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on August 16, 2007
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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on November 8, 2003
Aside from Carlos Kleiber's famous recording of Symphonies 5 and 7 (Polygram Records - #447400), I found it very difficult to find great recordings of the other 7 symphonies. That is, until I heard Symphonies 7 and 8 from this collection. Then it began to make sense, the reason why so few exist is because the music execs know that this collection recorded by Von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic is nearly impossible to surpass in terms of musical professionalism and sheer understanding of each of the compositions. True, they were originally recorded (and since digitally remastered) about 40 years ago but that time stamp seems remarkably inaudible. It reminds me that my all time favorite jazz recording came from the 1950's (Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue"). Note also the price, which at this writing averages to about $7/disc; so one gets premiere quality at Naxos price levels!
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on June 18, 2011
In my never humble opinion, this set (in its regal rose/gold slipcase) is the the complete set to own. I listened to the '77 Karajan traversal and, except for a 9th for the ages, the '63 still wins the day. The sound, now 50 years old!, is very, very good. The collector should also acquire Karajan's readings of the Overtures recorded about two years laterBeethoven: Overtures.

And I believe, unlike a lot of his detractors, Zinman's traversal of the symphonies, especially the concerti, definitely deserve a place on any collector's shelf Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies,Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Violin Romances,Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4, more.
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on September 5, 2017
The cd's are wonderful, the Beethoven/Karajan combination is divine.
One deception though, the cd boxes came all broken and the carton box thorn.
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on May 21, 2017
great record set with impressive sound
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on February 9, 2017
Every collection should have this Beethoven.
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on October 24, 2002
I had been searching for the best possible recordings of Beethoven's Nine singularly, based on the premise that a complete cycle of excellent performances in one set would not be possible. The first time I had the opportunity to listen to this Von Karajan cycle I realized that I was mistaken, and that all the greatest performances of the Master's Nine that I could hope to find were contained in this set.
One wonders what would make Von Karajan conduct three more complete cycles after this first one. The performances he and the Berlin Philharmonic gave here are superb. Dubbed "The German Perfectionist", Von Karajan lives up to this appellation throughout these recordings. His readings of the Nine are as close to the way the Master himself would have conducted them as you are likely to find, and the Berlin Philharmonic, always capable of wonderful performances, are glorious under Von Karajan's direction.
My personal favorite of this set is the Ninth- Gundula Janowitz's Soprano in the Final Movement is nothing short of heavenly. The tempo of the Sixth is likely to be a bit faster than you are used to hearing, as Von Karajan returns to the original tempo of the work rather than using the slower pace that has become traditional. The force of the Fifth is stunning, never slackening throughout the peformance, and this performance of Eroica, the Third, is the best that I have ever heard.
Beethoven was the world's greatest composer, Herbert Von Karajan was the world's greatest conductor, and these performances comprise Von Karajan's Greatest Beethoven Cycle. What more can be said?
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on February 7, 2010
This is a great collection of the symphonies. The 3rd is excellent, but they are all very good. I was also pleased by the overall sound quality - these discs are from the early 60s, but the sound quality is rich, immmediate and vivid, every bit as good as direct-to-digital recording I have. Buy it!
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on April 18, 2014
I listened to many excerpts before buying this one. Listened to several Bernstein versions and a few from orchestras I am familiar with and respect. Still like Von Karajan's the best. The tempos, the dynamics and the articulations and phrasing all make the most sense to me. I have owned the single disc (and before that, the vinyl version) of just the 9th symphony. Glad now to have the whole set, made necessary after hearing excerpts of Beethoven's 1st symphony in the recent movie, "Bad Words."
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on September 25, 2002
These symphonies are a corner stone in the whole realm of music , so settling with just one set is highly unadvised ! But if you must ...... then this is it. There's in here a solid and above average performance of every single symphony except the sixth .
A second option is the Solti set with the chicago symphony orchestra , which is nearly as great albeit the aweful slow tempi used in the 5th.
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