Recorded between 1964 and 1968, Paul Kletzki's respected cycle of Ludwig van Beethoven's symphonies on Supraphon rightly should be classified as a historical item for specialists, rather than as a recommended option for anyone seeking a great (and great sounding) modern set. Kletzki was an admired and popular conductor, noted for working with both European and American orchestras, and his interpretations of Beethoven are intelligent and insightful, regarded by some reviewers as among the finest of their time; the performances are still valuable for their musicality and significance among mid-20th century offerings.
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.
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.
"The poised polished execution of the Vienna Philharmonic, and … the controlled, tasteful vigour of Bernstein's conducting sets standards of Beethoven playing that recall Toscanini's heyday with the New York Philharmonic." - Fanfare
The Beethoven symphonies: all nine of them stunning masterworks, all nine performed countless times. Be that as it may, there are conductors who can re-contextualize these symphonies in such a way that they sound completely new, as Ivan Fischer proved in 2013 and 2014 in his Beethoven Series with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, spread out over two seasons. This is a veritable journey of discovery through a familiar landscape.