"…I will treasure this set until the end of my days, and hope others will attain the same joy from it after I am gone." ~SA-CD.net
Haitink's integral set of Beethoven Symphonies with the London Symphony has none of the stodginess that sometimes afflicted his earlier recordings with the Concertgebouw. His restudy of the works, and the presence of concert audiences translate into faster tempos, sharper accents, wider dynamic range and an overall sense of energy that imbue these nine masterpieces.
Recordings of all the Beethoven symphonies with their chief conductor are always a milestone in the artistic work of the Berliner Philharmoniker. So it was with Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado, and expectations are correspondingly high for this cycle conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. Where does the special status of these symphonies come from? Simon Rattle has an explanation: “One of the things Beethoven does is to give you a mirror into yourself – where you are now as a musician.” In fact, this music contains such a wealth of extreme emotions and brilliant compositional ideas that reveal the qualities of the orchestra and its conductor as if under a magnifying glass.
Major documents from Rudolf Kempe's later years at the head of the Munich Philharmonic. Beethoven's Fifth, that masterpiece of emotional tension, and his Sixth, all vivid depiction of nature, are both readings of maturity and perfection.
In February 2001 the Berliner Philharmoniker and Claudio Abbado were guests at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome with all Beethoven symphonies. Their success was overwhelming with standing ovations after each performance. “Abbado, a Furtwängler admirer in principle, seems ever more Italian, his tauter lyricism allied to a sense of forward movement influenced, we are told, by period practice. The surprise is not the Mediterranean luminosity and scrupulous attention to instrumental detail - one expects nothing less from this source - but the animating sense of line. The Seventh Symphony… knows precisely where it's going and why… The sense of joy present throughout is overwhelming by the close.” - Gramophone Magazine.
With the Berliner Philharmoniker under Herbert von Karajan, Beethoven's Seventh Symphony resounds with melodic force, the Eighth is a masterful blend of grace and wit, and the Ninth - directed by Karajan himself - is a vital and explicitly dramatic reading of Beethoven's revolutionary work.
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.
With the Berliner Philharmoniker under Herbert von Karajan, Beethoven's First Symphony is marked by its fire and finesse, the Second by its exquisite winds and strings, and the "Eroica" is played with members of the orchestra seated as though performing in an Ancient Greek theatre.