Herbert Blomstedt, the Swedish conductor, become the Chief Conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden in 1975, where he stayed until 1985. This was unusual given that Dresden was in the DDR -- East Germany. More unusual, Blomstedt was (and remains) a devout Seventh Day Adventist. He was leading the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in the same period (1977-1982), so he must have been quite busy. According to the Berlin Classics liner notes the SD, which chose Blomstedt, "was never looked upon very favourably by the ruling party."
The Staatskapelle Dresden is one of the world's oldest (founded in 1548) and finest symphony orchestras. It was certainly in prime condition from 1975 to 1980 when this Beethoven cycle was recorded. The recordings were made in the acoustically excellent Lukaskirche in Dresden. So the sound is magnificent. Blomstedt's interpretations, however, are not very exciting. The tempos are slow, and tend to sound sluggish when more dynamism is called for in the fast movements. It is in the slow movements that Blomstedt and this fine orchestra shine. The Adagio of the Third, for instance, is very moving in stark contrast to the more famous Karajan/BPO 1962 recording. In the Ninth, the Molto vivace is clumsy where it should be dazzling and light on its feet, but the Adagio is one of the finest I've heard, just incomparably lovely.
For Beethoven in a similar traditional vein I prefer Gunter Wand's cycle with the NDR Hamburg orchestra, recorded in the late 1980s. Perhaps the best, though, is the more recent cycle from Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin.
This is the latest in a series of Brilliant reissues of this cycle. It was originally released by Berlin Classics, and its most recent box, in the Brilliant style with the discs in cardboard sleeves, is also still available, with a booklet including liner notes.