Great sound and performances, venue & production qualities a
King Lemuel | Puyallup, WA | 07/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have this set and Abbado's of Beethonven 9 symphonies on DVD.
I like both, but I give the edge to Abbado.
The Abbado set is recorded live in Italy (1 to 8) and in Berlin (9). The Italian vs. the German audiences is interesting. The Italians go buffo after each performance (justifiably so!). These DVDs have all the buzz and energy you could ask for from classical live performances. The 9th performed in Berlin is of the same quality. It feels like the audience at a Beach Boys concert, who have heard them sing "good vibrations" 200 times. Maybe they all got their buzz before the concert and are feeling very mellow yellow during the concert. They seem to have way too much starch in their shorts.
The Karajan set features too many close ups of Karajan with pans to some of the players every once in a while. The camera work is maybe 1 tenth as good as the Abbado set. Both Karajan's and Abbado's performance audios are great and worthy of being converted to CD-R. With some of the Karajan performances you can see onlookers, but for the most part these are not true live performances. Still, if you are a Karajan fan, as I am, you should get a kick out of these DVDs. The shortcomings do not ruin the overall fun."
Where's Beethoven? Give me back my Beethoven baby!
Alex Vox | Winnetka, IL | 03/11/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It is at best Ok, average performance. The delivery of Beethoven music, probably because of BAD camera work is tedious and heavy. Since it is DVD I was expecting for more. I lost track of the music on third minute. If you are looking for great visual experience and Beethoven music see Beethoven Symphonies 1,2,3,4,5,6 and Art Galleries of the Time, 2DVDs+3CDs Ultimate MosaicDVD Collection I can listen to the performance, but the visual element is very distracting. To my taste there's some lyricism in Beethoven symphonies. In this Karajan's version it sounds very harsh, straightforward."
Josephine Wing-kwan Leung | Vancouver. BC Canada | 05/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an excellent set of Beethoven's complete symphonic cycle. It has great sound and was nicely shot. However, I will say that, considering the price, DG should include commentaries of the Beethoven symphonies by Karajan himself as a bonus."
Paul J. Fedwick | Oakville, Canada | 10/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fascination with speeds haunts some conductors. But so far nobody seems to have surpassed Arturo Toscanini in that regard. During his life the Italian maestro use to criticize the German conductors for especially conducting Beethoven's symphonies too slow. Karajan seems to have heeded that critique, and it is said that during the first recording of the 9 symphonies in the early 1960s he kept on hand a copy of Toscanini's score. Of all the recordings I own (Klemperer, Wand, Zinmann, Abbado) Toscanini and Karajan are the only ones who took only a bit more than 64 min (Toscanini 64:43, Karajan 64:47) to go through the Ninth. But whereas somebody like Riccardo Muti who consciously tries to imitate Toscanini creates cacophonies rather than melodies, Karajan very much like Toscanini evince the most beautiful tones from Beethoven's masterpiece. Some like best Karajan's 1961-63 recording. In my personal view this second recording surpasses it (not just on account of the Ninth which took him then over 67 min.) but because of the distinct articulation of each tone. The same applies to the Third which is simply arresting. Watching Karajan, conducting with his eyes closed, makes one think of him as some kind of Greek deity who not only managed to enter the mind of the composer, but who also knows how to unravel the hidden beauty and richness contained in his music. Some reviewers have complained that this video focuses too much on the conductor. However true this might be (it didn't bother me), those who heed such criticism deprive themselves of one of the best ever recordings of Beethoven's unsurpassed Nine Symphonies. Highly recommended !"
Despite Quirky Visuals, Great Performance
Gadgester | Mother Earth | 10/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This set features performances coming about 6 years after Karajan's 1962/1963 Beethoven cycle. That earlier cycle remains, and will likely remain, the definitive set of Beethoven symphonies for me (among over 100 Beethoven symphony recordings I have). Karajan's Beethoven is not "perfect" -- for example, he always skips some repeats that I deem necessary -- but he and the BPO really brought out all the qualities a modern listener thinks ought to be brought out of Beethoven's symphonies.
The 9 symphonies recorded here are spread out over 3 DVDs. The visual take on all but the 9th was supposed to be artistic; most of them were directed by a renowned French filmmaker. But the visual qualities are uneven and on the whole unsatisfactory. It's not just Karajan dominates the screen time -- as with most other classical videos, the cameramen always seem to favor just a few angles and just a few select musicians.
In terms of musical quality, as I alluded earlier, taken as a whole this is second only to Karajan's earlier cycle. I do like the 3rd symphony on this set a little better, but my friends disagree with me on this. But if you want solid, no, I mean great, Beethoven symphony playing, you won't be disappointed. Obviously, if you don't like the visuals, simply turn off your TV monitor and only listen to the sound.
BTW, this set is better than the 1983 "His Legacy" set in both video and audio; that later set is notorious for focusing way too much on Karajan, and the BPO playing is less coherent than here. Abbado's 2001 set is also nice (see my review there), but IMHO Abbado cannot match Karajan in interpretive power or execution (plus the BPO was already at the start of its downward spiral). So, if you want one DVD set of Beethoven's symphonies to own, this is it.