Just as a contrast to the two previous reviews I'll try to say a little about the music recorded here itself.
Klemperer's way with Beethoven was nothing if not honest. By the 1950's Otto Klemperer drew his signature with a bold, truculent hand. The letter-forms were shaky but defiant. He had endured much. His signature embodies the spirit pervading these Beethoven performances - an essential honesty.
These are bold, defiant, truculent, experienced performances. They represent essential aspects of Beethoven's genius. Dylan Thomas's pleaded that his father should 'rage against the dying of the light'. Beethoven did! So too did Klemeperer. He rages through these symphonies. Despising superficiality; scorning a polished, refined orchestral sound - and the Philharmonia (in whatever form it assumed - PO or NPO) responds with bold, rugged, trenchant strength. The musical 'hand' maybe shaky but the spirit is utterly secure, defiant in adversity.
Klemperer's vision is expressed with a truculent gait (sorry to use that adjective again but it seems too sum up so much of the Klemperer character!), firmly grasped priorities, unbending pride, prominent woodwind, violins divided right and left, thundering timpani (on the last page of the Eroica especially - but still not quite so shattering as with Celibadache!); blazing trombones in the finale of the 5th, galumphing rustic peasant dance in the 'Pastoral' (Klemperer insisted this was a slow Austrian county dance, and the effect is delightful).
It is fashionable to prefer the early versions of the 3rd, 5th and 7th - but the later recordings are quintessential Klemeperer: and in this wonderful set we have them all! This is elemental, undeniable music making. Surely more at one with the elemental spirit of Beethoven than any number of 'authentic' performances.
Comparison with Klemperer's contemporaries uncovers fundamental differences of personality. Klemperer lacks the beauty and grace of Bruno Walter's vision; the deep peace and equilibrium radiating from Ferencsik's pacific performances; the athletic dynamism that drives Carl Schuricht; the felxibility of Jochum; the inventive recklessness of Rattle; the meditative breadth of Celibidache.
All in all Klemeperer convinces by patent honesty, stubborn faithfulness to essential aspects in the physiognomy of Beethoven's spirit. Indispensable - a 'desert island' set of the Beethoven symphonies!