Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies

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Product Description

If you're looking for a real bargain set of Beethoven's complete symphonies, look no further. David Zinman leads the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich through the big nine. Unconventional--this is the world-premiere, modern-instrument recording of the New Barenreiter Edition (translation: slight variations in the scoring)--and with Zinman's typically fast tempos, these are spirited, though probably not definitive, performances. Herbert Von Karajan's 1963 cycle of Beethoven's symphonies must still be considered the essential versions and, costing only 10 dollars more than this set, it's just as much of a bargain. But, for Beethoven lovers on a tight budget, folks looking to add one more Beethoven cycle to their music library, or experts who want to hear what the fuss of the Barenreiter Edition is about, this set shouldn't be passed up. Zinman and Tonhalle have delivered a winner, with excellent sound and a great sticker price. --Jason Verlinde

Customer Reviews:

  • Run Beethoven Run?
    Absolutely! but with such grace and magnetism that after initial listening, the speed becomes second nature. One should also bear in mind that on Zinman's corner is the man himself! Beethoven's metronome marking(s), we are assured, is(are) strictly followed.. with this in mind, the speed becomes almost essential.

    Personally, the highlight of the series is the Symphony 4. Sadly, this is a work concert-goers very seldom get a chance to hear.. and I envy those who attended Zinman's live no 4. (I'll have to make do with my CD) The 1st movt has an aura of shrouded mystery, which happily opens to a joyful new theme.. and the finale jumps with youthful exuberance. The players of the Tonhalle Orchestra, notably the woodwind, excel in their virtuosity. Most commendable!

    The only symphony I had greater difficulty in coming to terms to was the no. 6. The whole piece didnt seem very 'pastorally' to me. Although Karajan's speed was marginally slower in certain areas, he managed to achieve a leisurely feel. Although in support of fast speeds, it does sound better than Jochum's dragging 6 on Philips.. personally anyway.

    The other quibble I have is the lack of documentation. There was hardly enough on individual symphonies, but the gist on the Barenreiter Edition is efficient. Then again, with the super low price of these CDs, perhaps i'm a little too demanding.

    In a nutshell, if you prefer slow, traditional(? ), flowing, smooth Beethoven, go for someone like Walter on CBS or Menuhin on EMI.

    If you like your Beethoven fast and dynamic, then opt for the Zinman if you like modern instruments or Gardiner on DG for period instruments.

    But well done to everyone involved in this project. A face-lift (for the better!) on one of music's great milestones.

    Happy listening!...more info

  • High Energy Beethoven
    This rendition of Beethoven has so much energy, you'd swear it was speed metal. Rock on!...more info
  • Fast and fantastic
    The performances are excellent, and in fast tempo, but extremly enjoyable.

    Zinman deserves a lot of credit for the excellent reading and deep study of the partitures

    A must, regardless of the price...more info

  • Great recording of the Nine Symphonies!
    This recording is probably the best deal you'll find of the Beethoven Nine Symphonies, and to boot, they are all done remarkably well. I personally love each one individually, and I think the tempi in all of them are the best. Most notable tempi are 3, 4, 5, and 8.

    The first and second are quite chraming, and have the perfect Beethoven flavor in them. The third has an excellent speed, and is exciting! I have never heard a better recording of the 4th, and it is now one of my favorite symphonies. The 5th is bold, and quick. I enjoyed the added repeat in the 3rd movement---it makes the movement feel more complete (did anyone else catch this?). Six is perfect. Seven is big and bombastical, like it should be. Eight is cute! The ninth is powerful, though the choir and some of the soloists aren't as good as other recordings I've heard (the men have trouble on their high notes). For a better recording, try the Karajan/Berlin recording (Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 / Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra).

    All in all, this is one of the best compliations of the Nine Symphonies I've heard and HIGHLY recommend it! And for only $30? That's not even $3 a symphony!!...more info
  • For the price, it doesn't get much better than this.
    As a relative novice to classical music, my review may not be very technical, but I certainly love this collection. The faster tempos help to avoid the tendency of Beethoven's symphonies to get bogged down in melodrama when interpretted by other conductors. At times, however, the pace seemed a little too rushed. The first movements of both the 5th and 9th symphonies suffer from this at times. However, this faster tempo really does justice to the 3rd symphony. The chorus in the 4th movement of the 9th is one of the clearest performances I have ever heard. Also, the 7th symphony is simply breathtaking throughout. While I would not recommend restricting ones listening to these symphonies to this recording (especially the 5th and 9th), this is certainly a quality recording on all levels, and, for the price, can't be beat....more info
  • A bargain box of Beethoven
    With tempi generally fast but excellent ensemble, this boxed set is musically (and financially!) highly desirable. Zinman's interpretations are comparable to Toscanini's in terms of their drive and forward impulse. The digital recordings are very good with nicely judged hall ambience. Outstanding are symphonies 3 (lovely free-flowing), 4, 5, 6 and 8; perhaps the 9th will not be to all tastes as it is somewhat lightweight and, in places, very fast! However, the small-scale chamber choir and decent soloists in the finale sing with a real and most appropriate joie de vivre! A great deal of pleasure for such a modest cash outlay....more info
  • Zinman Beethoven Symphonies
    I thought I knew Beethovens Symphonies inside out until I heard these staggering performances. Notwithstanding the excellent 1963 Karajan cycle (albeit with,as we now know, incorrect scores, markings and Tempos) and the several excellent "period" versions by Bruggen, and Gardiner et al, this Zinman Cyle really is as good as any other, and in terms of taughtness and control, and accuracy to the composers wishes, quite unbeaten. Anyone wishing for a set of Beethoven that is not fussy, engineered, altered, romanticised, or just plain "got at" need look no further. It would have been a revelation to have had the added bonus of original instruments and tuning, but these things aside, the set is magnificently played, and is a credit to Zinman. Klemperer and the myriad of other "romantic" conductors will seem positively dull in the shadow of this, and the Urtext scores, used in these recordings finally realises Beethoven as Beethoven, and makes us all need to bury our own preferences and rehear these works accurately played. 1000 out of 10. Buy them!...more info
  • Great Beethoven!
    Any problems a listener might have with this cycle will be in taste exclusively. No notes land amiss in this performance, and Zinman's interpretation is defensible throughout. There is always good logic from the baton, which draws forth clear oratorical Beethoven. Each note always points to the next, and each phrase does likewise. The engineering quality is good and spacious, and Zurich's fairly small ensemble enables cleanliness and lightness of play beyond those of any other modern-instrument performance that this listener has heard. Tempos are unorthodox, especially in the slow movements, which tend to be slightly faster than most recordings. But this does not hinder the performance in any way. And as far as Barenreiter's edition of the music goes, all of its changes and additions are good ones, and prompted no outrage from these ears. All in all, a great recording of the symphonies. Some listeners may disagree, but that is only a matter of taste.

    If you are looking for great Beethoven, consider this set, George Szell's excellent cycle, the '60s Karajan set, Toscanini with NBC, The Vienna Philharmonic with Bohm or Bernstein, and anything with the name 'Kleiber' on it. And those are just for starters. But no matter who one might prefer, this reviewer sincerely believes that this set will contribute well to an attentive listener.

    Now for a personal touch. some reviewers have written that the singing on Zinman's 9th is bad. I disagree. The baritone in particular is superb, and the rest of the quartet is more than competant (in fact, I believe the quartet is better than Szell's, and Szell's is my favorite cycle). The chorus might have done well with a few more members, but the current reading stands without difficulty....more info

  • Great Set!
    Great music, excellent sound, good performances, bargain price, what more could you want?...more info
  • Fresh Beethoven
    As a Beethoven addict, I have to say this set comes on like a mug of fresh brewed coffee on a sunny Spring morning. It just makes me want to sit up and take notice of the day! The orchestra exudes virtuosity in response to Zinman's spirited interpretation. Not to belittle the achievements of von Karajan, Ormandy, et al, but it is refreshing to hear some of the great master's work presented in a light which brings out wonderful phrases and feelings which have been underemphasized in past performances....more info
  • Dare I say...The Next "Definitive Beethoven"
    Allow me to rave. This complete Beethoven Symphonies set with the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich conducted by David Zinman is the best in the world right now. Period. It is luminous and enlightening, fresh and energizing. Allow me to put that into context a little bit.

    Conducting and performing Beethoven has been popular ever since Ludwig van B. himself did it, practically. Unlike other composers who have periodically fallen into and out of the limelight, Beethoven has enjoyed enduring acceptance of some level (although some of his individual works have suffered fluctuations in popularity, being overshadowed, and all the rest of that unforunate business).

    Coming out of the Late Romantic era, over-the-top was the name of the game in music. Mahler, better known during his day (the 1890s and 1900s) as a conductor, was partially responsible for this trend. His own symphonies reflect this - grandiose, over-the-top, rather long, and with a (very) healthy dose of ego - not to mention requiring a number of musicians larger than is practical in most ensembles today. Conducting up until the past few decades has reflected this trend - we find fascinating examples of this, for example in Leinsdorf's recording of the Ninth with extra trumpets added at moments in the Scherzo, most likely to add "oomph."

    Zinman seems to know all this, and has said something to the effect of, "Look, that's all very good: tradition is great, but let's try something different."

    What blows me away still, as I relisten to Zinman's recordings over and over, is how effective Zinman makes his Beethoven without these aforementioned "orchestral gimmicks." He uses slightly faster tempi than were common during the LP era, which belonged to conductors like Karajan and Toscanini and Klemperer and others. This never feels hurried - in fact, I find it refreshing. For example, Zinman's Eroica, first movement, is so much livelier, more transparent, and cleaner than other recordings of this sympony that it's simply electrifying. I can easily extend similar praise throughout all of this wonderful set, but Eroica is one that stands out to me, having recently played it.

    Another facet of this recording is one that carries a controversial tag - "authenticity." I don't mean in this instance finding Beethoven-era instruments (they don't), or even trying to emulate the style of playing from that era (there's just no way to know). Instead, what Zinman uses is a carefully-researched Barenreiter edition of the scores that contains a few surprises for those who are still stuck in the Karajan age of Beethoven and a much, much healthier respect for what Beethoven wrote than any other major recording I know.

    For example, the cello-bass recitative in the last movement of the Ninth is much closer to what one would normally find in, for example, a Mozart opera: conversational and flowing. Contrast this with the way Karajan handles the low strings his 1963 Ninth, for years the yardstick: gruff, heavy, almost apocalyptic in its seriousness.

    The size of his orchestra, too, is much closer to what would match Beethoven's available forces. This recording lists every person playing in every symphony - it's fascinating to see what changes between each symphony and listen to see if you can hear the size of the orchestra, which you often can.

    If you are looking for a Beethoven Symphonies collection, this is the one. At <$30 and usually about $20-25, it's an even better deal. If you are used to traditional Beethoven's this recording will surprise you in many ways. It sure surprised me - and won me over. David Zinman and Tonhalle Orchester Zurich have recorded the new yardstick for Beethoven's Nine Symphonies since Karajan's 1963. Nothing even comes close....more info
  • "Las 9" de Beethoven a 20 d車lares ?qu谷 m芍s pedir?
    Aunque en realidad Beethoven no fue un compositor tan prol赤fico de sinfon赤as (solo compuso 9 completas, en comparaci車n a las m芍s de 40 de Mozart o las m芍s de 100 de Haydn), la popularidad de estas obras es tanta que para el p迆blico en general, cuando le preguntan respecto a alguna sinfon赤a que conozca y aprecie casi de inmediato menciona ya sea la 5a o la 9a de Beethoven; por ello no es de extra?ar que existan una gran cantidad de grabaciones excelentes de estas obras, en manos de reconocidos directores y afamadas orquestas. La versi車n de las 9 sinfon赤as completas en manos de David Zinman resulta extraordinariamente buena, considerando el bajo precio que Ud. paga por estos 5 discos; esta versi車n est芍 basada en nuevos descubrimientos que han permitido modificar ligeramente la partitura tradicional, tomando en cuenta algunos apuntes originales de Beethoven o algunas partituras previas a las que finalmente salieron publicadas; sin embargo, las modificaciones resultan casi imperceptibles (aunque en el folleto marca perfectamente los puntos donde son m芍s apreciables, hay que conocer la partitura original para localizarlos, ya que a "puro o赤do" no se nota ninguna diferencia, o al menos yo no la he notado). Los tempos son un poco r芍pidos para mi gusto, ya que en lo personal prefiero las versiones algo m芍s lentas de Bohm, pero su interpretaci車n es impecable. Esta es una compra segura para quien desee adquirir su primera versi車n de las 9 sinfon赤as, y resulta una referencia casi obligada para quien ya tenga una versi車n previa....more info
  • A Great Set to Own--Even If You Have Other Versions

    I own this set in addition to the more traditional, classic renditions of the symphonies (Karajan's 8th and 9th, Kleiber's 5th, Walter's 4th and 6th). I love those classic renditions, but this one too. It is a different sound and a different interpretation. It keeps what I think are the strongest aspects of period instruments--the small orchestra, lean textures and fast tempi. But it does not have the acidic sound of period violins.

    While some may think that this is not Beethoven, I think this may actually be close what Beethoven wrote; the tempi are closer to his metronome markings, and the size of the orchestra is closer to that in Beethoven's day.

    So if you sometimes are tired of listening to the same sound and interpretation, this comes as a fresh sound and approach. It is rewarding to have in one's library both approaches. I do not feel like I am duplicating anything; the experience is very diffferent and one enjoys hearing familiar material in a new light....more info
  • Good Beethoven Box Set
    The engineers for these Arte Nova (digital) recordings did a good job. The sound is clear and realistic, but perhaps a little muddy for my tastes. Others might find it warm sounding, anyway, it is not a big issue. Disc one, with symphonies 1 & 2 are superb in every way and I would recommend this disc (which is sold separately) for anyone wanting just the first two symphonies. You may end up thinking these two symphonies are as great as all the rest, by how wonderful the are presented. Disc two, with symphonies 3 & 4 are also excellent. I really enjoy the speed of no. 3, it makes the work more approachable for the beginner, but also very enjoyable for the long time listener. It moves along nicely and it is over before you know it. Symphony 4 is also good, but perhaps the speed on this one could have been a little slower in my opinion. I feel like I need some strong coffee to keep up with this performance. There are other versions that I own that I would play before this one, like the Walter Weller and CBO, Hanover Band or Bruno Walter's version.
    Disc three, with symphonies 5 & 6 was my least favorite, neither version would be the one I would reach for. The Toscanini NBC version of Symphony no. 5 is my choice but it's the one I grew up on and so I don't necessarily recommend it, but it's good. Bohm's and Bruggen's version of symphony no. 6 is the one I usually reach for. Zinman plays this too fast and I would rather walk through the garden than run. By running you can't smell the roses or see the beauty of a flower. Disc four, with symphonies 7 & 8 is a great disc. It's worth getting for just no. 8, with speeds going into 5th gear, it's just what the symphony needs. The 7th symphony is also good, but I would reach for Gardiner's or Davis's 1961 version before this one. Though it has great moments as well. Disc five, with symphony 9 is great to own, if just for the 2nd movement. It was always the one movement of Beethoven that tended to bore me towards the later portion of the movement. But hearing the massive speed increase of the other main section of this movement, it all made perfect sense and I was never bored. I know Beethoven would be relieved to hear this BIG correction finally seeing the light of day. There are so many great versions of the 9th that I couldn't say this is the one I'd reach for, but I'd consider burning a disc that included this version's 2nd movement. Overall, it is a good box set, with lots of details you may not have heard before and the price is right....more info
  • Really powerful
    Just got this set and haven't listened to all of it. But what I've heard is excellent: great sound, precise, interesting tempi. And this morning I listened to the Eroica. This is a piece I've heard for 40 years, but Zinman's treatment of the slow movement was just breathtaking. For the first time I really felt it as a funeral march. It brought tears to my eyes and made the hair on the back of my head stand up. This is a very powerful, very distinctive, reading of Beehtoven. ...more info
  • Precision personified
    The new editions of the Beethoven symphonies are novel in the sense that they've been cleaned up; there are audible differences in all the symphonies.

    Tempi are quick, but the orchestra is so precise that the tempi come almost naturally. In the recording of the first symphony, the last movement never feels rushed, but instead is so fresh that it makes slower recordings like Karajan et al, seem stodgy.

    It's interesting to note the inclusion of an alternative version of the last movement of the 9th, with a general pause due to the edition and supposedly in the original.

    Fans of the 7th might be a little disturbed by the quick 2nd movement, it probably isn't allowed to 'sit' enough, though the solo lines are still extremely well shaped.

    Great value at $62AUD!...more info

  • Discovering Beethoven Anew
    Usually, you get what you pay for. Occassionally, however, one finds an outstanding product at a low price. This is one such item. Getting David Zinman's nine Beethoven symphonies for $... is somewhat like getting a brand new Ferarri for $20,000.

    Zinman follows Beethoven's original metronomic specifications, which seem to have been neglected by other modern-day conductors. He uses the New Barenreiter Edition, which is supposed to be a more "authentic" score, and the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich performs the symphonies on modern instruments instead of period hardware. This is probably what Beethoven would have wanted, because modern instruments are so much better. In any event, the effect is overwhelming. Suddenly, many familiar passages take on a whole new meaning and seem to make more sense. I will probably donate my von Karajan CDs to charity, after I have listened to them one last time to remind myself of how much better Zinman's rendition is....more info

  • Wonderful!
    This is a GREAT set. For years, many (e.g. Solti) insisted on a faster tempo for these pieces. Others maintained that the faster speeds marked by Beethoven were erroneous, the fault of a malfunctioning Glockenspiel, etc. The problem with those who still prefer Karajan is that we know from recent musicological discoveries that, in fact, the faster speeds are more along the lines of what Beethoven had in mind. Although it will take a while for these tempi to take hold, I think ultimately the lighter and faster playing of those such as Zinman will come to gain wider acceptance......more info
  • Breathless pacing
    These performances are excellent and the value can't be beat. The pacing may throw some people off as this must be the fastest Beethoven I have ever heard-it is also, according to the latest scholarship, the actual way that Beethoven wrote the music. The ninth symphony's movements, especially, seem caffeine and amphetamine driven. All of this only makes the music seem even more brilliant that we all knew that it was. The march at the end of the ninth which precedes the choral has such a fast beat that you could jog to it rather than march! The other movements, when rendered at this tempi, give the impression of almost unbearable anxiety and tension ready to come apart at the seams at any second! The ninth sounds like an orchestra bursting and exploding with energy and movement like the universe immediately after the Big Bang. The older, more romantic and slower versions of the symphonies still have a place but this will be a revelation as the music is rendered in a very fresh manner. An experience well worth the price!...more info
  • Good but not great...
    First off.. it's true that Zinman brings a refreshing speed to these familiar pieces and they work most of the time. It's rather strange to hear Symphony No. 5 at such breakneck speed initially.. but you really do get used to it and may even prefer it after awhile. My biggest constructive criticism for this set (hence the 3/5 stars) is the sound quality. It's plain flat and dimensionless. I own lots of classical recordings, especially ones from Telarc and even some older ones, and I wish this boxset came close to those recordings. It's a shame because the flatness and lack of presence and space of the Zinman recordings betray the otherwise good performances. 3/5 stars....more info
  • Really not a bargain
    This is definitely not my favorite interpretation of the Beethoven symphonies. The orchestra is hurrying along without much depth. The worst thing for me is that the Beethoven spirit got lost. Compared to interpretations by Masur, Wand, Gardiner, Karajan etc. these warm and passionate works remain cold under Zinman's baton. As background music it's OK but if you are a serious listener who is looking for emotional depth these interpretations are not for you. There are other "bargain" editions of these works. For example, I recently purchased the Masur/Leipzig Gewandhaus edition for 32 Dollars. A far better choice....more info
  • Excelente concepci車n, Orquesta insuficiente.
    Zinman nos entrega una lectura de las Sinfon赤as de Beethoven a un tempo acelerado (lo cual no tiene nada de nuevo, pues Arturo Toscanini lo hac赤a hace m芍s de 60 a?os atr芍s), pero lastimosamente en el caso de Zinman tenemos una Orquesta peque?a y que indudablemente no es de la calidad de la NBC SO. Si usted esta buscando precio esta es una buena opci車n, pero si usted realmente quiere calidad, compre Herbert Von Karajan 車 John Eliot Gardiner....more info
  • At 20 bucks for the whole cycle, how can you pass this up?
    I'll give the cycle 5 stars in part because of the price and also in part because Zinman is well known and liked around here - having made some fine music with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for over a decade. As a second or third set of all nine Beethoven symphonies, these disks seem irresistible; even as a first set, they could be a fine choice.

    Zinman is in tight control of his orchestra throughout. The tempos are consistently brisk and sometimes driven. The players are highly professional, if not quite at the level of, say, the Berlin Philharmonic. Zinman attempts an "authentic" sounding performance, though with modern instruments. Strings tend to be light, and winds and percussion are out front. Zinman also conducts from a new edition of the scores, reflecting recent scholarship (resulting, for example, in alternative endings to the 9th, based on different performance scores Beethoven himself used).

    These performances (like other "authentic" performances) can be a revelation in comparison to the grand-romantic style of Beethoven performance that had become conventional. But these performances also can be enjoyed by anyone on their own terms; Zinman knows how to make music....more info

  • One of the best Beethoven symphony cycles available
    A steal at any price, this justly acclaimed set of Beethoven's symphonies performed using the Jonathan Del Mar-edited scores should find a home in any classical music lover's collection. Among the highlights are superb performances of the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th symphonies; Zinman's version of the "Pastorale" seems as fresh and vibrant as those conducted by Karl Bohm and Bruno Walter. His version of the 5th is among the finest I've heard, eclipsed only by Karajan's first Deutsche Grammophon cycle and Carlos Kleiber's definitive Deutsche Grammophon recording with the Vienna Philharmonic back in the mid 1970's. With the exception of the 9th Symphony, which I find a bit too brisk, the other performances are quite good too, though I believe that better ones exist, most notably Nikolaus Harnoncourt's Teldec cycle with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Arte Nova's sound engineers deserve highest praise for an exceptional set of recordings which equal the best from the major labels. Somehow they and Zinman have magically transformed the Tonhalle Orchestra, a major symphony orchestra, into a large chamber ensemble. Although this is not my primary recommendation as a definitive Beethoven symphony cycle, it remains a splendid introduction to Beethoven's symphonies from the fresh perspective of Jonathan Del Mar....more info
  • Gets the lead out of Beethoven
    Although I still enjoy Karl Bohm's VPO "Pastorale" and still have some fond thoughts about Karajan's circa-1962 cycle (although no fond thoughts whatsoever about his two later cycles), by and large I've lost patience for the stately, well-upholstered (or, if you're not feeling charitable, paunchy) Beethoven of many conductors (particularly those of a couple of generations ago). At the same time, I'm not sure the "period instruments" timbres allow Beethoven's symphonic cycle quite enough heft, so a period-instrument approach on modern instruments seems like a good compromise. This Zinman manages very well. The whole cycle is like a clean blast of air and makes you sit up and take notice as surely as these works' first audiences must have. My only quibbles are a slight lack of oomph in the finale of the Seventh (my favorite among the Beethoven nine) and a certain stinginess in the liner notes when it comes to explaining just what it is about the Barenreiter editions that make them so revelatory....more info
  • Wow! A great cycle at the steal of the price
    This is a truly incredible set of Beethoven's complete nine symphonies. The ever-guiding presence of David Zinman in the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, in addition to the use of the latest Beethoven cycle, enable new life to be breathed into these much-recorded works. Zinman adopts Beethoven's dangreously fast metronome markings, but he possesses, like Gardiner, that rare gift to make them sound natural rather than like Grand-Prix-styled Beethoven. The orchestra gives crisp, heart-hitting, alert and imaginative readings of all nine works, and the recording is truly amazing. Also, the Ninth has a good, if not ideal, quartet of soloists in the finale, but that shortcoming, along with a not-so-acceptable and weak timpani, is not enough for me to bash this cycle. In short, I would always say that this is perfect for beginners and should be considered a clear first choice for those who want a modern-instrument cycle. Especially at its tempting price that can give you hours and hours of enjoyment....more info
  • Overly rushed, hurried erases certain aspects of aesthetic.
    Whether Beethoven intended the fast tempi is not something to respect,music I should think is a living growing experience, and if we merely follow what Beethoven wrote,then why don't we simply have one single definitive performance of Beethoven and be happy contented in a philosophic way with that, and stop recording any more of his works. Zinman has intense control here but it doesn't produce a depth,the philosophic dimension that the music implies continuously.Sure excitement and surface flash seems to be the interpretive agenda here,but if it remains on the surface I think the grandeur, the dignity that is an important component of the Beethoven aesthetic becomes diluted. I spent time with the Fourth, that has classical gestures,very exposed wind lines,with a dangerous interplay from solo lines to tutti statements.Something Barenboim didn't resolve either,this problem of gradations from one extreme to the other,the fastinterplay,wind to tutti. Yet the neglected Fourth harbors a very deep bridge between two giants, the Third and Fifth,it exposes all the Beethoven creative materials. The music under Zinman here seemed at times like fast run throughs,like "let's get this over with",rushed and hurried. Excitement has to have something behind it,some other dimension a guide, otherwise all it is,is quick fixes. Beethoven asked questions in his Symphonies as no other genre he touched,and slower tempi I think implies this.Of course there is a dangerous balance here, Klemperer goes too far in the other direction where he places heavy burdensome weights with slower tempi. The profound place is somewhere in between. The playing however is very clean especially the Allegro vivace with great entrances. The opening Adagio the deeply brooding minor which never returns reminded me of the Mahler First,the fourth intervals. Here Zinman brought a sense of this questioning the music demands....more info
  • The 9 symphonies
    Simply the best work done on the 9 symphonies that I ever had the luck to come across. I had been searching for the ninth in particular with the best directors, orchestras, and labels, but they all seemed to lack in either interpretation or sound quality. This collection has to be the standard to compare all the other recordings. ...more info
  • A triumph, a must-have set, truly awesome...
    Zinman's recordings of the First through the Eighth are just awesome. He blows away the competition, and the Swiss orchestra are so fabulous and enthusiastic. The balance of strings and woodwinds is optimal, and this new, more accurate edition of Beethoven's symphonies includes some sections that are missing from the older, outdated edition. For example, a lovely oboe section in the 5th symphony. And the slightly faster tempos are much more satisfying and far more electrifying. The warm digital sound is superb, and the orchestral details in these recordings are simply unsurpassed. Don't waste your money on other sets, this is the one to get. I can't believe Arte Nova is selling them at such a low price. This set is worth ten times its current price. In summary, for 1-8 Zinman is clearly my first choice. For the 9th, however, I still prefer Karajan for the orchestral portion and either Solti or Bohm for the finale....more info
  • The Seventh is also first rate.
    I have only listened to the Seventh and Eighth parts of this cycle (it was given out to subscribers of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra last year). It was absolutely first rate, particularly the Seventh's Allegretto. IMHO this Seventh can hold its own even by comparison with the "classic" recordings of the symphony by Kleiber with the VPO and Von Karajan with the BP. Zinman has a remarkable ability to coax such a sweet, pure, intimate sound from orchestras, which really comes through in the recordings I heard. I'm looking forward to listening to the rest of the cycle....more info
  • Amazing. Odd. Neat. Good.
    I am really partial to the Karl Bohm Beethoven cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic. One of the reasons is the style of the playing. Lyrical, refined, sophisticated, and fun. These recordings have almost none of that. It is the strangest thing. Beyond "cold", there is an absense of musicality that I still haven't quite come to grips with. It's like an audio photograph of the score, rather than a painting. There are plenty of good things to say about them: Nice recording, instruments mostly have excellent tone, and the price can't be beat. But I can't get over the fact that virtually no atmosphere is created. When a rest occurs, it's like the universe just stopped and then blackness..until the little white notes start popping out again....more info
  • Numinous! A "Must Have!"
    The Beethoven symphonies are essential to any good music collection and the music lover has a ridiculously large number of recordings to select from. The selection process just got easier. The Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich (under the scorching direction of David Zinman) has recorded the 9 on the Arte Nova label. Now this would be a superb recording under any circumstances, but when you take into account that the entire set (5 CDs) sells for a terrific bargin price these recordings have no rival!!! Zinman uses the new critical Barenreiter Edition of Jonathan Del Mar, which means that many errors of the Breitkopf edition are corrected. Plus - and it is a real asset - Zinman tends to stick to Beethoven's blistering tempi. The little Turkish march in the 4th movement of the 9th just flies! The 8th symphony rips along like Haydn on crystal meth! I cannot recommend these performances too highly - they would be well worth a "full" price, but at this price it's a "no-brainer." Buy these, it will remind you why Beethoven is considered one of the titans of music....more info
  • David Zinman & 1963 Karajan: Two of the Best Sets
    I have 3 different Beethoven Nine Symphonies sets now:

    (1) 'The Beethoven Collection' by Janos Ferencsik (ASIN: B000001VVY)
    (2) 'Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies' by David Zinman (ASIN: B00000IFP6)
    (3) 'Beethoven: 9 Symphonien' by Herbert von Karajan (ASIN: B000001GBQ).

    The first one is a budget set and has taken early retirement since I acquired the latter two, which I found to be far superior. Yet, there is a difference between the latter two.

    The critically acclaimed David Zinman edition is slightly lightweight, but has the advantage of speed and dramatics and really grabs your attention. For those times when I feel bored and need something exciting to perk me up, that's when I reach for the David Zinman edition. It is Beethoven driven at a very fast pace, as mentioned by numerous others earlier.

    The widely acknowledged 1963 Herbert von Karajan edition has a large grand orchestral sound which is warm and lush; I reach for it when I want to unwind and enjoy sweet orchestral music. The quality of the recording is still excellent despite its age, and if you are coming over to classical music from smooth Jazz, this is an easier transition.

    I strongly recommend these 2 sets - if you like your Symphonies hot and exciting go for the Zinman edition; if you want something warm and lush, go for the 1963 Karajan edition, or better still, grab both sets like me....more info
  • Love
    This is the best music I ever heard! It just soothes my soul. If you like classical music, buy this....more info
  • Magnificent achievement that changed the way I approach Beethoven
    David Zinman's approach to these 9 masterpieces, largely influenced by period performance, is electrifying and completely revelatory. The textures are immensely transparent and let the brilliant orchestration and composition material shine through. With speeds almost always on the fast side, this kind of transparency is even more impressive. The Tonhalle players are put to great challenge here and they come out totally unruffled.

    Throughout, Zinman keeps rubato and romantic self-indulgence to a minimum, relying on the clear formal and rhythmic structures already present in the music to drive his performances. The result is fascinating. One senses a coherent and overall comprehensive reading instead of being entertained by minute romantic outbursts, gut-wrenching as they may be. This made me fully appreciate what is lost when Beethoven is performed like later symphonic masters; Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Mahler, etc. More than half a century separates Beethoven's symphonies from Tchaikovsky's (Beethoven's are actually closer in date to Mozart's!). It is therefore no surprise that a more "classical" performance is so successful.

    My only reluctance concerns the 2-3 later symphonies of the set. These are more mature symphonies and, having been composed well into the 19th century, could have afforded a touch more "romanticism". This is especially obvious for the 9th, particularly in the 3rd movement which will shock most listeners whit its extreme speed. Still, even at break-neck speeds, Zinman is capable of remarkable tenderness and finesse in the slow movements.

    The acoustics are optimal with vivid and well-balanced orchestral sections. The Tonhalle is on top form with dashing strings and phenomenal woodwind interjections (especially on the oboe). Among the myriads of other fine sets of these symphonies (Karajan, Szell, etc.), this is certainly the one that I would recommend getting, at any price! I would certainly not want to be without it!...more info
  • Truly splendid
    Compared to traditional interpretations, performances by Zinman strike me as being more intimate. The Zurich ensemble sounds smaller, on a smaller stage, and gives the impression of playing to a few close friends and me. Initially, I thought this smaller venue would benefit only the first four symphonies, but in truth all symphonies came across as fresh and lively, even the 9th.

    We traditionally hear these symphonies with large, lush orchestras. In contrast, these are leaner and slimmer. Don't misunderstand, these are not lightweight, and it seems to make the orchestra more nimble. The lessened reverberation from the concert hall is in keeping with this slimmer approach.

    Digital recordings do not always equate to perfect sonics, but the engineers did a superb job of capturing these symphonies as clear and realistic. You feel that you are there with the orchestra. The tempo of most pieces is more brisk, but does not seem rushed (except the opening of the 5th which initially took me by surprise). I envision listening to "traditional" performances sitting back in an comfortable leather chair with a glass of port. Zinman's performances have me on the edge of my chair, anxious to catch the next nuance. This sprite approach to well known Beethoven need not replace traditional performances, but for now, I will continue to enjoy these Zinman performances more frequently. This cycle is easily 5 stars....more info


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