Decca's five-CD set Ultimate Beethoven is a respectable beginner's introduction to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven because it presents his greatest masterworks in complete performances by major artists. Where some other collections present only short, thematic excerpts or single movements taken from larger works, obliging the listener to put in additional effort to hear the whole compositions, this set leaves nothing incomplete. Central to Beethoven's output are his symphonies, and the Symphony No. 5 in C minor; the Symphony No. 6 in F major, "Pastoral"; and the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, "Choral" have long been regarded as essential works.
One of the great cycles. Of the hundred or so available recorded cycles (out of about one hundred and fifteen or so), this rates as one of the best. In better sound than either the DG stereo cycle and the live King International cycle, Kempff's style is more poetic and less intense and fiery than others. Whatever Kempff may give away in terms of speed, power, and precision, he makes up for in other ways
All are equal before the work, before the mysteries of a score; this was Claudio Abbados heart-felt conviction. For him, the willingness to be open to one another and to the independent life of musical processes was the only prerequisite for making music. In the live performances documented here for the first time, Abbado could be sure of the devotion of these world-class artists: the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA, the sopranos Christine Schäfer and Juliane Banse, as well as the actor Bruno Ganz. They shared his credo of listening togetherness (Die ZEIT) that made possible those precious moments of musical truth toward which this great conductor strove throughout his life.
With his very own “mysterious seductive power and legendary elegance” (Le Monde), Claudio Abbado opened for the last time the LUCERNE FESTIVAL in the summer of 2013. Only a few months later, the world had to bid farewell to a monumental artist, humanist, great conductor and orchestra founder. Even in the concert itself, documented here, lived a moment of farewell, as the three great works performed tell of the transience of life. The centerpiece of the Eroica is the funeral march revealing “abysses of shattering dimension” - an “intense experience” (Neue Zürcher Zeitung). This record, the last audio-visual documentation of his work, captures once again the extraordinary atmosphere of “vibrant emotionality” that always emerged when Abbado created music with his “orchestra of friends”.
A stunning 12-CD box set, Beethoven Unbound, will be released to mark the completion of Llŷr Williams’ monumental Beethoven cycle at Wigmore Hall and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) – recorded live at Wigmore Hall over three years and nine recitals.
This is exceptional. There are certainly many different valid ways to perform the Missa solemnis, but it's hard to imagine they will surpass this outstanding version…The Royal Concertgebouw is on absolutely top form…As for the soloists, it is hard to recall a Solemnis quartet who blend so well while retaining their mesmeric individuality. (BBC Music Magazine)