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on December 18, 2012
I need MP3s of the late string quartets, so I bought this. String Quartet 15 is supposed to contain the "Heiliger Dankgesang," I think as the third movement. The movement I was expecting isn't here. Is it missing, or did one (or more) pieces get mislabeled? I am hoping someone more knowledgeable than me can either confirm that there was a mixup, or that there is another explanation.

UPDATE: As one of the commenters noted, Track 101 is from another work. It is the same as Track 81, from SQ 13. I also have found that the fourth movement of SQ 15 was split so part of it is the first approximately 47 seconds of Track 103. And I have found that Tracks 84 and 97 are the same. Dear Bach Guild, please fix this!

UPDATE #2 (12/29/12): Track 101 is now the correct third movement of SQ 15 (Correct track is 17:44; old incorrect track was 8:49). However my Cloud Player still has the incorrect track. I will wait for the other glitches and mis-labelings to be corrected before going through the exercise of contacting customer service to get the correct Track 101. As pointed out by other reviewers: The Waldstein piano sonata is out of order and not of good sound quality; Tracks 162-165 are mis-identified. Also Tracks 83 and 84 can be discarded if you have downloaded them.

UPDATE #3 (1/20/13): I contacted Customer Service to get the updated Track 101 (Third movement of SQ 15, "Heiliger Dankgesang." It is one of the "Most Moving" movements in all of Beethoven, so if you purchased this MP3 album prior to 12/29/12, please contact Customer Service to get this. I think that the other issues have not be corrected, but they aren't as jarring as not having the "Heiliger Dankgesang" in SQ 15.
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on December 19, 2012
Here we have hours and hours of Beethoven's best music, in performances ranging from good to superlative, mostly in good sound. What more do you want?

Well, there are a few glitches:

(1) As noted by another poster, the third movement of the String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132, isn't there. The third movement of the Quartet No. 12, Op. 127, has been inadvertently duplicated in its place. (Quartet No. 12 also has two extra movements: the last two movements of Quartet No. 13 have been duplicated and added to it.)

(2) The piano sonata listed as No. 26 is actually Sonata No. 12 in A-flat, Op. 26 ("Funeral March"). The Sonata No. 26 ("Les Adieux") is not included.

(3) The two tracks of the Piano Sonata No. 21 ("Waldstein") are reversed.

Hopefully Amazon will make the third movement of Quartet No. 15 available at some future time. For my own part, I can replace it out of my CD collection. I would have paid 99 cents just for Bruce Hungerford's wonderful performance of the little Op. 79 piano sonata, which hasn't been available since its original LP release. So unless that particular quartet is crucial, I'd jump on this release.
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The folks over at The Bach Guild division of eOne Music have outdone themselves this time to celebrate Beethoven's birthday in 2012. (Actually, December 17 was the date of his baptism, as his birthdate is uncertain -- but who's counting?).

This collection from the vaults of Vanguard Records is sure to please. It is full of both familiar "greatest hits" -- mainly in the symphonies and piano sonatas -- as well as delicious Beethoven rarities and pieces off the beaten track that even people with serious classical music collections will no doubt be dying to hear.

The highlight of the set for me is the collection of Piano Sonatas performed by Bruce Hungerford, a remarkable pianist who died in a tragic accident in 1977, before he could finish his recordings of the complete Beethoven sonatas for Vanguard. What he did complete is an amazing legacy of powerful, expressive performances that rank among the best recorded. (For a previous release of these recordings, see here.)

Then we have the late string quartets performed by the Yale String Quartet. Again, amazing performances that were certainly among the best available when recorded in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and still just as satisfying. Fantastic in sound and performance quality. Their "Grosse Fuge" -- which in my mind counts as the first place "modern" classical music made a stand, almost 90 years before Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" -- is amazingly fluid and really must be heard. The Yale Quartet gives the late quartets emotional and musical depth on par with anyone -- these performances stand the test of time. (See one of the previous releases of this music here.)

For me the biggest surprise in this set were the performances of Symphonies 3 and 5-7 with Sir Adrian Boult conducting the Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra of London (a precursor to the National Philharmonic Orchestra) in his later years. I wasn't expecting much from these. Boult was the ultimate interpreter of British music from the early 20th century, and I will always treasure his first cycle of Vaughan Williams' symphonies greatly, but Beethoven? I assumed these would be dull, but my goodness, I was very wrong. These are dramatic performances, recorded in beautiful, rich detail and terrific early stereo. (An earlier release of this material is found here-- perhaps credited to the London Philharmonic because the "Promenade Orchestra" at the time was made up mostly of London Phil players.)

Another set of jewels are the complete set of Cello Sonatas performed by Antonio Janigro and Jorg Demus. Wonderful classic performances that again, simply should not be missed. (See an older release here.)

Then we have two relatively seldom-heard full-length Beethoven works -- the full ballet of "The Creatures of Prometheus" and the complete incidental music to "Egmont", both of which are usually heard for the overtures only. Both performances are by the Utah Symphony under its great long-time conductor, Maurice Abravanel. Sadly I have to admit I hadn't paid much attention to either piece in its full length before, and I'm very pleased to have these recordings now. (See the LP releases for these here and here.)

To round things out, we have a further assortment of pieces for solo piano performed by Denis Mathews and Jorg Demus. The Demus recordings are general some bagatelles and simpler pieces, certainly simpler than the Sonatas performed by Hungerford. Denis Mathews offers a smorgasbord of variation pieces. The sound suffers somewhat in these sections, but enjoyable all.

Overall, this is an amazing set that outshines, in my view, the previous "Big Box" sets eOne has previously released, impressive as those have been. (For me, the Mahler set certainly comes close.) The sheer volume and quality of the material from the Vanguard vault -- and the fact that it goes far beyond the standard "Best of Beethoven" fare -- makes for a set that not even serious Beethoven collectors will want to pass up -- unless they already have all these recordings. Even they may want to pick this up, however, just to save themselves the trouble of ripping it all to their portable devices.

Happy birthday Beethoven! And to us all.
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on January 21, 2013
As many have noted, this set is an incredible bargain, especially for 99 cents. 15 hours of great music in good to excellent performances in pretty good sound is hard to beat, especially since these are full pieces rather than snippets. I'm especially impressed, so far, by Hungerford's sonnets for piano (which I'd always wanted to hear), Matthews performances of the piano variations, Abravanel's Creatures of Prometheus (a very interesting and hard to find piece), and the Yale Quartet's set of the late string quartets.

But, as the helpful reviews by N. Podaci and Sol L. Seigel have noted, there are a handful of glitches, the most important of which (omission of 3rd movement of SQ 15) was corrected by Customer Service, but the other ones not. Here's a quick guide to how to fix those glitches. In iTunes, you can make these changes by right clicking on a track, choosing "Get Info" from the pop-up menu, and then making the appropriate edit. First of all, reverse the order of the two movements of the Waldstein Sonata. Track 45 should be track 46, and vice versa.
Second, delete tracks 83 and 84. These are labeled as the last two movements of the Op. 127 String Quartet but they are really duplicates of the last two movements of the Quartet Op. 130. As you can see, track 82 is correctly labelled the "Finale" of Op. 127. Next, rename tracks 162-165. This piece is really Sonata No. 12, Op. 26 ("Funeral March"), not, as indicated, Sonata 26 ("Les Adieu"). You can google online for the correct tempo indicators for the four movements of Sonata No. 12. (Sonata 26 has only 3 movements!)
Once you've made these changes, you'll have a correctly labeled set of Beethoven masterpieces and all for less than a buck. I think its worth taking a couple of minutes to make it right. Enjoy!
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on December 18, 2012
I am not purchasing this set because I already own multiple recordings of most of this music, however I just wanted to mention that at $0.99 this set is a no-brainer. The Yale String Quartet renditions of Beethoven's later String Quartets are alone worth the price of the set. Those are truly magnificent. Even when the price jumps up, the inclusion of those tracks will still make the price a bargain.
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on December 21, 2012
(This review was re-written in April 2013) This generous helping of Beethoven originally had some major issues with mislabeled and out-of-order tracks, noisy cuts, and even a very significant missing track. The set was pulled and later replaced here at Amazon -- with all the major problems seemingly fixed!

The highlights for me are the complete late quartets by the Yale Quartet and fourteen of Beethoven's piano sonatas played by Bruce Hungerford, who was tragically killed before he could complete the cycle. All of these are excellent performances, particularly Hungerford who reminds me a lot of Emil Gilels (and that's a real compliment).

For the performances and recordings, and for the amount of music you get, this download may be the best bargain I've ever seen in classical music. If you want to REALLY get into Beethoven, get it. If you are curious to hear the music you already have in alternate performances, some quite rare now, well, get it too. Hey, at this price...
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on April 2, 2016
For .99, what a bargain! Most of these recordings back in LP days (1960s-1970s) were very highly regarded, and justifiably so. So why a deleted star? Because of the 1st movement of Piano Sonata No. 9. It's not the 1st movement of Sonata No. 9, but the 1st movement of Sonata No. 21 (the "Waldstein" Sonata). And the 1st movement of Sonata No. 9 is nowhere to be found. If you go to Sonata No. 21, you get the correct 1st movement there. Note the identical timings, 9:32 (the 1st movement of Beethoven's Sonata 9 by Hungerford takes 6:51, and with the pause before the 2nd movement, the track should total about 7:00, more or less). Trying to get all of Hungerford's Vanguard recordings on CD (Nos. 9,10,18,25 were never issued on a commercial CD), from this download I was able to burn a CDR to have those 4 Sonatas, but had to use for the 1st movement of the 9th Sonata the track from the CDR I made from the Vanguard LP several years ago (Vanguard LPs were never pristine). The only other Hungerford Vanguard recording never made available on CD or for downloading (to my knowledge) is Hungerford's13:00 arrangement of Schubert Landlers & Dances. Thus, my new CDR begins (1st movement of Sonata 9) and ends (the Schubert) with tracks made from LPs. The one bit of luck is that the 4 Sonatas + the Schubert total just over 79:00, making it still a very fine CDR, despite LP sounds on the 1st and last tracks. As I say, this whole Beethoven collection is an excellent buy.
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on March 19, 2013
Vanguard Bach Guild continues to impress with its ridiculously low-price MP3 Big Boxes, and this Beethoven set is no exception.

99¢ is all it takes to secure 15+ hours of great music, with many great performances included. You get Symphonies 3, 5, 6 & 7 conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, piano sonatas played by Bruce Hungerford, string quartets, incidental music, you name it.

There are some glitches in this set - the 3rd movement of the Op 132 String Quartet is missing, and the movements for the "Waldstein" Piano Sonata are mislabeled and sequenced incorrectly (and there's a horrible case of "CD skipping" near the end of the third movement). There are others, but they're covered in other reviews.

Download this and you're good to go for the foreseeable future, though those glitches may have you skipping over some of the selections.

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on December 27, 2012
Sounds almost too good to be true -- BUT IT'S TRUE! Chances are good that any fan of Beethoven will already have a number of the pieces included in this collection; however, chances are equally good that there are probably others that fill more holes in your collection than you might think. Buy them one at a time for $0.99 each (note: some of the cuts are not available individually), or shoot the moon at the astonishing cost of $0.99 for everything. There's no downside with this no-brainer. Just start the download for all 176 cuts, and then go make yourself a nice cup of coffee. Enjoy! I couldn't be happier.
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on December 18, 2012
My favorite thing about this set (and all of the Bach Guild's big box collections) is the variation they have in it. There are a lot of works in here that I don't know, and many WoO (work without Opus numbers, works that Beethoven either didn't see fit to have its own opus number or that he considered incomplete). Most sets take up *a lot* of room with all 9 Beethoven Symphonies, which are great, don't get me wrong, but most of us probably have this set.

This set is a great value. Even if you only like 4-5 pieces from it, at this price, you should buy it; you'll probably end up liking a lot more of it!
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