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on 8 February 2015
Initially, it was not my intention to buy this release of the Centenary Edition of the Berliner Philharmoniker as I already have a few recordings from this box set in my music library.
However ,unable to resist a bargain( at £ 49.87 a piece in the Amazon sale who could?) ,I went ahead with the purchase. Besides, I was curious to find out for myself how the Berliner Philharmoniker sound evolved over the years.
Starting with the earlier recordings, I was in for a treat in spite of the dreadful sound quality mentioned by some reviewers .
Cd 1 in particular sounds as though the orchestra was recorded by the Niagara Falls with the microphone placed in a....bathtub! Yet, for all its technical faults, the recording captures an essential moment in the history of recorded music, that of Artur Nikish conducting the first ever recorded complete symphony,namely Beethoven's 5th. Despite a significant loss of orchestral detail, in the first movement you can still hear the supple attacks of the orchestra with a deliberate lack of bite and with the notes being held without vibrato . In the andante movement, you are made aware of that sense of line which already points to the Karajan of the later years.
It is then that you realise what marvellous gems this box set contains and how thoughtfully they have been put together. For instance, the duplication of the same work played by the orchestra under different conductors or the offering of the same work conducted by the same Maestro at different dates are conducive to a critical and analytical approach on the part of the listener. He / she can have fun listening to and assessing the respective merits of :
Kempff/ Leitner versus Pollini / Abbado in the Emperor concerto
Fricsay versus Karajan in Beethoven's 9th
Fricsay versus Kubelik in Dvorak's New World
Bernstein versus Karajan in Mahler's 9th
Fricsay( twice) versus Karajan in Smetana 's Moldau
Strauss versus Karajan in Strauss's Salome Dance of the Seven Veils
Listening for example to Salome conducted by the composer himself is a memorable musical experience. In this account the music has never sounded more exotic, more languorous, more evocative and poetical. It shows up the slightly artificial, glossy sound produced in the Karajan version.
Beethoven's 9th interpreted by Fricsay and Karajan reveals a very interesting aspect of the Berliner Philharmoniker sound. With Fricsay,interpretation aside , the BP is a bit more incisive with the strings sounding leaner. By contrast, Karajan makes the orchestra sound more opulent and more immediately seductive and appealing by resorting to a more systematic use of legato. It is no coincidence that the Austrian Maestro was nicknamed by the German Austrian press Herr Bindung ( translating as Mr Link or Mr Legato) .
You are suddenly made aware of the chameleon like quality of the Berliner Philharmonilker with its sound changing at will according to which Maestro is conducting.
For instance, there is no doubt that when Karajan took charge from 1955 until his death, the sound of the orchestra was shaped to his personal musical vision, some might say image. The sound it seemed to produce during that period was reminiscent of a chamber music ensemble on a large scale. Transparency, agility of the strings and prominent use of legato were of paramount importance.Critics and cynics may argue that during that time the Berliner Philharmoniker turned into a big music making machine , able to churn out recording upon recording at the Maestro's whim.Inevitably,such a commercial,mercantile approach to music may have had detrimental consequences. In this respect, the recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons seems to be a perfect illustration. Although there is no fault to be found with this version in technically recorded terms ( Herbert always made sure of this), musically it lacks that extra degree of excitement, that authentic vision and real flair found in the versions by specialised baroque ensembles.For all its perfect and beautiful playing, the Berliner Philharmoniker here can sound in turns slighlty contrived and over polished.
However in all fairness, the BP has had many more hits than misses and when handled with sympathy and persuasion , it is more than capable of producing stunning definitive versions of any major given works ( Baroque repertoire excluded) .. On cd 32 , the BP playing Mahler's 9th conducted by Bernstein manages, unbelievably , to produce a sound verging on the ugly in keeping with the composer's intentions . By contrast on cds 37 and 38 , the same Berliner Philharmoniker playing the same work with Karajan conducting conjures up a world of euphonic sound where only beauty and order reign supreme.
They say old habits die hard. Apparently, when Claudio Abbado took over Karajan in 1989 after Carlos Kleiber had famously turned down the offer to become the new BP conductor, the Maestro from Milan was faced with the challenge of reshaping the Berliner Philharminker sound to something which had greater objectivity and clarity in the musical discourse. He encouraged the use of clear ,clean attacks on the notes resulting in 1994 in the recording of a stunning version of Stockhausen's Gruppen ( cd 44 track 2) . It could be said that Abbado's merit was to take the Berliner Philharmoniker out of its comfort zone in terms of style of playing , sound produced and repertoire.
Clearly the fortune and success of the BP are inextricably linked to the conductors in charge. Musicologists will no doubt talk of the Fürtwangler golden era, Karajan glamorous but somehow controversial period etc...
To conclude, this box set contains so many glorious benchmarks recordings that these alone warrant its purchase even at full price, and the very few "failures" pale into insignificance. I hope that my survey and analysis of selected tracks have shown and showcased the special qualities of the Berliner Philharmoinker, making it one the greatest orchestras in the world. A final thought : how does it compare to the Vienna Philharmoniker ? DG have clearly amticipated the debate by releasing another box set dedicated to the rival orchestra. I can see more money spending and more listening and thinking on the way!
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There is a thin cardboard sleeve covering the thick cardboard box. This sleeve has the CD number,composer,conductor and music pieces on one side of the sleeve. The tough cardboard box is bronze coloured and has pictures of past conductors on one side,and on the other, conductors still living. You can use the lid to put the CDs that you want to listen to.Inside the box is another box to protect the CDs,also,both sides have a cardboard covered foam buffer.I think DGG has learnt from Sony Classics where the box is concerned.It is easy to get the CDs out of the sleeves,which mainly has on the front cover pictures of the originals. The first four sleeves covering 1913-1939 are white with bronze lettering,as is CD 50 2012-2013. On the backs of the sleeves there are the CD numbers,track numbers,the composer and music to be played.All CDs are white with bronze lettering,with the CD number in black as with the sleeve,plus the composer,pieces of music played and conductor. The CDs are in order from 1913 to 2013. You cannot get lost.

The booklet has pictures of the orchestra and famous conductors.This chapter mainly deals with the competition DGG held from March to May this year,so the music loving public could choose their favourites from a list of 280. Each person could choose 20.Over 37,000 votes were cast and what you have is the result.The winner by a large margin was Bernstein conducting Mahler's 9th Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic.I am sure the reader of this review might have other ideas,but it is an interesting idea and I am happy with the results.The following chapter is where the recordings fit into DGG history.For example,in September 1913, Alfred Hertz recorded orchestral extracts from Wagner's Parsival.There are Japanese and German translations of these essay's.Also,track numbers,composer and pieces played. There is an Index at the back of the booklet with composer,piece played,conductor and page number.The booklet is frail.No translations of the highlights of the opera's.

I am going to go right accross the page,with CD number,composer,date recorded,music played,conductor,plus reviews from the 1977,1996 and 2008 Penguin guide where possible.For I never assume that every one owns,or has heard these CDs,especially those new to classical music,hense the reviews;and readers want to know what is in the box as I would want to do.Divided into MONO.ADD.DDD.

(CD 1)BEETHOVEN (1913)5th Symphony.BERLIOZ(1920)Overture Le Carnaval Romain. Cond Nikisch. Wagner(1913) Parsival orchestra suite cond Hertz. Hiss on the CD. But those who like singers of yore will not mind. NIKISCH laid the foundation for the success of the Berlin Philharmonic,which became one of the World's best orchestras after passing through many artistic hands. Players called him the magician and sat transfixed by his wand. He was a tiny man with a huge crown of hair who conducted with the flick of a wrist.Nikisch held that conducting required spontaneity,boldness,imagination and a profound feeling for the work at hand. Routine was abhorrent to him."It is only the details that are altered" he stated. This conductor rescued Tchaikovsky's 5th symphony and turned it into a success,after the composer had written it off has a failure."He does not seem to conduct,but rather exercises a mysterious spell" said Tchaikovsky. Brahms mentioned to Nikisch after a Leipzig rehearsal,"you have changed everything,but you are right.It must be like that". Nikisch was a Hungarian. He was a model for youngsters where ever he went. He fired the imagination of Kousseviksky,in France of Pierre Monteux,in Switzerland of Ernest Ansermet,in Germany of Furtwangler.The mighty sucession of Hungarian Maestro's-Reiner,George Szell,Eugene Ormandy,Ferenc Fricsay,Antal Dorati,Kertesz and Georg Solti traced their origin to Nikisch. Both Karajan and Bernstein dropped his name as a token of their legitmacy.Furtwangler often named Nikisch as being his only role model. After he died in 1922, Furtwangler became the music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. (DGG Furtwangler 1942-1944 Vol 1.) Recordings with the Berliner Philharmonic.Furtwangler was the role model for Abbado.

MONO:

(CD 2) R.STRAUSS (1928)Salome: Dance of the Seven veils. GLUCK:Overture to Iphigenie en Aulide.WEBER: Overture to Euryanthe. cond R. Strauss.MENDELSSOHN:(1924) Overture the Hebrides-cond Bruno Walter. WAGNER:(1928) Ride of the Walkure cond Knappertsbusch.BEETHOVEN:(1927)5th Symphony cond Furtwangler.(CD 3)BRUCKNER:(1928) Symphony No 7 cond Jascha Horenstein.(CD 4)TCHAIKOVSKY: (1939)6th Symphony.SMETANA(1941) the Moldau cond Von Karajan.(CD 5)BEETHOVEN:(1947) 5th Symphony. MOZART:(1942 &1943)(CD 6)SCHUBERT:(1951)9th Symphony.HAYDN:(1951)Symphony no 88.(CD 7)FURTWANGLER:(1951) Symphony no 2.this great conductor considered himself a composer first and a conductor second.-T(CD 8)TCHAIKOVSKY(1951) Piano concerto No 1.Piano-Shura Cherkassky cond Ludwig.(1955) Piano Concerto No 2. Cherkassky cond Richard Kraus (CD 9)BRAHMS: Symphony No 1(Live recording). SCHUMANN:(1953) Symphony no 4 cond Furtwangler.(CD 10) SMETANA:(1953)The Moldau-Allegro commodo non agitato.From Bohemia's Woods and fields.(1953).DVORAk(1959)(Stereo) Symphony No 9 "from the New World". SMETANA(1960)(stereo)The Moldau. Allegro commodo non agitato."the 9th is unashamedly romantic.The orchestra are on top form,especially in the largo,and the finale is splendid,with a very exciting coda". Wow!-T.(CD 11) BERLIOZ(1953) Symphonie Fanastique. MUSSORGSKY(1953) Pictures at an exhibition. Cond igor Markevitch. (CD 12) BEETHOVEN (1955) Missa Solemnis. Maria Stader soprano. Radev contralto. Anton Dermota Tenor. Josef Greindl bass. Cond Bohm. (CD 13) HINDEMITH:(1955) Symphony "Mathis der Maier". Symphonic dance(1954) Symphonic Metamorphosis after Themes by carl maria von Weber(1955) cond Hindemith

ADD:

(CD 14) BEETHOVEN: Overture "Egmont"symphony no 9-Seefried soprano.Forrester contralto.Haefliger tenor.Fischer-Dieskau Baritone. Cond Fricsay." Generally it is well shaped,full of vitality,though tempo are fairly broad. The Adagio is particularly beautiful". The last movement has fast tempo's-T.(CD 15)R.STRAUSS:(1959) Ein Heldenleben. LIZST(1961) Mazeppa symphonic poem. Hungarian Rhapsody no 4(1967) Cond Von Karajan. " Playing of great power from the Berlin phil".(CD 16)MOZART:(1959)Symphony no 35"Haffner". Symphony No 40.Symphony No 41"Jupiter"cond Bohm. (CD 17)DVORAK (1961)Concerto for cello and orchestra.Cello-Pierre Fournier.Cond Szell. GRIEG:(1963)Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.Geza Anda-piano.Cond Kubelik. In the Dvorak cello concerto "Fournier can relax and beguile the ear in the lyrical passages. The phrasing in the slow movement is ravishing". Won a French and German record prize.
(CD 18)BEETHOVEN:(1961) Piano concerto no 4 and 5 piano Kempff. cond Leitner." In the 4th Kempff's delicacy of fingerwork and his shading are as effervescent as ever,and the fine control of the orchestra ensures the unity of the reading. The 5th has power and excitement.Leitner's orchestral contribution is of high quality and the BPO's playing has vigor and warmth"(CD 19)BEETHOVEN:(1962). Violin Concerto Schneiderhan violin and conductor Jochum.MOZART:(1967) Concerto for violin no 5. Schneiderhan violin and conductor." Schneiderhan's version is among the greatest recordings of Beethoven's violin concerto: the serene spiritual beauty of the slow movement,and the playing of the second movement has never been surpassed on record. The orchestra under Jochum provides a background tapestry of breath and dignity"Penguin gave Mozart's No 5 violin concerto a rosette as it is excellent.(CD 20) BEETHOVEN: (1962) overture Coriolan. Symphony NO 9.Janowitz soprano. Rossel-Majdan contralto.Kmentt tenor. Berry baritone.Von karajan cond."The 1963 version is less hushed and serene in the slow movement then the two others he recorded,the final blazes even more intensely".This first cycle of Beethoven's symphonies are considered Von Karajan's best set.Dont forget Beethoven's 9th Cond by Furtwangler 1942,(the Second World war years),with Peter Anders-Tenor. (CD 21)MOZART:(1964) Die Zauberflote Highlights. Crass,Peters,Lear,Wunderlich,Fischer-Dieskau,Otto and Lenz. Cond Bohm."The Key aria's are all included and the sound is fresh and full".(CD 22) PROKOFIEV: (1967) Piano Concerto No 3. RAVEL: Concerto for Piano and orchestra. Argerich,cond Abbado." Algerich's highly individual performance of Prokofiev's 3rd Concerto conducted by Abbado whose conducting is peerless." Ravel's concerto is equally as good-T.(CD 23)DVORAK:(1968) Concerto for cello and Orch. Cello Rostropovich. Cond Von Karajan. TCHAIKOVSKY:(1978) Swan Lake suite cond Rostropovich. (CD 24) WAGNER:(1971) Gotterdammerung."Helga Dernesch is at her peak and warmer than Nilssohn. Brilloth as Siegfried is fresh and young sounding. Janowitz is far preferable to that of Clare Watson on Decca." Cond Von Karajan. Not as good as Solti's or Keilberth's versions-T.(CD 25)BRAHMS(1970)No 2 symphony. Academic Festival Overture(1967)cond Abbado." This is a very exciting version in every way"
(CD 26)GRIEG:(1971) Peer Gynt No 1 &2.From Holberg's time.(1981) (DDD)Sigurd Jorsalfar(1971) cond Von Karajan.
(CD 27)VIVALDI(:1972) The four seasons. ALBINONI:(1969) Adagio.CORELLI:(1970) Christmas Concerto.Von Karajan.
(CD 28)DVORAK:(1966)Symphonies 8 and 9 cond Kubelik."Certainly Kubelik's marvellously fresh account with the BPO is of the finest accounts of the 9th". (CD 29) MAHLER:(1973) 5th Symphony von Karajan."His is at once one of the most beautiful and one of the most intense versions available.(CD 30)SCHOENBERG (1973)."Verkarte Nacht is altogether magical and very much in a class of its own".WEBERN: (CD 31) STRAVINSKY:(1976/1977) The Rite of spring. Symphony Psalms(1975) cond Von Karajan. (CD 32) Symphony No 9 (live) cond Bernstein."The response is electric.He convey's a comparably hushed inner quality" Won the first prize for CDs chosen by the public for this box set-T

DDD:

(CD 33) WAGNER(1980)(DDD)Parsival highlights.van Dam,Moll.Hoffmann,Vejzovic Cond Von Karajan." This is an intensely beautiful set". Yet not in the same league as Knappertsbusch's 1962 Bayreuth Parsival-T. (CD 34) MENDELSSOHN:(1980)Concerto for violin and orchestra .BRUCH:Concerto for violin and Orchestra No 1 cond Von Karajan.(CD 35) R.STRAUSS(1980)Eine Alpensinfonie. Till Eulenspiegels lustige streiche. Salome: dance of the seven veils.(1972/1973)ADD cond Von Karajan.Penguin Guide states the following "Karajan has no peer where R.Strauss is concerned". I disagree.Reiner's version's are better-T.(CD 36)MOZART:(1981) Great mass in C Minor. Hendricks. Perry. Schrerier.Luxon. Cond Von Karajan.(CD 37) MAHLER (1982) Symphony No 9.(Beginning)(CD 38)MAHLER: 9th symphony continues.Cond Von Karajan live recording from the 1982 festival.SHOSTAKOVICH(1981) Symphony No 10 cond Von Karajan.(CD 39) BIZET:(1982) Carmen Highlights.Baltsa.Carreras Van Dam. Ricciarelli. (CD 40) VERDI:(1989) Requiem.(CD 41) continues.Sweet.Quivar.Estes. FRANCK: (1986)Symphony in D minor.Psyche et Eros.Cond Carlo Maria Giulini. (CD 42) BEETHOVEN:(1993) Piano concerto no 5(live recording) Pollini-Piano cond Abbado." Abbado and Pollini are hand in glove,which gives this cycle its cohesiveness"(CD 43)RAVEL:(1993)Ma Merel'Oye. Une barque surl ocean. Alborado del gracioso. Rapsodie espagnole.Bolero. cond Boulez."For those who do not always admire Boulez tend to respond to his Ravel".(CD 44)KURTAG(:1994)Grabstein fur Stephan for guitar and groups of instruments. STOCKHAUSEN:Gruppen.KURTAG:Stele. Cond Abbado.(live recording)(CD 45) BEETHOVEN(1999)Symphonies no 7 and 8.Cond Abbado."This remains an outstanding disc".(CD 46)MOZART: (1999) Requiem in D minor.Mattila. Schade.Terfel. Cond Abbado.(CD 47) BRAHMS:(2003/2004)Pian and Orchestra No 1.Zimmermann Piano. Cond Rattle." Zimmermann infused his piano part with that spark of individual genius. This is a disguished performance".CD 48) MAHLER:(2004) Symphony No 6. Cond Abbado live." You would be hard pressed to encounter a tauter,more refined performance than this,or one that dispenses with the heavy drapes of old style Mahler interpretation."(CD 49)MAHLER:(2005) Symphony no 4. BERG: Sieben fruhe Lieder. Fleming-soprano. Cond Abbado. (CD 50)R.STRAUSS:(2013)Also sprach Zarathustra: Introduction.BARBER: Adagio for strings.Cond Dudamel. DVORAK: Biblical songs. Kozenz-Mezzo. Cond Rattle.

REFERENCES:Hall of fame-Wilhelm furtwangler. The international music company,Germany. Lebrecht,N. The Maestro Myth.1997.Pocket Books. Penguin classical music guides 1977,1996 and 2008.
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This 50 CD box from Deutsche Grammophon (DG) was issued to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Berlin Philharmonic in 2013.
-- Not to be confused with the 12 CD box that the Berlin Philharmonic issued to celebrate itself in 2006: Berliner Philharmoniker - Im Takt der Zeit

The contents of the DG Box were chosen by the public, or at least the 40,000 members of the public who responded to an internet poll.
The contents of the Orchestra's Box were selected by a vote of the orchestra members.

The public and the orchestra agreed on three selections, all from the 78rpm period:
1913: Alfred Hertz: Wagner Suite from Parsifal
1920: Artur Nikisch: Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture
1928: Jascha Horenstein: Bruckner Symphony 7

The Orchestra's Box includes all six Music Directors, plus seven guest conductors.

A glaring omission from the DG Box is Sergiu Celibadache, who was Music Director of the Berlin Philharmoic from 1945-1952.
But he made no recordings for DG.
A large number of radio broadcasts have survived: Celibidache: The Berlin Recordings 1945-1957 - and - Edition Sergiu Celibidache - The Complete RIAS Recordings

Aside from five of six Music Directors, the DG Box includes thirteen guest conductors, none of whom were included in the Orchestra's Box:
Richard Strauss, Bruno Walter, Hans Knappertsbusch, Ferenc Fricsay, Igor Markevich, Karl Bohm, Paul Hindemith, George Szell, Rafael Kubelik, Eugen Jochum, Leonard Bernstein, Carlo Maria Giulini, and Pierre Boulez.

The Orchestra's Box could have included selections from those conductors, but orchestra members could not agree. Office politics?

The Orchestra's Box gave one CD each to guest conductors Erich Kleiber, David Oistrakh (as conductor), Daniel Barenboim, Kurt Sanderling, and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, none of whom are included in the 50 CD DG box.
Again there is a simple explanation - none of these conductors recorded for DG (they did record with the Berlin PO for Telefunken, EMI, Sony and Teldec).

(Gustavo Dudamel was also left out of the Orchestra's box, but he had not yet conducted the orchestra in 2006).

The DG box also includes 9 CDs of concerti.
Original jacket format, nice booklet, nice price.

If I greet the DG Box with Modified Rapture, its because I already own 41 of the 50 CDs (everything from Nikisch through Karajan).

If you are a newcomer to classical music, you are in luck.
You get to experience Unmodified Rapture.

CD 1 | 1913 BEETHOVEN 5 Nikisch | WAGNER Parsifal Suite - Hertz
CD 2 | 1928 BEETHOVEN 5 Furtwangler + Knappertsbusch / R. Strauss / Walter
CD 3 | 1928 BRUCKNER 7 Horenstein
CD 4 | 1939 TCHAIKOVSKY 6 Karajan
CD 5 | 1942 1947 MOZART 39 BEETHOVEN 5 Furtwangler
CD 6 | 1951 SCHUBERT 9 HAYDN 88 Furtwangler
CD 7 | 1951 FURTWANGLER 2 Furtwangler
CD 8 | 1951 TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concertos 1 & 2 Cherkassky
CD 9 | 1952 BRAHMS 1 SCHUMANN 4 Furtwängler
CD 10 | 1953 SMETANA: The Moldau DVORÁK New World Symphony Fricsay
CD 11 | 1953 BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique MUSSORGFSKY Pictures at an Exhibition Markevitch
CD 12 | 1955 BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis Böhm
CD 13 | 1955 HINDEMITH Mathis der Maler Hindemith
CD 14 | 1958 BEETHOVEN 9 Fricsay
CD 15 | 1959 R. STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben Karajan
CD 16 | 1960 MOZART 35,40, 41 Böhm
CD 17 | 1961 DVORÁK Cello Concerto GRIEG Piano Concerto
CD 18 | 1961 BEETHOVEN Piano Concertos 4 & 5 Kempff
CD 19 | 1962 BEETHOVEN MOZART Violin Concertos Schneiderhan
CD 20 | 1963 BEETHOVEN 9 Karajan
CD 21 | 1964 MOZART Die Zauberflöte (exc.) Böhm
CD 22 | 1967 PROKOFIEV / RAVEL Piano Concertos Argerich Abbado
CD 23 | 1968 DVORÁK Cello Concerto Rostropovich
CD 24 | 1969 WAGNER Götterdämmerung (exc.) Karajan
CD 25 | 1970 BRAHMS 2 Abbado
CD 26 | 1971 GRIEG Peer Gynt Karajan
CD 27 | 1972 VIVALDI The Four Seasons Schwalbé Karajan
CD 28 | 1972DVORÁK 8 & 9 Kubelik
CD 29 | 1973 MAHLER 5 Karajan
CD 30 | 1974 SCHOENBERG WEBERN Karajan
CD 31 | 1972 STRAVINSKY Le Sacre du printemps Symphony of Psalms Karajan
CD 32 | 1979 MAHLER 9 Bernstein
CD 33 | 1979 WAGNER Parsifal (exc.) Karajan
CD 34 | 1981 MENDELSSOHN BRUCH Concertos Mutter
CD 35 | 1981 R. STRAUSS Eine Alpensymphonie Karajan
CD 36 | 1981 MOZART Mass in C minor Karajan
CD 37 & 38 | 1981 1982 MAHLER 9 SHOSTAKOVICH 10 Karajan
CD 39 | 1982 BIZET Carmen (exc.) Karajan
CD 40 & 41 | 1989 VERDI Requiem Giulini
CD 42 | 1993 BEETHOVEN Emperor Concerto Pollini
CD 43 | 1994 STOCKHAUSEN Gruppen KURTÁG Abbado
CD 44 | 1994 RAVEL Boulez
CD 45 | 1999 BEETHOVEN 7 & 8 Abbado
CD 46 | 1999 MOZART Requiem Abbado
CD 47 | 2003 BRAHMS Piano Concerto 1 Zimerman
CD 48 | 2004 MAHLER 6 Abbado
CD 49 | 2005 MAHLER 4 Abbado
CD 50 | 2012 / 2013 DVORÁK Kozena / Rattle | STRAUSS: Also sprach BARBER Adagio Dudamel
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 July 2014
In 1913, Arthur Nikisch's recorded Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the first time this orchestra had recorded a complete symphony. The less distinguished Friedrich Kark, 1869 - 1939, with the even less distinguished Odeon Symphony Orchestra, Berlin, had already recorded the work 3 years earlier. A few months earlier, Alfred Hertz recorded excerpts from Wagner's Parsifal. At that time, the performers were required to gather round a very large acoustic microphone horn so that the orchestral works performed were orchestrations that brought together the necessary players. Listening to these performances through a century's surface noise later is a strangely wonderful experience.

Listening to these 50 CDs, whether chronologically or by serendipity, there are the expected many and varied performances of Furtwängler and Karajan, as well as those of Horenstein, Kubelik, Strauss, Walter, Knappertsbusch, Fricsay, Bohm, Paul Hindemith, Szell, Jochum, Giulini, Boulez and Igor Markevich, whom history has less fairly treated.

The works and performances were selected following a poll and at the top was Mahler's final symphony in the 1979 performance under Bernstein, a performance that never moved me as much as it did many other people. Another reviewer has kindly listed and commented on the performances so that you will know what you are getting. The absence of performances by Celibidache, who did not record for DGG, has also been mentioned and this rather unique figure, whom I tend to couple with Dmitri Mitropoulos for no better reason than these were the conductors on my first two LPs many years ago, would certainly repay listening to.

There is significant duplication of works but when the performances are as overwhelmingly good as we have here that can only be good. There will undoubtedly be many music lovers who will have many of these performances already, either on LP or CD, so that a careful decision will have to be made about purchasing the complete set. However, it is very well presented. A real value-for-money collection that, by hunting around, could be, maybe still can be, purchased for less than a £1 a disc. That has to be a bargain.
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on 21 March 2014
This gives a real concept both of the Berlin Philharmonic and of the development of recording. Some of the early efforts are useful historically but not at all memorable musically. A number of repititions in the music could have well been avoided,
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on 9 September 2014
They could do better.I have Karajan 60,70 box set,100 great symphonies and Fricsay box set and there are so many duplication.Why 15 cd of Karajan ,Abbado Mahler symphonies includes in the Symphony edition and so many 100 great symphonies.They are selling the same cd in different package and making money.Now I am sure DG will be releasing the ultimate. Collection which consists of 150 cd re-issue all the cd from box set and volume 2 will follow volume 1 in due course.Save your hard earned money and buy 100 great symphonies and Karajan 60 box set and if you can afford then Abbado the symphony edition and you will happy after.This box is for those who want the shellac record transferred on cd.I bought this box set and will keep as a reminder of being a collector addict.Now what Phase four collection and reproduction when on cd is as if you are in the orchestra.It is advisable that when you listen to cd you must make you do not have any problem with your ears.This cd is better than being in Berlin Philharmoniker hall.Please check my overdraft
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on 10 December 2013
I've had this box for a month now and am enjoying every minute.
Shure, my vote would be for the inclusion of some other performances. But, I've already got these.
I think that the glory of this set is that there are performances in there which I've not got or even heard before (Abbado's Mahler for instance).
No problem at all with the Bernstein Mahler 9 coming out on top of the pile. Its awesome; as is the Karajan 9 recorded at around the same time.
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on 9 September 2013
The Berlin Philharmonic has acquired almost mythical status amongst lovers of symphonic music since the start of its recorded history 100 years ago. In those 100 years the world has changed phenomenally, not least in the democratising of 'art' music. Thanks to the medium of recorded music, the legacy of the master composers is available to almost all people.

This set of discs ( chosen by a 'a global public vote') is an encapsulation of that history. As I wrote in Karajan's set of his 70's activities, there is little point in discussing individual performances since many ( but not all) of the recordings will be known to music lovers already. My reason for writing this review is to point out that the presentation of these discs is itself a thing of beauty. The notes and essays are superb and reflect Deutsche Grammophones consistent production values. There's also a 'greeting' from the current Orchestras personnel but I don't want to spoil the surprise!

I've just visited the Berlin Philharmonic's official shop in the Philharmonie and found that this set is out of stock and will not be available until the end of September so snap it up now before it disappears forever! You will not regret it.
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on 16 January 2015
my partner enjoyed this item very much
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on 3 August 2014
magnificent delivery service,glorious cd box set a must have. patrick f
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