the beautiful 2nd movement of Schubert's 5th. Even Beecham at his best was not better than this. And the finale is full of strength and grace effortlessly combined. As for the Mendelssohn these performances have long been acknowledged the best complete set on disc and though nearly 30 years old they remain so. The inclusion of the overtures is not just a generous bonus: there are two I'd not heard before, the fair Melusina and the trumpet overture. They, too, are superbly played by the LSO at its best, and are not just curiosities.

Many of you will already have sets of Brahms symphonies; I treasure sets by Toscanini (the festival Hall performances), Klemperer, Gunter Wand and Harnoncourt. The performances of the 1st by Boult and the 4th by Carlos Kleiber are each magnificent. Stokowski's performance of the 4th on BBC legend is amazingly imaginative and moving. I still remember with affection the old vinyl lp I had of Pierre Monteux conducting the Haydn variations. So I was not expecting to be much stirred by the collection of Brahms in this box. But can Brahms have ever been better played with more ravishing orchestral sound than here? The slow movement of the 1st symphony brought tears to my eyes. The best live performance I ever heard was about 35 years ago conducted in the RFH by Erich Leinsdorf. He brought out with no inhibitions whatsoever the orgasmic climax in the final movement. In a way I have not heard rivalled since until I listened to this performance by Abbado. So I looked up what others had written about Abbado's Brahms. "If you're looking for a single set of digitally recorded Brahms orchestral works, this set cannot be bettered," James Leonard, [...]. And Martin Kettle, in the Guardian in 2010 wrote, "Abbado "gets" lots of music. But he gets Brahms's unique combination of formal traditionalism and lyrical experiment more than anyone I have ever heard." The set of Brahms is still available on Amazon for £34 for the 4 cds that is without the 2 serenades!!

So we come to Bruckner. Abbado's Bruckner performances used to be dismissed as shallow or with back handed comments like "a great Mahlerian conducting Bruckner". The performance of the 1st symphony here is from Lucerne in August 2012. As far as I can tell this is its first release. It is certainly not shallow. It is also in the rather rare Vienna edition. The other performances come from the 1990s when Abbado was conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. The 9th is very noble with a beautiful naturalness to the trio in the 2nd movement., so that when the scherzo returns it sounds aptly demonic. The main criticism of Abbado's Bruckner is that he tends to emphasise the lyricism of the music rather than its craggy architecture. In these performances the VPO play like angels: how Bruckner would have enjoyed that.

Abbado is one of the great Mahler conductors of our age. He conducted the finest live performance of any Mahler symphony (3rd) that I have ever heard at the proms in 2007. Most of these performances are already famous: I grew up with Szell's 6th (with Bernstein as an exaggerated alternative). Therefore I liked Boulez's straightforward account. Abbado's performance plums depths none other has reached. The performances of 5, 7 and 4 are also very fine; but included along with the already magnificent Berlin performances is a disc of the Resurrection symphony that is simply stunning. James Leonard says of it, "you have listen to this disc........ Mahler's massive, monumental, and monomaniacal Resurrection Symphony -- in the cleanest, clearest, recordings ever made. Claudio Abbado had made magnificent recordings of the Resurrection before, but his performance here is more than magnificent: it is truly and profoundly transcendent.... One of the greatest recordings ever made in the history of sound recording."

I have not yet heard everything in this box - it runs to 41 cds - 2 of them over 80 minutes, about 15 of them over 70 minutes. What I have already heard, on a long day's listening, has already more than repaid the money expended. The complete Mahler (without the superb Lucerne Resurrection) sells for £50. This box is available for a fraction under £53. The box is quite well presented. There are no notes on the music - but the booklet gives full information about recording/performance dates and track timings etc. with a nice biographical appreciation of Abbado. The words of the choral items are not included.

Buy it before the price goes up to a sensible level.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 September 2013
This boxed set contains numerous widely-praised DG recordings and represents unmatched value for money. For example, the magnificently played Brahms symphonies are also available separately, but you would pay a significant percentage of the price of this large box (about 50%, when I bought it). So even if you have some of the recordings already, this box can still be the way to go if you want to add to your Abbado symphonies collection. And if you do not have any of these recordings already, but wish to acquire some or all of them, the term "no-brainer" could have been invented for the purchase decision.

Generally, I will try to balance reviews by pointing out any downsides of a product. There are none in this case. Buy with confidence.
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on 20 June 2014
The vast majority of these recordings are excellent. A few are magnificent. It is hard to say much new in pieces any genuine fan of orchestral music knows by heart but Abbado tries.

Despite it being my 7th Mahler symphony set I found these recordings quite marvellous. The one disappointment being the lack of the 10th but a lot of conductors won't perform that or confine themselves to the adagio.

The Mendelssohn discs are really excellent - I already had them. One might regret that lack of a complete Bruckner cycle but what we do get is superb.

For £50 this is a bargain.

I did have packaging issues. The first copy of the box arrived with an empty sleeve where Bruckner 7 ought to have been and a number of the discs needed treatment on a radial cleaner before they would play. I have not allowed these to affect my review of the music.
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on 17 August 2014
It is must to buy box set and you will be amazed at the crystal sound of the symphonies of Mahler and Bruckner.Some critics say that his symphonies of Bruckner are romantic so what after listening to Abbado Bruckner symphonies I have come to appreciate Bruckner.The sound is clear without so loud trumpet blowing to the wall.The solo of individual instrument blend very with the orchestra. sound crystal clear ,detailed and broad when listening via headphone.The live recording is better than studio recording.If you find Bruckner r Mahler symphonies heavy going then set will lighten your journey.This box is a must and highly recommended.Buy this set on Amazon when the price is low as they tend to go like a yoyo.
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One of the best
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on 1 May 2016
Great maestro colosal
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on 7 December 2014
Tremendous box set containing major symphonic cycles by one of the repertoire's leading conductors. The Beethoven, Brahms. Mendelssohn and Mahler cycles are amongst the best available, while the others are never less than very good. At around £50 at writing this is a great bargain for one's library.
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on 23 May 2014
As a lifelong Abbado fan, this box was a must buy.

The Mahler and Brahms symphonies alone speak for themselves.

There is a caveat however.

The separate Mozart contains 5 more CD's than included here. These separate box sets are supposed to be taken from this edition but this is clearly not the case.

Not the ideal way to treat fans of the conductor or the great man's memory. It's cashing in. I now need to get the various concertos for violin and wind.

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on 1 January 2015
In his wisdom, Abbado emasculated the Berlin Philharmonic. As a statement, it resonates like the Sack of Constantinople. The Klang that had been so curated by Furtwangler and Karajan (and presumably Nikisch too) was junked gratuitously in the early 1990s. Nowadays, the BP sounds like any other first class orchestra with no tension in train.

After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

Joy to the world, DG has bestowed an commemorative edition upon us. In some ways, it's a grab-bag. Speaking of which, given Abbado's penchant for emasculation (composers cop it as much as orchestras), I will adopt a chop-o-meter gauge to indicate the severity of his exactions.

First and foremost, there is his Mahler. As I have no affinity with this music whatsoever, let's run with the wider consensus: it's highly authoritative. NO CHOP!

Consider his "Sound of Music" Bruckner: "Cream coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels / Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles / Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings / These are a few of my favourite things!" The chop-o-meter sounds like a buzz-saw here. Bruckner the Mystic, in his aspirations and darkness, gets the FULL CHOP!!!!! Go for it Claudio!

For whatever mad reason, Abbado limped after the Period Practice Wolfpack in his last days. While it cannot be said that he emasculated the sadly defunct Orchestra Mozart (as it never had any gonads per se), Mozart's last symphonies were chopped down to the pubic bone. If you're in the game for mild-mannered, anti-septic, two-stroke, Little Bo Peep Mozart, it does not get any more insipid than this. YES, IT'S THE FULL CHOP AND LOUDER THAN A SAW-MILL.

Much the same could be said of Abbado's Haydn. In his spruce madness, these grandest of symphonies are miniaturised to the dimensions of Stamitz or Cannabich. Large orchestras were entrusted with Haydn's music during his two visits to the UK - but Abbado knows better in his Tom Thumb approach. And the slow movements, as performed here, have no character or depth to their names whatsoever. Thank god the Castrator never ventured near the Paris Symphonies. NOTCH UP ANOTHER VICTORY FOR THE FULL CHOP!

Abbado's Brahms, recorded on the eve of his empurplement in Berlin, is not his worst effort. The orchestra responds more enthusiastically than to Herbie in the latter's contemporaneous recordings of the Third and Fourth Symphonies. Nevertheless there is a chronic lack of tension. Let's be generous - NO CHOP, even if it's pretty boring stuff!

For years, I have paid lip-service to Abbado's accomplishment in Mendelssohn. It was quite a shock to revisit the '84 cycle where the Castrator's neo-classical approach has a devastating impact on the Scottish, Italian and Reformation. When Mendelssohn is made to sound like a contemporary of Mozart and Haydn and lily-livered at that, the DAY OF THE CHOP is upon us.

Abbado was calamitous in Beethoven. His first cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic was traditional in approach and boring as bat-poop. His second cycle (with the Berliners) was withdrawn from sale to the relief of all (what an embarrassment!). His third cycle here with the Berliners sounds like an update of Zinman with a more zippy orchestra, even if Beethoven the Philosopher is resolutely excluded from proceedings. Yet again, tension is non-existent. That can only mean one thing: CHOP, CHOP, CHOP !!!

Schubert's early symphonies are inconsequential so one could argue that Abbado and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe are the right combo for the job. The bigger challenges of the Unfinished and the Ninth are characteristically downplayed. It would be easier to drown in the Dead Sea than find any profundity in these polished nice-smelling, judicious readings. Praised be THE CHOP!

I want to close with a comment from a highly respected reviewer who, I am sure, would be (rightly) anxious to distance himself from my fulminations. Speaking of Abbado's Brahms, he writes, "there's no doubt that (Abbado) has more tame, uninspired, overly cautious recordings to his credit than his rivals among great conductors. When he's off, Abbado loses the spirit of the music in favour of refined sounds, careful balances and a civilized air that puts me to sleep."

On that note, as buzz-saws fall silent at last, we close with a yawn.
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on 30 January 2014
Ah Claudio Abbado! The world is a better place for him, for sure, because he manages to get warmth and delight from the orchestra, his magical touch. The recordings are consistently good. I would recommend to a friend just for the sheer joy of it!
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