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152 of 159 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are 3 versions of this 1963 set that differ in sound quality, price, and packaging.
This 1963 recording has been remastered twice. (It's been "reissued" a zillion times but I think it's only been "remastered" 2 times.) The version you should get depends on the amount of money you want to spend and the level of sound fidelity you're looking for.

-- ASIN # B000001GBQ: this item you're looking at DG429036; the least expensive version (also...
Published on May 20, 2006 by J. West

versus
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars *** 1/2 Ravishing yet somewhat monolithic at the same time
This set slips just a little every time I listen to it. Karajan's reputation of skating over the surface of the music, of going for texture at the expense of deeper expressivity and architecture, is often more than a little justified. There are moments of greatness here, but it's hard to tell sometimes if this is real interpretive greatness or merely the broken clock...
Published on August 13, 2001 by The Man in the Hathaway Shirt


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152 of 159 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are 3 versions of this 1963 set that differ in sound quality, price, and packaging., May 20, 2006
By 
J. West "jw library" (Flower Mound, TX United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) (Audio CD)
This 1963 recording has been remastered twice. (It's been "reissued" a zillion times but I think it's only been "remastered" 2 times.) The version you should get depends on the amount of money you want to spend and the level of sound fidelity you're looking for.

-- ASIN # B000001GBQ: this item you're looking at DG429036; the least expensive version (also same as import package ASIN # B000056OBA)

-- ASIN # B000001GZ4: 1997 remaster DG453701 (done as part of the special 87-disc 20-volume Beethoven Complete Edition). This version is about $25 more and also has a nice color book with history and photos. Used "Original-ImageBit-Processing" technology.

-- ASIN # B0000C03AH: 2003 remaster to SACD DG474600. This version at a hundred+ bucks is 4 times the cost of the basic set.

(And no doubt in the future there will be another remaster using another whizbang technology like "holographic projection" sound.)

I recommend the 1997 remaster (B000001GZ4). It has the best value combination of price and sound quality.
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124 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best overall cycle available, October 19, 2000
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This review is from: Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) (Audio CD)
I agree with the Amazon reviewer that, of all Karajan's Beethoven traversals, this one is the best, and I also believe it serves as a great introduction to Beethoven's symphonies as a whole. Like any interpretation of such well-loved works, there will always be a few points of disagreement, but overall Karajan's vision prevails. And at this price, one can certainly afford to augment this collection here and there with another conductor's interpretation.
Every symphony here bears the trademark Van Karajan clarity and precision, but unlike his later recordings of Beethoven, there is also plenty of fire and passion. I really like the tempos he chooses for the fifth and the seventh (my favorite). Ever since I bought Karajan's 1963 interpretations of these two a number of years ago, I've never really liked any other conductor's treatment of the finales of these two symphonies, Karajan's seem that perfectly done to me. The first, second, fourth, and eighth are all excellent interpretations, and they will remind any listener that, although they are not considered among Beethoven's colossal achievements, perhaps they should be (especially the fourth). While he might have put a bit more bounce into the eighth, which is without doubt Beethoven's jauntiest symphony, I find that's just a minor quibble on my part.
With the third, sixth and ninth, you won't be disappointed by any means, since none of these interpretations is anything but excellent. But after you listen to them for a while and decide that these symphonies are essential to living a long and happy life, you might want to cast around for alternatives to complement Karajan. It's generally acknowledged that Karajan's 1977 recording of the ninth is his best, and that it is among the greatest interpretations of all time. It's also available on a single disk. For the third, Otto Klemperer, hands down. After Karajan heard Klemperer conduct the third in the 1950's, he visited Klemperer backstage to congratulate him and said that he hoped he would live long enough to one day conduct the slow movement of this symphony as well as Klemperer had done it. High praise indeed. For the sixth, either Karl Bohm or Klemperer again.
That said, I think any lover of Beethoven, or anyone just starting out on getting together a Beethoven collection, should have this set. And it's rare to find such a generous price attached to such a formidable collection.
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109 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Beethoven symphony set out there so far, December 12, 2000
This review is from: Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) (Audio CD)
Over his 35year tenure with the Berlin Philharmonic Herbert von Karajan recorded 4 complete Beethoven symphony cycles. This 1963 one is his masterpiece. Just as there are people who like either the even- or the odd-numbered symphonies better, this set will not please everybody in every single aspect, but it is as good as anybody can get on an artistic proposition of this format. The cycle conveys a very clear artistic vision. Probably better than anything else Karajan ever recorded it epitomizes the unique sound he was able to create with 'his' Philhramonic. This makes the cycle very homogenous, all symphonies have the same overall very high quality. In contrast to some of his very early Viennese recordings, his pace is quicker, and as always he creates a wonderful transparency of sound. My personal favorites are #7 and #9, the latter is done wonderfully both in terms of soloists and choir. An extremely moving experience. The sound quality of this '63 recording is very good, but with Deutsche Grammophon one is generally never disappointed in that regard anyway.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1963 Karajan & David Zinman: Two of the Best Sets, March 9, 2005
By 
Paul W. (KL, Malaysia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) (Audio CD)
I have 3 different Beethoven Nine Symphonies sets now:

(1) 'The Beethoven Collection' by Janos Ferencsik (ASIN: B000001VVY)

(2) 'Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies' by David Zinman (ASIN: B00000IFP6)

(3) 'Beethoven: 9 Symphonien' by Herbert von Karajan (ASIN: B000001GBQ).

The first one is a budget set and has taken early retirement since I acquired the latter two, which I found to be far superior. Yet, there is a difference between the latter two.

The critically acclaimed David Zinman edition is slightly lightweight, but has the advantage of speed and dramatics and really grabs your attention. For those times when I feel bored and need something exciting to perk me up, that's when I reach for the David Zinman edition. It is Beethoven driven at a very fast pace, as mentioned by numerous others earlier.

The widely acknowledged 1963 Herbert von Karajan edition has a large grand orchestral sound which is warm and lush; I reach for it when I want to unwind and enjoy sweet orchestral music. The quality of the recording is still excellent despite its age, and if you are coming over to classical music from smooth Jazz, this is an easier transition.

I strongly recommend these 2 sets - if you like your Symphonies hot and exciting go for the Zinman edition; if you want something warm and lush, go for the 1963 Karajan edition, or better still, grab both sets like me.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very reqarding as a whole, February 12, 2003
This review is from: Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) (Audio CD)
This is (with the probable exception of the Pastoral) an outstanding set of recordings. Karajan captures the fire within Beethoven's music and brings the phenomenal best out of the Berlin musicians. The reason that this set is treated with contempt by some 'well-informed' reviewers is that it comes as the benchmark in Beethoven performance. Some people have been familiar with these recordings for 40+ years and consequently when different performance styles came about, they were treated as a 'much needed breath of fresh air'. Well, of course they were to such people. However, this doesn't detract from the immediacy or brilliance of the music making in this set. In many ways this is the ideal introduction into Beethoven's symphonic canon, without the extremes or quirkiness of the 'period influenced' Harnoncourt or Gardiner. As has been mentioned, the sixth is a slight disappointment, overly rushed and lacking the spacious, joyful sigh of relief that is required in the final movement. Thus, a separate purchase of Bohm or Walter's recording of this work is to be recommended. However, with this set being as inexpensive as it is, this extra purchase scarcely makes it uneconomical.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best cycles out there - if not the best!, May 4, 2007
This review is from: Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) (Audio CD)
The 9 Symphonies play a great role in my life because of their sheer beauty and touching deepness. So I have obtained a lot of recordings of these pieces through the years, some of them on CD, some on casette, some on LP. And there are the concerts, of course. As a natural consequence, I have listened to a lot of different interpretations of these masterpieces. All interpretations (well not all but a great majority) have their moments but when I listen to Maestro Karajan's recordings of these, I always discover something that wasn't there the last time I heard. Karajan has always been critiqued for being too mechanical, too much in control but he always introduced something new to the music through his interpretation... The artistical point of the 1963 Karajan cycle has already been talked about a lot, I've got nothing more to say about it, I can only repeat that this cycle is perpahs the best cycle you will ever find. It is one of those works which become to be the yardstick for the later recordings to be compared with.

I was most pleasantly surprised to discover that the sound quality is phenomenal for a 1963 recording, it is better than more recent ADD records. The sound engineering is also very good, it is like having the full orchestra play for you in youor living room. The deep notes of the double basses go right through you while the violins tease your ears in a most pleasent way. So, the sound quality is just great.

I also would like to talk about the CD design, which is something very important for me. I know it is strange but I like to own CDs that have good design. Of course the included material is a lot more important but... Anyway, there are two CD cases with the first one including the first 6 symphonies on 3 CDs, and the other presenting the remaining three on 2 CDs, with the last CD contains the 9th. CDs have mirror surface with the classic DG logo and the contents are listed on the CD itself as well as the booklet. The booklet offers a good read on the 9 symphonies and the cycle presented with the set.

I hope you will enjoy the set as much as I do...
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Endorsed by 9 out of 10 top athletes-haha., February 24, 2000
By 
Trevor Gillespie "sol_man" (San Jose, California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) (Audio CD)
This cycle of Beethoven symphonies is great for a number of reasons. The Seventh symphony is especially pleasing. Compared to many other recordings of this symphony, it is the most exciting. In the fourth movement, the intensity is incredible. Other performances lack compared to this one. The playing of the Berlin Philharmonic is superb. The Eroica symphony is great as well. Then there is the 9th Symphony. This has to be the very best recording of the Ninth Symphony ever recorded and it's my guess that it won't be passed. This set may not have the best recordings of every symphony, but it is the best cycle available of the symphonies, and it does come with at the very least two of the greatest recordings of Beethoven's symphonies. This box set is a great introduction to Beethoven, a great addition to collections that already have lots of Beethoven, and a landmark set for Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good set, August 16, 2007
By 
Teemacs (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) (Audio CD)
Herbie von K. remains a divisive figure in the musical world, even after his death. It is fair to say that, currently, he is not flavour of the month. Even at the time of this set's first release in the early '60s, the critics criticised Karajan's "glossy and glamorous" reading of Beethoven, made largely possibly by having the best orchestra on the planet under his baton. It was, to use an Australian expression, all show and no go.

And yet...

Listen to that Fifth. Listen to how quietly Karajan takes the end of the third movement, and how he relentlessly builds the tension until the joyous explosion of the fourth movement. For me, this recording at least matches the famous (and justly praised) Kleiber recording.

Listen to the Ninth. Listen to the delightful touches, to the ting of the triangle in the Turkish March, to the way the piccolo rises out of the orchestra as the volume builds towards the great string run that leads to the final appearance of the famous "Ode to Joy" chorus. And just listen to those strings sing and the way the double basses thunder along underneath it all. If I had to take one Ninth to my desert island, it would be this one.

There are things that are not so good of course. In the Pastoral, in the first movement "feelings of joy on arriving in the country", one can only assume that Karajan is sampling the joys in his Porsche. However, whoever gets a complete set of Beethoven symphonies right, whatever "right" means? Not Karajan, but not anyone else either. In my opinion, this is marvellous music making, in which the good things handily outnumber the bad, and at this price it is irresistible - which is, of course, why I didn't.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars *** 1/2 Ravishing yet somewhat monolithic at the same time, August 13, 2001
This review is from: Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) (Audio CD)
This set slips just a little every time I listen to it. Karajan's reputation of skating over the surface of the music, of going for texture at the expense of deeper expressivity and architecture, is often more than a little justified. There are moments of greatness here, but it's hard to tell sometimes if this is real interpretive greatness or merely the broken clock telling the right time twice a day.

As a *general* rule Karajan scores better in the "dramatic" symphonies. The first two are uninvolved--I don't feel his heart is in them, and for a really convincing middle-of-the-road reading try Felix Weingartner with the Vienna Philharmonic. You'll have to deal with 1930s sound (very good 1930s sound), but it's worth it, and Weingartner's handling of the First Symphony's slow movement is a revelation. Karajan's Third gets a reading that is often considered one of the very best--some feel the very best. But to my ears it's too smoothed over--I don't hear the danger, the revolutionary aspects. Compared to Furtwangler, Wengartner again, or especially Cluytens, this is a tame performance. Additonally, Karajan omits the first movement expositional repeat, which really throws things off kilter structurally. Earlier conductors can be excused for this in the age of the 78, but in the era of the LP there's no reason, and without it, one doesn't notice Beethoven's subtle handling of transitions so well. Karajan's Fourth is charmless and forgettable--the old man had no sense of humor (the young man probably didn't either). The Fifth is a whirlwind, especially the first movement, which is impressive for its sheer power, if not any interpretive insights or nuances. It won't displace Carlos or Erich Kleiber, but it's very fine and worth hearing to sample the BPO in full cry. The Sixth is a travesty. Karajan isn't taking us on a trip to the countryside--he's flying over it at 40,000 feet in his jet. Expression is nil, phrasing is non-existent, humor is lost. I'm not expecting Bruno Walter--that's not HvK's temperment--but he has nothing to say here and even sounds a little embarrassed by the whole naive thing. The "redemption" finale is mechanical--this *can* be very moving if done by a conductor who has conviction. The Seventh is *the* masterpiece of the set: exquisite tempi, fine clarity, an Allegretto that is taken at the right tempo and with the right rhythmic inflections (the repeated notes in the opening phrases have dashes, dammit) yet not a sense of rushing past the drama. Carlos Kleiber and Karajan have this symphony nailed like no others. The Eighth is a real powerhouse, especially in the first movement, but I almost wonder if this is what this music is about. Karajan attacks the development in the first movement as though he were conducting the 5th. It's thrilling, but...well, you be the judge. We could do with more humor in the second movement and sensitivity in the third. For comparisons, hear Cluytens, Norrington (that's right!), Walter, Casals. The Ninth is headstrong and agitated, maybe a little too so. There are spots where it needs to breathe, such as the first movement's funeral coda. The scherzo is oddly unsatisfying to me--maybe this is just a personal thing. But I don't get a strong sense of rhythm (never Karajan's forte anyway) and I do get too much speed, but not enough "creep." The timpani could also be more forceful here. The slow movement could be more heartfult, without becoming excessively romantic. There's little "spiritual" in this reading from someone who was supposed to be such a spiritual conductor. The finale is very fine, with a well-matched quartet of singers and particularly strong contributions from Janowitz...but why is the tenor always the weak link in a 9th? Sound is good for the time, but a little unfocused, especially on the low end. Despite my reservations, the price of this boxed set is definitely right, it compared favorably to DG's other slim box set--Bernstein's--and no complete cycle "has it all," so Karajan scores no worse than some other distinguished maestros. But you'll be wanting alternatives for most of these performances, especially the charmless even-numbered symphonies. The curious Beethoven listener should check out Furtwangler's wartime performances on Music & Arts, Cluytens cycle from the late 50s on Seraphim (which has an especially magnificent 3rd), Abbado, Klemperer, Walter, both Kleibers, and even Hogwood (for the 4th and 5th) and Norrington (for the 8th). And Weingartner is coming back into the catalog, with some recordings that rank among the best ever. I find when I just want to hear a familiar symphony is good, warm sound I grab one of these recordings, but when I want to be challenged I go elsewhere. Karajan devotees, of course, will consider these criticisms to be blasphemous, and will continue to think that Herbie recorded The Best Everything Out There Ever.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, April 6, 2010
This review is from: Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) (Audio CD)
Before we start - please forgive any inevitable over-simplifications (and spelling mistakes).
Whilst the debate pertaining to which interpretation (the Wagnerian 'Germanic' idiom as propounded by the philosophical Furtwangler or the leaner 'Italian' reading by Toscanini) of Beethoven's superlative symphonies is the stronger/more accurate/more enjoyable is, possibly, an adventure slightly wasteful of time that could be better spent on savouring magnificent music. It is enough (hopefully) to say that these interpretations are a more than convincing marriage of the two roads - Karajan's 'third way' of Beethoven - though Karajan leans towards Toscanini in tempo but compensates with lyrical phrasing and that stylish polish that makes his flare shine all the more.

Much has been commented about such surface gloss and superficial beauty and, for good or ill, it is in evidence in these performances. Here, though, for me, there is a side to Karajan that may not be in evidence elsewhere in his discography. This is a conductor who cherishes the music he makes - one can here it in the mystical forces active in the hypnotic opening to Symphony no. 4; in the dramatic presence of the unmatched 5th; in the intoxicating rhythms of 'the apotheosis of dance', Symphony no. 7; in the touching humour and straightforward melodies of the 8th.

Enough of defending the conductor. What is the music really like?

Symphonies 1 & 2 are satisfactory. It is a struggle to find inspirational performances of these symphonies (Szell and Cleveland are good) but these are more than adequate for a building a collection.

'Eroica'! An initial testimony to Beethoven's superiority over most - if not all - other symphonists. This masterwork catalysed Beethoven's career and, strangely, it was a live performance with a small provincial orchestra that launched Karajan on the road to renown. From this recording it is easy to see why Karajan's interpretation caused such a sensational stir. Typically, the opening movement has all the power and drama one expects from this conductor and orchestra. The second movement has a swirling darkness of despair - marcia funebre this is and more. The scherzo has a delightful magnificence and rousing sense of heroism. The whole symphony is performed in a heavily inevitable manner that befits this, the first of romantic symphonies. I struggle to think of a rival but Klemperer's recording on EMI is a classic. Interestingly, it was a live performance, led by Klemperer, of 'Eroica' that left an indelible mark upon Karajan.

No. 4 - easy to be brief her. Many critics wax lyrical about this performance. It is one of the greats - Karajan never had it so good in this symphony again. Few can match this.

No. 5 - Again, this was probably Karajan's best 5th though the new release of his mid-late 70's 5th in 24-bit is worth investigating. Few can match the demonic energy, power and drama of this recording. With the inspired BPO led by an equally inspired maestro this music comes to life in spite of its overtones and undercurrents of death and unremitting tragedy. The transition from scherzo to finale, from dark despair to immutable human victory, is handled well and with a subdued vigour that allows the finale to burst dramatically from the chains that the previous movements bind it with. Carlos Kleiber's first rate performance with the VPO is one of the few rivals to Karajan and is top notch.

Symphony no. 6 is a let down - simple as. Karajan is unresponsive to much of Beethoven's finer composition in this recording. This is disappointing considering the wonderful 6th he recorded with the Philharmonia in London in the 50's. The mid-late 70's 6th also has wonderful detail and is also available in lush 24-bit with the 5th and 9th of the same era. Karl Bohm's interpretation of the sixth is highly thought of but his 'haphazard' way can turn people off, though it is a decent recording and performance. Bohm has everything that Karajan lacks here - "a relaxed drive with due care and attention" and an orchestra that seems to have been more connected with the music at the time.

Karajan seemed to have a special connection to the 7th (like his idol, Toscanini). This performance shows potential and promise but is not the best seventh around. Karajan's later 70's performance is similar but in every respect superior. Something can also be said for his final account in cold digital sound but it is hard hitting and seriously exciting. Of course, we cannot mention the seventh without regard to Carlos Kleiber's monumental account though later Karajan does come very close.

Symphony no. 8 - 'my little symphony' as Beethoven referred to it. There may be superior accounts to be found but they will only have their heads or noses in front of this one.

No. 9 - what a joy. Here, the first movement has a great tragic element throughout. I don't believe it to be emotional moribund as others do but there are more spiritual and emotive performances on record. The drama builds throughout the movement to a point where every note seems to have a punch of its own no matter how small it appears in the grand scheme. The second movement has the typical Beethovenian demonic force fed by the overwhelming forward force of Karajan. The adagio is a thing of beauty. This is paced between the swifter modern interpretation that places great emphasis on the intercourse between the various elements of the orchestra and the older stately pace that speaks of deep human emotion - in all it comes off well and Karajan concentrates to the very end (unlike some who seem to wander aimlessly in this movement). Yet, to think that Beethoven contemplated leaving the symphony here at the disintegration of the adagio - not to include the 4th movement would have been a crime against humanity, surely. The Choral finale is in a class of its own. Though some have maligned this interpretation for being too swift I find it strange to discover that, often, the same people recommend the likes of Mackerras or Gardiner for this symphony. Personally, I find the tempo near perfect throughout - it lends itself to the rest of the cycle regarding the interpretation being slightly more Toscanini than Furtwangler. The quartet of singers are fantastic - few recordings can match this one on that account - though the choir is backwardly balanced but not as badly as some older recordings (e.g. Furtwangler in 1951). The orchestra are also superb throughout.

A big concern in this set is that in crucial double or treble forte parts the recording equipment sounds like it has been overdriven to the point where much sound has been lost - a very big negative. Other people have also noticed that at crucial points (the forte statements of the Eroica theme and, most heartbreaking of all, the big choral restatement in the 4th movement of the 9th) the sound has been compressed - don't ask me why but it has damaged the overall conception here. The recent releases of this cycle on hybrid-SACD has meant considerable remastering and rebalancing which has gone a long way to rectifying the recording issues (one cannot expect miracles, though and, though the compression may have been removed the recording still fails to deliver at crucial moments). Bad DG! Despite the fact that the remasterings were PCM rather than DSD, both layers sound superior to this one. (Some more attuned to LPs may find it hopelessly over processed but I can't comment - being a child of the nineties, CDs are the only option for me).

Overall, a very good cycle but by no means perfect. As individual components each symphony can be seen as a let down but as an holistic vision, the cycle comes off rather well. Personally, I think it quite excellent but you must make your own mind up. You will not hear as I hear and you may not like what I like. For beginners I would advise collecting these symphonies one or two at a time in truly acclaimed performances by various orchestras and conductors. For instance Klemperer's third could be considered superior to the present third and Kleiber's 5th and 7th are considered definitive. In the world of music, however, it is for the individual to make their own way - would we have it any other way?

PS There is a live recording of the Ninth under Karajan on the BPO's own label (Berliner Philharmoniker) in their limited edition 'changing times' series which I believe to be preferable to the present ninth. For further info, read my review of it on Amazon.co.uk (I can't find it on Amazon.com), ASIN:3898162664.
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Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963)
Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) by Ludwig van Beethoven (Audio CD - 2007)
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