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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overall the best cycle of Beethoven
In spite of the strange arguements against Herbert K's 6th, I find this to be one of the finest interpretations of the Pastoral about. Instead of the usual slow intro and gradual speeding up of the older fashioned models of this piece we have here a slick and unforced manner. Not for some, but really this is the genius of the interpretation. Richard Osborne for some...
Published on June 8 2004 by David Lee

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sound quality a little disappointing
I never bothered to check the quality of classical music recordings until I bought this set. I'm used to listening to all DDD grade stuff, and this recording by Karajan is ADD. I'm sure some older listeners would rightly consider this set an improvement over a record or a cassette tape, and might even not notice any problem. But listeners acclimated to the more recent DDD...
Published on June 21 2003 by Jason M Crawford


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overall the best cycle of Beethoven, June 8 2004
This review is from: Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings) (Audio CD)
In spite of the strange arguements against Herbert K's 6th, I find this to be one of the finest interpretations of the Pastoral about. Instead of the usual slow intro and gradual speeding up of the older fashioned models of this piece we have here a slick and unforced manner. Not for some, but really this is the genius of the interpretation. Richard Osborne for some reason really discounted Karajan in this movement. I think he was wrong...instead period instrument people tend to do this opening of the Pastoral at the same tempo with which Karajan pursued his arguement!
As to the 5th it is really an epic reading...no strange ritardando or even any affectation. Szell is let down by a recording that sounds monochrome in comparison to this one. The artistry of Karajan is that he tends to be lean and lithe, and he avoids excessive shaping of phrases but always has excellent rythmic playing. Never stodgy anywhere. As to dynamics his Sforznados are always a joy and yet he allows the music to breathe.
The 9th is really a very strong interpretation and leaves Szell and Toscannini in the dust...here we have gloriously warm tone from the strings and very polished brass. The solo team is first rate and and so is the chorus! This is one of the problems we encounter with a number of interpretations.
As to the 4th it is the best in the entire CD catologue..no where is anyone near Herbert in understanding this piece except form Klemperer...beautifully paced with wonderful nuance. Flute and horn work throughout this entire recording is incredible.
The 7th is among the very finest...the opening is truly exciting with a wonderful lilt to the 6/8. Karajan is really able to do things no one ealse could ever do...this is a fine interpretation.
The 8th in F Major is wonderful in the golden tone which permeates the playing...Berlin is on top form here. The finale has a lightness lacking in Szell in Cleveland.
the Eroica is intense and far more straightforward than Szell in Cleveland. No disdainful rallentando's when they are not called for...Karajn keeps close to the quarter note through the entire opening movement. The Finale is performed with the best horn work ever.
The 1st and 2cd are truly beatiful and given Mozartian elegance without bombast.
This is Beethoven!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, at times.....but....., Dec 24 2003
This review is from: Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings) (Audio CD)
For me, one of the keys to realizing some measure of enjoyment from Karajan's Beethoven is to accept the fact he adheres to a certain kind of style that frequently projects drama, power and majesty, yet, at times, leaves something to be desired in terms of lightness of texture and emotional suppleness. This notwithstanding, there are moments when I feel his voice more closely resembles that of Beethoven than any conductor I have heard. I find this true especially in some of the more propulsive and imposing passages of mainly the odd numbered works. Sometimes, with other composers, I have been critical of this conductor's tendency toward muscular, smoothly molded contours, however, I feel this approach melds fairly well with a decent portion of the composer's persona. I'm certainly not alone when I state that while Karajan satisfies me in some areas of Beethoven, Walter, Cluytens and Bohm, for example, fulfill me in other areas, and, indeed, in some of the same areas as well. Concerning the various interpretations, I feel there is no "10" among complete sets of the Beethoven Symphonies, though of course many have their favorites, and aim to stand by them come "hell or high water".
I consider the 1963 Karajan to be among the best sets available. However, I feel the same about the sets of those conductors mentioned above. As for some other highly regarded conductors like Szell...well, let's just say it depends on my mood. Aside from his better moments, sometimes he gets a little too clinical and that tends to wear on me. I do admire Klemperer but there are times when I lose interest because of his slower tempos. The same is true for Furtwangler despite his fine moments.
In focussing on Karajan's individual performances, other than his partially misdirected "Pastorale" (where I feel Bohm reigns supreme), I have no glaring criticisms. The First is energetically paced, tuneful and nicely detailed. Though the Second is fine, there are moments when a little lightness in some spots would have helped. The Third is well paced and proportioned and powerfully executed. Very satisfying, except for the funeral march, which lacks real pathos. The Fourth is generally colorful and incisive. The Fifth is my favorite among Karajan's interpretations. It just seems right. Bold and grand, its tempos, pauses and inflections are on the mark. Especially satisfying is the way in which the horns are broadly and sonorously presented, though I wish the cellos in the third movement had more resinous bite. The Seventh is very good, but though emphatically stated and adequately charged, it remains earthbound, never really projecting that kind of Olympian quality found in the best versions, e.g. Reiner's with the Chicago Symphony. The Eighth is one of his best efforts. It is incisive and musical, with a nice third movement menuetto that is easy flowing and elegant. The Ninth, of course, is Beethoven's crowning jewel. After giving a good re-hearing to Karajan's reading, I still find myself impressed with its tremendous drive. Except for a few moments where things almost become a little hectic, I have little to criticize in the first movement. I find the second movement a shade too fast . The third is somewhat shallow in spiritual depth, a not uncommon characteristic of Karajan. Early in the last movement, the deep strings are not quite portentous enough. Otherwise, the last movement is very convincing, though it may lack the last bit of spirituality. This said, Karajan's Ninth remains one of my favorites. I also favor Klemperer's live stereo version on Testament (See my earlier review.) and Reiner's Chicago Symphony account (See my coming review.)
For those looking for a set, the task may take a while. If you wind up drawing firm conclusions after you've listened, that's fine. But try to go into the listening experience with as open a mind as possible. Some of you will feel the best approach is to avoid the boxed set and instead select single discs for the individual symphonies. Of course, there is no guarantee this will save you time and money or automatically reward you with "just what you were looking for". Happy hunting, though !
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sound quality a little disappointing, June 21 2003
By 
Jason M Crawford (Mebane, NC United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings) (Audio CD)
I never bothered to check the quality of classical music recordings until I bought this set. I'm used to listening to all DDD grade stuff, and this recording by Karajan is ADD. I'm sure some older listeners would rightly consider this set an improvement over a record or a cassette tape, and might even not notice any problem. But listeners acclimated to the more recent DDD recordings like me might be distracted. Because Beethoven's symphonic pieces fluctuate so much (volume-wise), I kept having to turn this ADD recording up because I couldn't hear, and then quickly turning it down again to avoid going deaf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Listeners reveal their biases, April 17 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings) (Audio CD)
Just remember, when someone says they like the Bohm/Vienna Beethoven, or the Klemperer Beethoven they're telling you very clearly what they like...they like their Beethoven plummy, over-serious, and altogether too square.
It amazes me how well this Karajan set holds up, even with all the fine Beethoven being recorded these days. The first and second symphonies are a bit heavy-footed for my taste, but not bad, considering when, and by whom, they were performed.
The from the Eroica on, though, Karajan nails things as well as anyone could. His 5th and his 7th are distinctly superior to the much-praised Kleiber/Vienna outing from the mid-70s...his Eroica is still one of the very best...and the 9th is still my personal favorite of all the recorded performances I've ever heard, bar none. The 7th from the 1977 cycle may have slight edge in overall excitement...but by then the orchestra was not playing with the same kind of care as in 1962...intonation is a big problem in the 1977 cycle, and the recorded sound is rather nasty at times.
So, others have revealed who else they like, and thus revealed their biases, so I will reveal mine. If I had to rank my favorite Beethoven Symphony cycles, more-or-less in order of preference, it'd go something like this:
1) Zinman/Zurich Beyond praise in every way. I swear, I don't think Zinman could conduct a bad note if his life depended on it.
2) Karajan/Berlin 1962. On balance, the most convincing and satisfying big-orchestra treatment of Beethoven available.
3) Bruggen/O18thCentury. Not to everyone's taste, I realize, but Bruggen's band is OUTSTANDING, and Bruggen himself has a very clear vision of Beethoven's symphonies, and realizes that vision with great verve, wit, virtuosity, and profound insight.
4) Gardiner/RRO Great stuff. It wouldn't be my only set, but, damn! What playing!
5) Harnoncourt/COE Wayward in places, but consistently interesting. I disagree violently with him on some things, love other things.
Others in no special order:
Furtwangler
Toscanini
I haven't heard Mackerras's set yet, but it's supposed to be terrific.
As for the also-rans like Bohm, davis, Klemperer, the big problem is their Beethoven is often boring. Who needs boring?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I should know better, Feb. 12 2002
By 
J. Grgurich (Arlington, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings) (Audio CD)
...These are fiery, robust, passionate performances. The sound of von Karajan and the BPO is strong yet agile--muscular, rich, and powerful.... These recordings "pop" out of the speakers. And von Karajan claims he's using the tempos that Beethoven set down in the score.
So I recommend this set of performances wholeheartedly. It has blown out the set by Bohm that I'd previously held dear......
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best, Nov. 7 2001
By 
Geoffrey A. White (Fall River, MA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings) (Audio CD)
How can one review do justice to the bulk of work contained in this set? I will start by saying that for the price, you ought to have your head examined if you call yourself a Beethoven fan and still don't get this cycle.
I have said that Karajan is a controlled conductor who lets the music speak for itself. Here is no exception. The performances are not muddled either. The Berlin Philharmonic and Karajan are a formidable team and play with measured precision and power characteristic of a German ensemble. This does not mean Karajan turns the symphonies into one of Lorin Maazel's staccato debacles. The music is soft and lush when it should be, and powerful and bold when appropriate.
Notable examples are the finales of the fifth and seventh symphonies. Every bit of Beethoven's emotion shines through, taking the listener for a roller coaster ride. Beethoven's magnificently plaintive second movements are divine on these recordings. Karajan and the BPO present a stark contrast between the passionate longing and majestic fire that characterizes Beethoven's symphonies.
One thing about sound quality- these are marvellous recordings. Although they are old, they are among the best ever. One small problem is that they are somewhat lopsided. By that I mean the volume inherent in the instruments matches the volume they achieve on the recording. The brass constantly outplay the woodwinds, even when the score calls for a more balanced sound. This is only a minor problem, but does detract from some passages.
Now let's move on to the Ninth- Karajan and the BPO are astounding in the first three movements. Karajan conducts at a good pace, one that leaves Bohm in the dust. The soloists in the fourth movement, especially that perfect moment when the baritone enters, are glorious. All four soloists are excellent, although I wish I could find a ninth with a warmer sounding tenor.
The chorus is superb. When the Vienna orchestra was first rehearsing this symphony so many years ago and the sopranos complained about the high notes of the finale, Beethoven (with characteristic charm) replied that he did not care about their "pathetic voices." All that mattered was the music. Well, if only Beethoven had worked with the chorus on this recording...! All said and done, a magnificent chorus.
If you are partial to the even numbered symphonies, this set delivers a romantic orchestra to what some call classical pieces. If you are in the mood for "orginal instruments" or anything closer approximating what these pieces originally sounded like, this set is not ideal. If you are looking for the best of modern recording and one of the best modern orchestras, this is a must-have. At such a price, you cannot go wrong with this set.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Beethoven cycle? Yes, it is., June 17 2000
By 
Into "voidness" (everywhereandnowhere) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings) (Audio CD)
Anyone who would give this cycle three stars has ears that are way jaded toward a particular "school" of performing practice. This set is excellent. These performances combine the athleticism, agility, and excitement of so called "period" performing practice, sans the sometimes annoyingly scrawny textures, with the weight of what has become a more "traditional modern" orchestral sound. Karajan's performances of 6-8 could stand to "smile" a little more, but those performances of plenty have excitement, and the rest of the cycle has adrenaline as well as grandeur. This is easily the best complete Beethoven cycle, regardless of price, if that's how you want to acquire these symphonies, and most of the individual performances are at the top of the list, as well, especially 2,3,4,5,&9.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beethovens nine symphonies, Jan. 24 2000
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This review is from: Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings) (Audio CD)
This is the best record of Beethoven's 9 Symphonies on earth. The digitally remastered version of this compilation cannot reach the quality of the original record. Karajan's inerpretation -exspecially of the fifth symphony- is fantastic. And the young Karajan has much more energy than he shows in the records of 1977 and 1984.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best in classical music ever produced !, May 7 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings) (Audio CD)
Must be heard, adequate comment impossible
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5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect copy of this venerable recording, Feb. 24 2014
By 
James Banner "trainman" (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) - See all my reviews
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Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings) (Audio CD)
With a used recording such as this there are actually two ratings involved - the material recorded and the recording medium itself. Both rated A-1. The Herbert Von Karajan recordings of these Beethoven symphonies are arguably the best and are certainly my favourites. To find a used CD in perfect condition available for pennies on the dollar is both unusual and a pure delight. The listing mentioned that the case was damaged and so it was, slightly. A new case made the set indistinguishable from brand new and is a very welcome addition to my music collection.
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Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings)
Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (1963 recordings) by Ludwig Van Beethoven (Audio CD - 1990)
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