Symphonies 1 - 9 [Blu-ray]
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Christian Thielemann conducts the Vienna Philharmonic with Annette Dasch, Piotr Beczala, Georg Zeppenfeld, and Mihoku Fujimura in full HD and 5.0 sound in a hardcover box. Thielemann and German music critic Joachim Kaiser discuss and analyze in an enterta
Top customer reviews
This is, on the face of it, a very generous and tempting coupling of Beethoven's symphonies all on three discs. The recording company, C Major, is in my opinion one of the very best working today. As a result we get unfailingly excellent surround sound and high quality visuals with sympathetic and knowledgeable camera work. So what of the actual performances?
Thielemann is very much his own man in this important respect. What we have here is 'big band' Beethoven with a large modern orchestra. There is no effort made to reproduce in any way the sound world that Beethoven inhabited. The textures presented here are fuller and more luscious in contrast to the sparer and rawer sounds that 'authentic' instruments deliver. Thielemann favours a well upholstered sound world and for this he is much appreciated by his Viennese audiences. It will also appeal to all listeners at home who find the 'authentic' approach rather too lean for their taste.
Thielemann goes further than just the sound world though and adopts a 'Romantic Period' approach to expression that would fit easily with Berlioz (think of his Fantastic Symphony)and the later Romantics. This is achieved by extensive variations of speed and dynamics, none of which can be found in the score. Indeed by contrast, Beethoven's own instructions for speed, with very fast and steady metronome markings, have often raised doubts about the feasibility of performances at that rate. This has now been answered by the authentic movement who can give lithe performances possible at those speeds with their reduced orchestras and playing on more flexible older instruments. It must be said that Thielemann's approach works best of all in the final three symphonies rather than the earliest in the set especially. This is simply because Beethoven has now moved along the road away from the more emotionally restrained Classical Period Haydn model of symphony writing towards the, as yet, close but uncharted territory of the Romantics which were soon to follow.
I myself, was initially taken aback by the degree of Thielmann's un-historic approach which I found to be somewhat questionable. In particular I struggled with his frequent choice of slow and very variable speeds. This applies especially to the first halves of the 7th and 8th symphonies which are particularly heavy-weight, but both of which finish more quickly. The first two symphonies inevitably stray the most from the Classical period of Haydn and a world which Beethoven also inhabited. The 9th symphony naturally responds best to this approach and works very well. Upon further listening my views remain much the same - but nevertheless I definitely enjoy this set of well performed, well recorded but somewhat anachronistic Beethoven conducting. There are extensive extras provided in which Thielemann discusses his view of Beethoven with Joachim Kaiser.
On its own terms this set comes with a strong positive recommendation but also with the proviso that this is unlikely to be first choice for purists who feel strongly about period performance style. I am certainly able enjoy it on its own terms, especially the 9th symphony but this set is really Thielemann's Beethoven rather the Beethoven that we have now been taught to recognise by current researchers at the very least or by followers of period instruments!
On that note, it is worth stressing that the period instrument movements has improved out of all recognition over the last 20 years or so. Gone are the acerbic strings and doubtful woodwind tuning as playing techniques have overcome the technical problems of the instruments. Gone also is the belief that all a conductor had to do was beat time. Now conductors are fully involved with interpretation as with any other orchestra or later periods of music.
I would suggest that this set is going to primarily appeal and be rewarding to those who resist any form of period-aware performance and are essentially followers of traditions going back to the days of Klemperer for example. It may well be a less than satisfactory set for those who are attracted to any stylistic modifications made since then. The recording quality is outstanding however and shows the VPO to very good effect.
Beyond the superb quality of the sound, there is also video which I personally have never seen equaled, with camera work and editing that bring an intimate view of an orchestra at work. (Update: superb video images and editing are becoming more common. The San Francisco Symphony's recording of Berlioz' "Symphonie Fantastique" is equally stunning in its video quality.) A lifetime of attendance at classical concerts would not give the insight into the creation of magnificent music that is afforded by these discs. A viewer gets to know the orchestra members as individuals, with the video highlighting groups or single players as their specific moments arrive in the score. Detail is amazingly acute, showing every hair, wrinkle and bead of perspiration. Intimate moments abound, almost all of which would be invisible from the seats of the concert hall: the red faces of the oboe and bassoon players during a prolonged solo, the rapturous smiles or knitted-brow concentration of the string players, the swinging and swaying of the two clarinetists who look like they are playing in a jazz band, and the slightly bemused expression of the concert master when one of the horsehairs in his bow breaks and waves in time with the music.
This is music to be re-visited often, and fortunately the quality of the video component is such that it too is a delight to view over and over. All of Beethoven's symphonies are enjoyable, and listening to each of them in sequence provides some understanding of the growth of his prodigious musical powers, with the music becoming more complex and the orchestra larger. Each of the three discs contains at least one "blockbuster" symphony that is familiar even to those who are only casually interested in classical music: on the first disc is the breakthrough Third Symphony, the "Eroica", twice as long as the previous symphonies; disc two has both the Fifth Symphony with its famous four-note "Fate" theme and the Sixth or Pastoral Symphony; and the third disc has the monumental Ninth Symphony which includes the "Ode to Joy".
As one who already had several complete LP and CD sets of Beethoven's symphonies, I can state that this rendition has become my favorite, regardless of whether I am watching the masterful video or merely listening to the glorious sound. I took a deep breath before I bought this set, as it was a significant investment. It was one of the best purchases I have ever made.
Most recent customer reviews
Set up an Amazon Giveaway
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Look for similar items by category
- Movies & TV > Art House & International > By Original Language > German
- Movies & TV > Blu-ray
- Movies & TV > Blu-ray > TV
- Movies & TV > Genre for Featured Categories > Arts & Entertainment
- Movies & TV > Genre for Featured Categories > Music Videos & Concerts
- Movies & TV > Genre for Featured Categories > Performing Arts
- Movies & TV > Genre for Featured Categories > Special Interests
- Movies & TV > Musicals & Performing Arts > Classical
- Movies & TV > TV