EuroArts has released a special edition of all nine Beethoven Symphonies played by the Berlin Philharmonic under former chief conductor Claudio Abbado. Each of the symphonies is a masterpiece in itself - they are all quite different, each representing the composer's musical idiom at a particular stage in his development. This DVD includes symphonies Nos. 2 and 5 and offers a 'Conductor Camera' in the famous Fifth Symphony showing the maestro from the perspective of the musician. The recordings feature interpretations that are the fruit of decades of Claudio Abbado's involvement with Beethoven.
For those who own either box, these DVDs are self-recommending. Other listeners may rest assured that there are many reasons to acquire this set.
Abbado has been the most successful of contemporary conductors of Beethoven symphony cycles at blending period and modern orchestra performance practices. Where Barenboim is the staunch traditionalist, unafraid to appear to be reactionary in his single-mindedness, Haitink is the centrist, as ever, and Rattle is the pragmatist, picking and choosing (and not always successfully, in the final analysis), Abbado brings to the richness of the modern ensemble the brisk tempos and fresh-sounding spirit of the period-instrument movement.
Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 concertos for piano, 32 piano sonatas, and 16 string quartets. He also composed other chamber music, choral works (including the celebrated Missa Solemnis), and songs.
If you're looking for a set of all nine Beethoven symphonies, this one is pretty hard to beat. It's the most consistently fine interpretively, as well as supremely well played and gorgeously recorded.David Hurwitz
Herbert von Karajan directs the Berlin Philharmonic in an Italianate take of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony and an assured rendering of the Fifth, while the "Pastoral" Symphony, conceived and derected by Hugo Niebeling in 1967, is a revolutionary mix of styles - Fantasia meets Expressionism meets film noir.
This DVD ends the series with symphonies Nos. 4 and 7, recorded live at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome in February 2001. As a special feature, it offers the multi-angle “Conductor Camera” in the latter symphony which shows the maestro from the perspective of the musicians. And as a further bonus it also comprises the half-hour interview film “Abbado on Beethoven”. Each of the symphonies is a masterpiece in itself – they are all quite different, each representing the composer’s musical idiom at a particular stage in his development. The Symphony No. 4 was written in 1806 and – although musically strong – counts among the lesser played of Beethoven's symphonies. The Symphony No. 7 was premiered 1813 and is regarded to identify a new stage in Beethoven’s composing as classical elements intertwine with romantic ones.
Abbado's Beethoven cycle will certainly become a milestone for contemporary interpretation and this DVD and the coming releases pay tribute to Abbado’s achievement. The cycle will be released gradually throughout 2007, starting with symphonies 3 and 9. For the popular 9th symphony on this DVD the Berlin Philharmonic were joined by high-ranking singers and choirs. As an additional feature, this DVD offers the “Conductor Camera” in the 3rd Symphony showing the maestro from the perspective of the musician.