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Essential Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven, Alceo Galliera, Antal Dorati
Essential Beethoven
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #2


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Jeff R. (Pequod)
Reviewed on 12/9/2008...
This is a nice starter set for Beethoven beginners. Great sampling of many of his greatest works.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.

CD Reviews

Christopher | Wengen-en-esprit | 03/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Classical music compilations are extremely difficult to review. You are always fighting with someone else's opinion of what is "Best of" material. And why should we buy selections when we could buy the entire pieces and hear them played as the composers intended?

A quick answer would be simple: we simply cannot afford to purchase every single piece by every single composer we love. And if the buyer is familiar with the music, he or she would perhaps only want the famous selections everyone knows. In my case, I am particularly picky with recordings and don't have the time to meddle with libraries or going to stores that offer listening stations. Recordings vary greatly and so does playing ability. So why did I go with Essential Beethoven?

It is released with Decca, one of the finest classical music companies out there. You are guaranteed no gimmick or inexpensively recorded tracks on this compilation. Essential B. also has a wider selection than other compilations I looked at. For once, there isn't a movement to be found from the Fifth Symphony. If that's all you want to buy, look elsewhere. Essential B. has pieces I was not familiar with, so here I am listening to it.

Regrettably, there are three distinct issues with this recording, and I want to get them out of the way. 1. Für Elise is atrociously boring to listen to. As a pianist, it is fun to play and almost required learning for the beginner. It should've been dropped. 2. Piano Concerto No. 5 is missing the third movement. It is common to drop the first movement here, but the second and third movements are programmatically tied, providing some of the most emotionally charged music ever put down on lined paper. Also, this rendition of the concerto is less than inspiring and I regret that it is the famous Ashkenazy playing this version. There is almost no life in the playing. 3. The remastering could've been better. The listener will enjoy the loud and boisterous pieces, but the quieter parts, and even the soft piano solos, will have him straining his ears to the point of exasperation. Because of this, I recommend listening on headphones or in a place where you can turn the volume up a little more than usual.

That aside, the rest of the tracks are well recorded, extremely well played, and varied enough to quench even the most learned ears. Decca has included pieces conducted by Sir Georg Solti, one of the greatest conducters in my opinion. (Another "collection" solely conducted by Solti is the "Immortal Beloved" soundtrack.) The orchestral pieces are lush and the range is dynamic. (A little too dynamic, like I stated above, in some areas.) The inclusion of movement IV from Symphony no. 8 pleases me, as I feel this is the least appreciated symphony, overshadowed by Symphony no. 9

The piano pieces are some of the best renditions I've heard. I own all of Ashkenazy's sonatas, so it was nice to hear a movement from "The Tempest" played by Stephen Kovacevich, who plays with fierce determination. Selections from B's piano concertos are fantastic and have prompted me to delve further into listening to more concertos from him. The Rondo from Piano Concerto No. 2, played by Radu Lupu, is one of the most upbeat and wonderfully played pieces here.

To round things off nicely is a movement from the Violin Sonata No. 5, played by the one and only Itzhak Perlman! The piano is caressed by Mr. Ashkenazy himself, and he does so lovingly. You will also find pieces from a string quartet, a violin Romance (and orchestra), and one overture: the "Egmont." I'm not a huge fan of this rendition either, but that's probably because I've heard the Egmont a thousand times.

A huge bonus with this collection are the three choral selections at the end, two of which are from "Fidelio," an opera I've yet to hear in its entirety. The Prisoners' Chorus is beautiful. The introduction sounds very much like a major contribution to Charles Ives's 1906 piece "The Unanswered Question." The compilation ends with Symphony No. 9's finale, but unfortunately, it is a horribly edited excerpt, and mixed extremely hot. I have to turn my volume down everytime this comes on.

I would like to make a little note about the art design, however. Credit here is given to Mark Millington, who did a fine job blending black & white photos of storm clouds, an inspiring sculpture, and blackletter-styled fonts. The CDs themselves are a contrasting bright orange. As a sucker for marketing, I would've plunked money down for this compilation just for the art!"
Great intro to Beethoven
Delmas S. Overby | 04/05/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Great intro to beethoven. There are many great performances by Ashkenazy, Academy of Saint Martin in the fields, Concertgetbouw Orchestra and many other exceptional artists. I would recommend this disc as it contains the masterpieces of beethoven, even though not all of them."