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Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies [Box Set]
Ludwig van Beethoven, Herbert von Karajan, Philharmonia Orchestra of London
Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies [Box Set]
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #4
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #5


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CD Details

All Artists: Ludwig van Beethoven, Herbert von Karajan, Philharmonia Orchestra of London, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Ernst Haefliger
Title: Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies [Box Set]
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: EMI Classics
Original Release Date: 1/1/2008
Re-Release Date: 4/1/2008
Album Type: Box set
Genre: Classical
Styles: Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830), Modern, 20th, & 21st Century, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 5
SwapaCD Credits: 5
UPCs: 400000006390, 5099951586324

CD Reviews

Dark Horse
Thomas Plotkin | West Hartford CT, United States | 05/04/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The first of Karajan's four traversals of the Nine have several strikes against it: boxy '50's mono sonics instead of the meticulous engineering von K generally oversaw, an Anglophonic orchestra in its infancy instead of the conductor's preferred Viennese and Berliner puppets who spoke in his own Germanic idiom. But I maintain this is the best of Karajan's cracks at Beethoven perhaps because of these "flaws." Karajan's own fatal flaw was a worship of surface beauty at the expense of content and emotion, particularly fatal when turned on these symphonies. The means he employed were a lavish blended orchestral sounds, balance banished in favor of blend (culinary critiques of this sound likened it to "chocolate Beethoven" and "massaged kobe beef," and Szell probably had von K in mind when he mentioned smothering asparagus in chocolate) and fussy artificial engineering soundstages. Here, as a guest conductor, the Londoners may have been able to resist Karajan's fabled charismatic blandishments and been able to assert the individuality of their own sound; and the primitive engineering throws a spanner in the works of Karajan's pursuit of sound over sense: so what's left over are Karajan's strengths unecumbered by his deficits -- vigorous attack, rigorous sense of line, perfect tempos, and a chamber-like balance of the instrumental choirs that one hears in his best Wagner recordings. This is technocratic Beethoven at its best, like the Solti/CSO recordings. You won't hear a tour de force a la Klemperer, Walter, Furtwangler, Barenboim; but listening will be rewarded with consistency and a sense of the cycle as a whole, played and conducted with the utmost precision. And the sound is not nearly so bad as the nay-sayers say. A little recessed, but you can hear everything. Moreover, unlike any other Karajan Beethoven cycles, as a result of the primitive recording, the winds are for once front and center, and the strings (which do sing beautifully) are backgrounded. And the brass and percussion, all but inaudible in the later DG sets, ring out loud and clear. Whether deliberate or not, this negates von K's later tendencies towards Wagnerian wallowing, and restores a much-needed classicism to his Beethoven. Weirdly enough, the balances make the Philharmonia sound a little like Harnoncourt's Chamber Orchestra of Europe (which is a good thing)."
Excellent early Beethoven cycle, but the mono sound lacks lu
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 04/12/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"(Note: This review updates an earlier review posted at Amazon for EMI's first CD issue.)

I am an admirer of Karajan's Beethoven, including this, his earliest symphony cycle from London (which also includes a Coriolan and Egmont Over.). The style is natural and unfussy; Karajan applies heroic energy where it's called for (in the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th), and shows an affinity for the 2nd and 8th, as he also did in later cycles for DG. There's no bloating of orchestral textures and little rhetoic. For its day, this set sounded quite streamlined and modern, the antithesis of Furtwangler's heaven-storming, philosophical readings. To correct Amazon, the vocal quartet in the Ninth consists of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Marga Hoffgen, Ernst Haefiliger, and Otto Edelmann, all in prime voice, although sometimes swamped by the large chorus, which itself is placed rather far back.

But I also must complain about the sound. EMI was not in the vanguard of LP-era sonics, and during this same period (1951-55) recorded sound was all over the map. We were getting marvelous early stereo from RCA, incredibly ugly mono for Toscanini's NBC Sym. from the same company. The present recordings are from Kingsway Hall, London, reputed as one of the finest acoustically, but in this reissue they are murky, thin, and muddled, with the Philharmonia frequently placed too far from the microphones for real impact. I detect some advance in the latest remastering -- the soundstage isn't quite as dry and cramped -- but no eye-opening improvements.

The glaring proof of these flaws is the Sym. #8, the sole performance recorded in stereo (1955), which jumps into vivid relief--the sound here is worthy of a great performance. Reviewers over the years, both pro and con, have exaggerated Karajan's change of style as his career unfolded. The Amazon reviewer (see the original EMI CD issue) was mistaken to call this early Eroica ponderous--it's as fast as Karajan's later readings. Admittedly, he could be more thrustful and incisive in London than in Berlin, but Karajan's 1963 cycle is by no means mannered, smoothed-over, or glib. He is recognizably the same conductor in that cycle as in this earlier one. Any listener will recognize how compelling these London readings are; the main question is really over the dated sonics."
What about the history
Musicman | Australia | 09/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A wonderful reissue of this historic set - Von K didn't record much with non German/Austrian orchestras BUT what are EMI up to putting photos of the conductor in old age on the cover and no mention of the history of these recordings in the notes, nor any acknowledgement that they are mono recordings (at least I can't see any). Isn't it a bit silly giving the impression that these are modern recordings?"