Beethoven was Wilhelm Furtwängler’s guiding musical force. In his interpretations of the symphonies, the conductor generates irresistible dramatic momentum – and a constant sense of imaginative freshness – through the interrelationship of form, harmony, texture, rhythm and tempo. These recordings, all made in the late 1940s and early 1950s, in the Musikverein in Vienna and at concerts in London, Bayreuth and Stockholm, were newly remastered in 2010, bringing their sound more alive than ever before.
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.
"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.
Firma Melodiya presents a unique boxed set with recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies 1 to 8 conducted by Rudolf Barshai. One of the most prominent representatives of domestic music performing art of the 20th century, Rudolf Barshai was a man of amazingly versatile talents. His character combined obsession of a seeker and explorer of new sides to performance with an aspiration for his own creative way avoiding a bitten path.
Haitink's integral set of Beethoven Symphonies with the London Symphony has none of the stodginess that sometimes afflicted his earlier recordings with the Concertgebouw. His restudy of the works, and the presence of concert audiences translate into faster tempos, sharper accents, wider dynamic range and an overall sense of energy that imbue these nine masterpieces.
The Karajan Official Remastered Edition comprises 13 box sets containing official remasterings of the finest recordings the Austrian conductor made for EMI between 1946 and 1984, which are now a jewel of the Warner Classics catalog. This 6-CD box presents Karajan's first recording of the complete Beethoven Symphonies, made in the early 1950s with London's recently-founded Philharmonia Orchestra. The recording of the 9th Symphony is available here in stereo for the very first time, taken from original unreleased tapes.