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Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies [Box Set]
Donaldson Bell, Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies [Box Set]
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (5) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #4
  •  Track Listings (5) - Disc #5
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #6
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #7
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #8
  •  Track Listings (6) - Disc #9
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #10


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CD Reviews

As Good as it Gets
Hank Drake | Cleveland, OH United States | 04/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Originally issued on Columbia's budget label, Epic, George Szell's early stereo (1957-1967) cycle of Beethoven's Symphonies became legendary on its original release. Originally released one at a time, the cycle was later reissued as a boxed set, individually again in the late 1970s, debuting on CD in the 1980s, and in several incarnations during the 1990s. Now, for the 21st Century, Sony has created a lavish reissue.

Ever the perfectionist, Szell drilled the Cleveland Orchestra to within an inch of its life, and the result here is orchestral playing of immaculate perfection, with the various choirs balanced as if they were one soloist. Technically, there is no better Beethoven cycle on records, not from Maazel's and Dohnanyi's later cycles with the same orchestra, not from Karajan's Berlin Philharmonic, and certainly not from Toscanini's NBC Orchestra.

Toscanini bears mentioning here, because there are similarities of approach. Szell chooses not to let details obscure the overall structure of each symphony--though there are telling details in plenty. By the time this cycle was recorded, Szell had lived with these masterpieces for half a century, and it shows in the judicious tempi, straightforward phrasing, and architectonic grandeur.

Receiving its first CD release is the same orchestra's recording of Beethoven's Creatures of Prometheus ballet, superbly conducted by Szell's assistant director, Louis Lane. Also included is Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony, which was originally the B side for Beethoven's ubiquitous 5th. Since this is one of the finest Jupiters ever recorded, no complaints about breaking the one composer rule.

Sony's set reproduces the original cover art and sequencing (with once exception, the Overtures disc features two bonus tracks). Generally, the CDs are not well filled, however this is more than made up for by the superb documentation. The booklet contains the original LP liner notes (most of them by Klaus G. Roy, then program annotator of the Cleveland Orchestra), unfortunately whittled down. But, with a magnifying glass, one can read the miniaturized backs of the original LP covers. Sony's engineers have done an excellent job remastering the rather dry sounding original tapes.

For those encountering Beethoven's sypmhonies of Szell conducting for the first time, there is no greater starting point. For longtime fans, this set will impress with its refreshed sonics and deluxe packaging.
Music Production At Highest Level
Johnson Lee | Irvine, CA USA | 01/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"No need to explain why Szell's Beethoven performances are exquisite - perfect balancing among instruments, expressive phrasing, unbelievable intensity, and oh yes, details!
But equal amount of praises should go to Sony's remastering engineers. You will hear a night-and-day difference from the old Essential Classics versions!

Just listen to the magnificent 9th. Szell and the Cleveland musicians give out their lives."
Muscular, Great Sounding Symphonies
J. Savett | Rockville, MD United States | 12/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I own the Klemperer complete set of Beethoven symphonies plus a number of wonderful individual versions (Carlos Kleiber's 5th, Bruno Walter's 6th, Wilhelm Furtwangler's 9th), and yet this might be the finest sounding Beethoven symphonies. The quality of the remastering is phenomenal, the sound of each symphony is warm and detailed, better than many modern digital recordings I have. The nice part about Szell's (and the Cleveland's) interpretations is that they are strong but still nauanced enough that I can hear new things with every listen. All the same, the Cleveland Orchestra sounds absurdly triumphant in these recordings. I've heard many of the symphonies from the famous Karajan/Berliner Philharmoniker set and the Cleveland Orchestra puts them to shame. If you enjoy a thinner, sort of, effete Beethoven, the Karajan set is in order. But even better than the rock solid (but often too slow) Klemperer, these symphonies retain much of their beauty but they still sound revolutionary. As a newish (three of four years of collectiong and listening) fan of classical with a background in punk, rap, and hard-core, I actually felt a rush of adrenaline while listening to many of these. As a relatively minor side note--the packaging of this set is actually pretty cool. The 10 CDs come in a moderately sized box. But each CD is in a cardboard sleave designed with the LP's original artwork and cover. The back of each sleave retains the original essays and commentary from the LP jacket (though it's quite difficult to read). For some reason my sleave for symphony 8 and 9 was not factory wrapped, but it's a mere quibble.

This set is amazing. It will insure your love of Beethoven if it's your first listen, but it will enhance and deepen your indebtedness to him and Szell if you've already heard many."