First Sony released Szell’s Beethoven on CD at budget price on Essential Classics, then they re-released it as part of the Original Jacket Edition at higher price, and now here it is, at budget price again, in a convenient slim package, with three overtures (Egmont, King Stephen, and Fidelio). This has always been a reference cycle for the symphonies, and so it remains. I used to think that the Fourth was the weakest link in this particular chain, but now it seems, taken in context, that Szell plays up the work’s Mozartian elegance, a moment of relaxation between the twin peaks of the Third and Fifth.
Szell’s “Eroica” has so many positive qualities that they are impossible to enumerate, including a coda to the finale that hasRead more never been matched for sheer physical excitement. Other highlights include one of the most thrilling Sevenths on disc, with an Allegretto that moves forward with a truly inexorable flow, like a force of nature. Both the Fifth (as dramatic and bold as any) and the Sixth (fresh and vibrant as a mountain spring) rank with the best. The “little” symphonies, 1, 2, and 8, reveal Szell’s respect for their 18th century precedents, without neglecting a certain muscularity and focus on the wind writing which is entirely Beethoven’s.
The Ninth might be viewed by some as a touch small in scale, but the performance has a boldness and urgency, especially in the finale, that really makes it sound like a younger man’s music. And let’s not forget the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, trained by Robert Shaw. What makes these performances so interesting is that they have only increased in stature over the years, particularly as the period instrument movement has made Szell’s lean, razor sharp handling of rhythm and clarity of texture sound ever more relevant–though at a level of sheer technical virtuosity that no period ensemble can match.
If for some reason you don’t own this set, stop resisting and just get it now. The sonics have dated, but remain perfectly acceptable. I’m sure these performances will pop up again at a premium price for some reason or other in a few years, and then you’ll just feel sorry that you didn’t buy it cheaply the last time that you could.
Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral"by Ludwig van Beethoven Performer:
Jane Hobson (Mezzo Soprano),
Adele Addison (Soprano),
Donald Bell (Baritone),
Richard Lewis (Tenor)
Period: Classical Written: 1822-1824; Vienna, Austria
Symphony no 8 in F major, Op. 93by Ludwig van Beethoven Conductor:
Period: Classical Written: 1812; Vienna, Austria
Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92by Ludwig van Beethoven Conductor:
Period: Classical Written: 1811-1812; Vienna, Austria
Egmont, Op. 84: Overtureby Ludwig van Beethoven Conductor:
Period: Classical Written: 1810; Vienna, Austria
Average Customer Review: ( 8 Customer Reviews )
Beautiful Beethoven June 19, 2018By Kathy R. (Zachary, LA)See All My Reviews"While one review stated this collection was a bit dated, I disagree. It is beautifully performed by both orchestra and conductor. It is such a pleasure to be able to listen to all of Beethovens Symphonies plus a few other works in one collection once again."Report Abuse
Wonderful nostalgiaMarch 24, 2018By robert Gould (Fishers, IN)See All My Reviews"I had the pleasure of attending a Cleveland orchestra performance of the 5th symphony conducted by Szell when I was A FOURTH GRADER at Lomond School in Shaker Heights. This kindled my love for classical music and to have this set is wonderful. I had a vinyl edition which got lost in a move and to my uneducated ear this has better sound. (I had a tabletop record player at the time)"Report Abuse
A great buyFebruary 22, 2018By K. BAKER (HEBER CITY, UT)See All My Reviews"Somewhat dated sound, but the CDs are superior to the LPs (I also have the original Epic Lp release). Originally released on Columbia's bargain label, Epic, Columbia, CBS, & Sony re-released them over the years at full price after the critics pointed out that this was the Beethoven set to have. After some 50+ years, I still recall some critics' comments on the original release "Szell built his own orchestra. He built the best" & "you can hear the white spaces between the notes". That gets to the heart of the matter. It is not the (high) quality of Szell's interpretation that makes this indispensable Beethoven, it is the quality of the orchestra's playing."Report Abuse