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  PentaTone Classics -
  PTC 5186 159
  Beethoven: Complete Symphonies - Masur
  Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9

Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig
Kurt Masur (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 10 show all

Reviews: 4 show all

Review by thepilot December 4, 2004 (17 of 17 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Masur is a Beethoven conductor of real stature and this boxed set is a really splendid Beethoven cycle, with wonderful performances of all the symphonies and exremely good orchestral playing. The Leipzig orchestra produces a wonderfully cultivated and warm sound and only the last ounce of precision that we usually get from the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic is missing here. Masur never misses the joy of the earlier symphonies and certainly catches all the dramatic fire of the latter ones. The Eroica is parrticularly good, and reminds us of the Klemperer mono recording for EMI, one of the real glories of the gramophone. The sound is very realistic and convincing in perspective and tone colour, it really sounds like a good seat in the hall, while the dynamic range is very-very wide, but never extreme. The original DSD recordings of Pentatone are a little bit more crystalline in their clarity, but the differences are extremely small. The price of the set makes it a real bargain, but beware of the cheap packaging: each disc is placed in a cheap, plain paper envelope, and that's all.

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Review by madisonears December 7, 2006 (11 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Critics (Mr. Hurwitz, especially, at Classics Today, should be ashamed of his vulgar comments.) have been way too hard on these stalwart, steadfast, even somewhat stodgy performances. They are not going to appeal to those dilettantes who endorse the ridiculously fast and lightweight performing styles that have recently come into vogue. This is not mincing, dainty or otherwise prissy Beethoven. These versions carry weight. These are majestic and solemn. These don't apologize for Beethoven; they absolutely insist that everything he wrote in these works is not just correct, but almost divinely ordained. Perhaps the smaller symphonies (1, 2, 8) are not as well served by this style as are the bigger pieces, but it seems to me that an excess of gravitas is preferable to rushing or prettifying these works. Anything this big and complex deserves a little longer cooking time.

Witness the beauty and majesty with which the Eroica unfolds (and ends). There is a rightness about the pace of this entire performance, previous reviews notwithstanding. The funeral march is grave, almost heartrending in its intensity. And the Fifth is paced just right, with enough weight to communicate the full impact of this powerful music, but fast enough to maintain the relentless momentum that Masur builds through the entire piece. The Sixth is beautifully serene, yet blustery when needed. I believe only the ninth suffers a little in comparison to existing standards. I have always considered the overlooked Dohnanyi/Cleveland on Telarc to be an ideal performance in terms of interpretation, orchestra, chorus, soloists, and sound. I wish they would issue it on SACD, as it would sweep the field of what is presently available.

The sound of these recordings is very good for their vintage. They are somewhat thick and distant compared to modern recordings. I prefer this sound for this type of music and this type of performance, as opposed to the modern practice of putting us in the orchestra's lap with close mic'ing of too much detail.

I believe these recordings represent a unified view, a philosophy of Beethoven's symphonic output. This is an arguement that Beethoven's symphonies are some of the most important musical statements ever made, and that they deserve to be performed and preserved with a certain solemnity. It is just as valid as more modern (microwaveable, if you will) performance and recording styles. These are not flavor-of-the-month, see-how-much-I-can-change-what-has-already-been-done-to-appeal-to-those-with-short-attetion-spans flashes. The reason these recordings are still around after having already been reissued "countless times in countless formats" (Mr. Hurwitz) is that they really are classic recordings of classic performances. I hope they issue them again when they're finally available on the new "chip-in-the-brain" format.

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Review by nickc August 8, 2005 (11 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This set has seemed to be getting rave reviews and really I don't know why.
Pentatone I"m sure has done the utmost to get what was on the master-tapes, but what is there is slow and boring.
I first put on the 8th. and thought "I wish someone would release the handbrake!". Everything is heavy and plodding, disastrous in this of all the 9.
Next came the Eroica and I actually couldn't listen to the whole first movement, I thought it might never end! I started thinking "perhaps period performances have changed my perspective so much I'm just not on this wavelength anymore" but even Karajan and others from this time were much more lively.
The orchestra is presented in a real concert hall ambience (with a lot of reflection from the rears): that's code for me saying its all too distant and I want to be much closer to the action. Violins as well are really glassy and not pleasant to listen to.
Overall if you like your Beethoven marmoreal and statuesque this may be for you; not for me.

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Works: 9  

Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 "Eroica"
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Op. 60
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 "Pastoral"
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral"