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.
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.
This DVD ends the series with symphonies Nos. 4 and 7, recorded live at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome in February 2001. As a special feature, it offers the multi-angle “Conductor Camera” in the latter symphony which shows the maestro from the perspective of the musicians. And as a further bonus it also comprises the half-hour interview film “Abbado on Beethoven”. Each of the symphonies is a masterpiece in itself – they are all quite different, each representing the composer’s musical idiom at a particular stage in his development. The Symphony No. 4 was written in 1806 and – although musically strong – counts among the lesser played of Beethoven's symphonies. The Symphony No. 7 was premiered 1813 and is regarded to identify a new stage in Beethoven’s composing as classical elements intertwine with romantic ones.
Abbado's Beethoven cycle will certainly become a milestone for contemporary interpretation and this DVD and the coming releases pay tribute to Abbado’s achievement. The cycle will be released gradually throughout 2007, starting with symphonies 3 and 9. For the popular 9th symphony on this DVD the Berlin Philharmonic were joined by high-ranking singers and choirs. As an additional feature, this DVD offers the “Conductor Camera” in the 3rd Symphony showing the maestro from the perspective of the musician.