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Customer Discussions > Classical Music forum

I Need Beethoven Sets: 1, 2, 3: Symphonies, String Quartets, and Piano Sonatas

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Showing 1-25 of 25 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 20, 2012 1:05:39 PM PST
Dmitri says:
Instead of making a thread separately for Beethoven's Symphonies, String Quartets, and Piano Sonatas. I am asking for all three at once.

I have already considered the Beethoven Complete Box. But I think I can do better with separate box sets for each item.

Help! Thanks ahead of time.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 1:16:44 PM PST
KenOC says:
Dmitri, just a reminder:


String quartets:

Piano sonatas:

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 2:01:15 PM PST
R. Schroeder says:
What are you looking, classical/romantic, does sound quality matter?

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 3:08:35 PM PST
Dmitri says:

Thanks for those links Ken. I stopped at the symphony recommendations and got lost (in a good way) for a couple of hours.

R Schroeder

I guess I am looking for fast symphonies, expressive (slow or slower) string quartets, and neatly played piano sonatas. Digital first choice. Stereo a must. No Mono please.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 4:08:02 PM PST
Yi-Peng says:
For the Symphonies I can gladly give you Gardiner's DG box set. Beethoven: The Symphonies and also Chailly's 1 year old Decca cycle Beethoven: the Symphonies. I know people will hate me and put me in their black books for advocating these recent cycles with "revisionist" tendencies on how Beethoven should sound. However, these can be stylistically accurate yet musically engaging cycles. Gardiner's cycle in particular holds up very well. It's a musically engaging yet stylistically accurate cycle and I' m pleased to note that it hardly sounds unfeeling.

I'll gladly offer you the Emerson Quartet Beethoven cycle Beethoven: the String Quartets. I've rather liked this cycle tremendously.

For the Sonatas I'll put in my tuppence'worth of Brendel's digital cycle Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas. I'm very fond of Brendel's playing in these late recordings. His music-making is deeper and more considered.

All these three cycles are a very good bargain.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 4:17:07 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 4:17:29 PM PST
Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas [Box Set]
can be had pretty cheap used. nice interpretations, bernard roberts doesn't get in the 'way' of the music. same can be said for their companion release of the quartets by the mediciBeethoven: Complete String Quartetsonly they are even cheaper.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 6:14:25 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 6:15:03 PM PST
WH says:
Dmitri, Ken's lists, recommendations, and links are great.

For the symphonies, I love the Gardiner, the 1962 Von Karajan, and one further down the recommended list: namely, the Osmo Vanska, which has amazing sound and wonderful detail. But all three are amazing in their own way.

For the quartets, I have the top two, the Takacs and the Alban Berg Quartett. The Takacs, for me, is simply unsurpassed. I'm baffled that the three boxes have not been reissued as a single box. Start with their Late Quartets box and work backwards. The Takacs have some wonderful wildness and (deliberate) rough edges, whereas the Alban Berg are a bit too elegant for me--that's great with the early quartets. But they're still brilliant. Please note that the Alban Berg has been reissued at a further reduced price: Complete String Quartets (note the great price at some of the Amazon sellers).

For the sonatas, I have the Paul Lewis, which I find extraordinary. I also have the Stephen Kovacevich, which I'm less enthusiastic about; for me, he's best on the Hammerklavier.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 6:24:44 PM PST
KenOC says:
WH, these are all great recommendations -- meaning that they closely match my own!

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 6:30:04 PM PST
George says:
Symphonies - Wand on RCA or Barenboim on Teldec
Quartets - either Vegh (stereo on Valois) or Italiano (on Philips)
Sonatas - Annie Fischer or Gulda (Amadeo or Brilliant or Decca Eloquence) or Backhaus on Decca Original Masters

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 7:08:34 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 7:37:13 PM PST
K. Beazley says:

I can only offer you what's from my own collection:

Symphonies: The Beethoven Symphonies Live from The Edinburgh Festival [Box Set]

These are possibly as "fast" as any, but with such a wonderful sense of rhythm & pulse. The thing that strikes me the most is how they all sound so "newly minted", like the music of a young man in full flight, yet Mackerras was 80 when he conducted them. They're live, but there is very little audience noise & no applause. This set for me covers the same ground as Beethoven-Harnoncourt: 9 Symphonies, but is even better.

I also have Beethoven: Nine Symphonies, & I'm sure that it's a case of "swings & roundabouts" between this & the earlier '63 cycle, but I for one prefer this one, especially for the tenor & bass in the "Choral".

String Quartets: Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets. This set is so often rated amongst the best, & the playing is first rate, but these days I find the recording too forward, with the mikes too close to the instruments, & their interpretations are hardly ever "relaxed", favouring intensity over poetry too often for my liking. I would love to find an alternative & hope that someone like the Quatuor Mosaïques would be able to record a cycle on gut strings.

Piano Sonatas: Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas [Box Set]. I had this set originally on LP, & replaced it when CD came out. I'm sure Ashkenazy plays as well as anyone, & there may be better single disc examples, but as a set I can imagine it being equalled but not necessarily being bettered, & Decca's well-known reproduction of the piano is exemplary, & consistent across the range.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 7:18:56 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 7:20:14 PM PST
For Beethoven Symphonies, I would recommend George Szell, since all the Furtwangler recordings would be mono. Bruno Walter was in decline when he made is cycle with the Columbia Symphony, but that is also a decent cycle with a famous Beethoven 6th. You could also go with individual recordings of each symphony by different orchestra. The Szell cycle is excellent, though the cd with the 4th and 7th symphonies is out of print at the moment, since Sony has foolishly allowed so many great George Szell and Bruno Walter recordings to go out of print. There is also a box set of Szell and Fleisher doing the concertos, which is now back in print. I would also suggest the recent EMI Box set by Otto Klemperer, or the Osmo Vanska cycle.

For Piano Sonatas, I strong recommend Maurizio Pollini, even though he has yet to do an entire cycle. I believe Pollini has done 25 of the 32 sonatas, but DG doesn't seem all that motivated to complete the cycle.

For String Quartets, I have the Emerson String Quartet, and its a good recording.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 7:23:09 PM PST
KenOC says:
The Bruno Walter Beethoven cycle, in fine Sony remasters, is available at an astonishing price, if you don't mind downloads. I hear no evidence of "decline."

Beethoven, Vol. 03 - The 9 Symphonies

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 7:33:19 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 7:34:21 PM PST
R. Schroeder says:
If you want fast symphonies, Gardiner and Zinman come to mind. Zinman used to be pretty cheap, and I've enjoyed it quite a bit. I was less impressed with Vanska, doesn't sound like anything special to me. I haven't listened to all of the Chailly set yet, but I've liked what I've heard so far. Its certainly not fast, but the Barenboim/Berlin Staatskapelle is very good.

Emerson String Quartet is good, I like it, but wouldn't call it expressive or slow. I'd check out the Cleveland quartet perhaps.

Brendel is excellent in the sonatas, although I prefer his middle cycle more than the last digital one. Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas & Concertos It definitely is cleanly played, and has a wonderful sound to it.

I've also enjoyed Barenboim's DG cycle and Paul Lewis' I would recommend any of those without reservation.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 7:56:20 PM PST
>I guess I am looking for fast symphonies,

Krivine's new set: Complete Symphonies

> expressive (slow or slower) string quartets,

That's a harder task - most of the modern sets tend to be on the faster side of things. I like George Perkins' choice of the Vegh, but that's hard to come by. Another possibility would be the Smetana Quartet, but they're also out of print and tough to find. Perhaps the Guarneri?

> and neatly played piano sonatas.

Gulda (mentioned elsewhere), or Buchbinder Beethoven: Piano Sonatas.


In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 8:04:40 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 10:42:37 PM PST
Dimitri, the three guides Ken delivered are the best I've seen.

Given your desires (fast symphonies, expressive string quartets, neatly played sonatas, digital/stereo, no mono), I think I'd suggest looking into Gardiner's symphonies, the first Tokyo Quartet set of the quartets (1989-1992 Princeton, just reissued as a box on BMGSony's Classical Masters series), and Richard Goode's sonatas set.

All of these are digital stereo, and all of them appear in Ken's guides. Of course the guides make other, equally interesting suggestions. I'm limiting myself to suggesting digital stereo and to Gardiner, Tokyo I, and Goode because I have these three sets and listen to them regularly.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 8:42:56 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 20, 2012 8:55:37 PM PST]

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 12:42:56 AM PST
Ken, I have both the Walter Sony set (downloaded at your suggestion many months ago, for which thanks) and an earlier set of his recordings in mono, and indeed there is no sense of "Decline". Ignoring sound quality, I prefer the later set, especially the possible incomparible No.4.

For a set of the symphonies, my first choice would have to be the last of Eugen Jochum's three cycles, with the London SO, now available in an EMI Icon Box. Immensely satisfying, rhythmically alert, sensitive, and although everyone goes on about his "Furtwanglerian Credentials", I find he does what Furtwangler does without being quite so irritating......sorry, Edgar! The other sets in the traditional Beethoven style I love are Gunter Wand's on RCA and Andre Cluytens on EMI. All three sets are with decent-enough orchestras too (!)

Quartets: I am a big fan of the Lindsays earlier set, although they are very very intense, and don't necessarily make for comfortable listening - does this matter??? - but also the Talich set on Calliope, which has recently been repackaged:

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets

As to the Sonatas, I am very happy with Barenboim's set on EMI, but I also have several individual recordings, and tend to listen to individual performances.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 12:48:16 AM PST
KenOC says:
Bartok, #4 of that set is indeed a winner. Also #2 in my exceedingly humble opinion!

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 12:51:46 AM PST
Ken, are you aware of the existence of the other Bruno Walter box? On the United Artists (?) label, red box, recordings with the New York Phil and others from the late 40's early 50's. Good stuff, but like Jochum he left his best 'til last.....

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 12:56:42 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 12:57:00 AM PST
Bill Kasimer - re the Smetana Quartet's Beethoven cycle.

Supraphon are currently slowly putting out all their older Beethoven recordings in cheap boxes - the concertos in one, Suk and Panenka in the Violin Sonatas, Paul Kletzki in the symphonies (really excellent, by the way!); I would keep an eye out for the Quartets box if and when it comes, as it will surely be the Smetana's set. I have many of them on LP, and it will be worth the wait.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 1:05:55 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 1:17:25 AM PST
Larkenfield says:
I have the Walter cycle and I also do not hear any decline. But I have mixed feelings about the performance of the 9th, because the first two movements were recorded with the same wonderful energy of the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in the City of the Angels and the last two movements sound boring and flat by comparison, perhaps because the recording was completed on the East coast with the Westminster Choir and the NYP in an entirely different setting, and I think the change in orchestra interrupted the overall flow of the recording. I find the difference in feeling and momentum to be noticeable and an anticlimactic and disappointing end to one of the great Beethoven cycles. Other than that, I feel these are wonderful recordings that transcend categories or listening requirements of any kind. It's only in the final two movements where there's an apparent lack of energy, at least according to my ears, and where a certain degree of dullness unfortunately seems to prevail. I love the Walter performances because far too often the composer's humanity is lost at the expense of too much explosive thunder and lightening. Beethoven had his serene movements as well. Lark ♬

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 1:06:15 AM PST
KenOC says:
The Smetana set? Please post when you see it!

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 1:11:02 AM PST
Only when I've got my copy, Ken!

I used to wait until I could get over to Prague before buying Supraphon new releases, as they used to be so much cheaper; not true these days, alas. I got the Neumann Dvorak set in the summer on Amazon, as it was 1200Kcs in Prague, that's £40 or $60 ish?

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 2:14:34 AM PST
MacDoom says:
Fast symphonies? Not for me - I'll skip a recommendation here, as it would be wrong for you.

Experessive string quartets: The Leipzigers did them, and their version has everything I missed in the ABQ, including sumptuous sound and a much more relaxed view. No complete set as yet, but all available individually. Here's one; no doubt the recommendations will lead you to all the others. Beethoven: String Quartets in F Major, Op. 59/1 & Op. 14/1

Sonatas: 'neatly played' sounds almost scary - who doesn't? So I'll just mention a very good cycle often overlooked: Pludermacher's (including a riveting Diabelli set). Beethoven/Pludermacher - Complete piano sonatas & Diabelli variations is a no-brainer at $16!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 5:25:15 AM PST
Given your criteria and my own taste:

Piano sonatas:
Barenboim, 1960s EMI cycle
Paul Lewis on Harmonia Mundi

String Quartets:
Quartetto Italiano

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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
Participants:  15
Total posts:  25
Initial post:  Nov 20, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 21, 2012

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