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Any Beethoven CD Recommendations for Classical Newbie?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Kalnoc, Sep 19, 2013.

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  1. Kalnoc

    Kalnoc Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    USA
    I'm trying to get started with classical music, Beethoven, in particular and was curious if anyone had recommendations for CDs for someone just starting out. I'm currently listening to “Beethoven For All - The Piano Concertos” by Barenboim and just loving it. I was thinking I'd grab the CD for that album since I really only use Mog for discovery. Is there a better option, or is that a good starting point? I also noticed there is a set from Barenboim: “Beethoven For All: Symphonies 1-9”, buy I havent tried it yet. Any opinions on that set would also be welcome.
    I've also read good things about Hogwood's "Beethoven: The Symphonies"

    Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
  2. john greenwood

    john greenwood Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC
    Hi Kalnoc,

    The problem with Beethoven is too many choices. Barenboim is a first rate pianist and conductor, so if those recordings work for you - I haven't heard them - then they are a good starting point.

    Everything else is just the perspective of individual listeners. For myself, the Beethoven symphony cycles I like the most are George Szell and the Cleveland Symphony and Otto Klemperer and the New Philharmonia. Neither is a sonic masterpiece. Other favorites on this forum would include Gunter Wand and the 1960's cycle from Herbert von Karajan referenced above.

    I can also recommend Carlos Kleiber's recording of the 5th and 7th Symphony. He did not record a full cycle.

    Hogwood's recordings will sound quite different as he uses instruments and performance styles dating from the time Beethoven composed these works (often referred to as Historically Informed Performances).

    For the concertos, my favorite cycle is Fleisher/Szell - has been since I bought the LPs 40 years ago.

    I have two additional suggestions. Come visit the Classical Musical Corner on this forum - 5 years and still going strong.

    And as you have MOG, check out a thread I started last year.

    http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/intro-to-classical-music.273777/
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
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  3. Squiggsy68

    Squiggsy68 Forum Resident

  4. reeler

    reeler Forum Resident

    Serious classical music listeners are definitely a fickle bunch. Going on amazon and reading reviews and comments will reveal just how particular some are. I suggest to listen to, or try samples of the various cycles of Beethoven's Piano concertos and symphonies. I'm not hardcore classical, but I do go to the symphony sometimes and have about 200 classical discs. You may well find that there is simply not just a one go to performance once you try a few.
    For piano concertos and symphonies these are some discs/sets I like:
    http://www.amazon.com/Piano-Concert...-8&keywords=argerich+piano+concerto+beethoven
    http://www.amazon.com/Piano-Concert...=8-3&keywords=piano+concerto+beethoven+Uchida
    http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-9-S...=1379603456&sr=8-1&keywords=beethoven+karajan
    http://www.amazon.com/9-Symphonies-...03504&sr=8-13-spell&keywords=Beethoven+kripps
    http://www.amazon.com/Symphonies-1-...9603562&sr=8-1&keywords=Beethoven+harnoncourt
     
  5. john greenwood

    john greenwood Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC
    BTW - HDTracks has high resolution downloads of the Barenboim cycle.
     
  6. J.A.W.

    J.A.W. Music Addict

    Klemperer recorded the Beethoven symphonies for U.K. Columbia (EMI) between 1955 and 1960 with the Philharmonia Orchestra, not with the post-Walter Legge era New Philharmonia. The 7th was the only symphony he also recorded with the New Philharmonia; it was his third EMI recording of the 7th, made in 1968.
     
  7. john greenwood

    john greenwood Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC
    Careless of me.
     
  8. PC31

    PC31 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ottawa, CAN
    As a casual classical fan with a rock backgroud, I would like to share the following thought. Classical music is a very broad field where interpretation and recording seem to be as important as the actual piece being played. For example, some recordings have a hall sound while others will take you next (or inside) to the instrument(s). Find out if it's the concertos you like, the Barenboim or the recording. Listen to different interpretations of the concertos and listen to different pieces by Barenboim (if you can). Having grown up on rock, I find that I often go for more flamboyant interpretations.
     
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  9. Jim B.

    Jim B. Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Definitely get the Kleiber 5 and 7 on DG. A classic.
     
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  10. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
    Yes, there are better options:

    [​IMG]

    http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Pia...7&sr=1-13&keywords=serkin+beethoven+concertos

    OR

    (used copies are dirt cheap)

    http://www.amazon.com/Best-Russell-...&sr=1-12&keywords=beethoven+concertos+sherman

    For the symphonies, I'd go with Wand on RCA.

    And I strongly suggest you check out the piano sonatas at some point too (Gulda or Annie Fischer) and the String quartets (Endellion or Vegh (stereo.))
     
  11. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    I've got more Beethoven recordings than anything else. There's so many different approaches and those differences are more than interesting enough for me to have multiple versions of the famous pieces and a complete set of all of Beethoven's works in the 85 disc Brilliant Box.

    I don't know for sure how you would get this now—seems to be back in print in Europe, perhaps someone else will confirm. The Annie Fischer complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas on Hungaroton strikes me as the one really indispensable box of Beethoven. One way or another try to give that set a listen.

    Assuming you like his approach, the Teldec set of Beethoven Symphonies with the Daniel Barenboim directing the Berliner Staatskapelle is one of the very best things the man has done and the sound of this set is absolutely first rate.
     
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  12. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
    Robin, I wish I could like that post 32 times!
     
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  13. Kalnoc

    Kalnoc Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    USA
    Wow, thanks everyone. I've added whatever is available from the above recommendations to my queue in Mog to try out. Looks like I have some listening to do.
     
  14. jimsumner

    jimsumner Forum Resident

    Location:
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    You'll need a second mortgage for that Annie Fischer sonata cycle. :) Way overdue for a reasonably priced re-issue. But you can get much more affordable cycles from folks like Kempff, Ashkenazy, even a couple of Barenboim cycles.

    Another vote for the Kleiber DG recording of LvB's 5th and 7th symphonies. The Fleisher-Szell piano cycle is a keeper but I'm also quite fond of the Murray Perahia-Bernard Haitink cycle, among others.

    And his only violin concerto might be the best work in that genre. If forced to go with one, I would opt for Perlman-Giulini, on EMI. But lots of great options here.

    But you absolutely have to get a complete symphony cycle to augment the Kleiber. One of the foundations of Western art music and as a consequence, darn near every conductor of consequence has had a go at them--sometimes more than once; Bernstein, Solti, Karajan, Szell, Haitink, Barenboim, Chailly et. al. I think the Gardiner is the best HIP cycle and Harncourt is a good middle ground, modern instruments but informed by the HIP movement.

    Cluytens on EMI is dirt-cheap but quite good, as is the Krips/LSO on a number of different labels.

    Eventually, you'll get to the string quartets. Masterpieces all and with a dizzying variety of options. But don't let that dissuade you. Many of us think that Beethoven is the greatest creative force in music history. You're in for quite a ride.
     
  15. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
  16. drh

    drh Talking Machine

    For the syms., my "basic library" recommendation is the set by Kurt Masur and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, originally on East German Eterna as a coproduction with Philips but more recently reissued as 4-channel SACDs on Pentatone.

    There was a whole thread devoted to the Krips some time back, when it could be had in a colorful tin box at Walmart, of all places, for around $10. That, by the by, is the sole edition to have on CD, as I understand others have far inferior mastering. Here's what I wrote in the other thread (apologies that I don't know how to link a single post as I used to do occasionally in the old forum software):

    For reasons that need not detain us, I picked up a copy of the Krips-in-a-tin-box edition at a Walmart a few weeks ago. I played through the recordings over a period of days, in some but not all cases comparing them with corresponding numbers from my copy of the Masur set (Pentatone SACD; to be fair and comparable, I played the straight stereo layer). As noted earlier, this was my first complete set and my introduction to most of the syms., but I had not played any of these recordings in decades. To return to them now was an eye- and ear-opening experience.

    A quick word about packaging. The tin boxes have drawn considerable amused scorn in certain quarters, but I think they're actually quite handsome and an interesting alternative to the usual drab containers for bargain issues. Inside the box the discs are stored in a rather peculiar, but graphically coordinated, cardboard multi-panel folder with little rubber cylinders to secure them into their positions. The discs themselves are marked simply "Disc 1," "Disc 2," etc., so there's no way of telling their contents, or even that they contain music by Beethoven, without reference to the printed track list on the back of the tin or spread across a couple of disconnected panels of the folder. If the mfr. follows this approach with all its products, those owning more than just the Krips set could have problems with mixing up discs from different sets.

    In general, if you are looking for someone who brings drama and power to the fore, Krips is not your man. That said, his more lyrical approach sometimes pays distinct dividends, and on occasion he does bestir himself to deliver the dramatic goods. Not infrequently, Krips gives a relatively weak account of a first movement, only to do better later. One definite point in his favor is the recorded sound, generally very warm and detailed. I remember, back when I first owned the set, that every time I played a sym. I would hear some new detail or other that I'd missed before. Well, after many years of acquaintance with these works in various performances of various vintages, imagine my surprise to have one or two more instances of that exact same experience upon making the set's reacquaintance.

    Herewith a few specific notes:

    Sym. no. 1: This is the dud of the set--a plod through and through.

    Sym. no. 2: Definitely a genial account, especially in the fourth mvt., but still enjoyable.

    Sym. no. 3: Also a good account.

    Sym. no. 4: One of the high points of the set--very nice.

    Sym. no. 5: Somewhat sluggish; the first mvt. in particular is underpowered. Not really a contender in a crowded field.

    Sym. no. 6: When Robert C. Marsh reviewed the set for High Fidelity magazine in 1959 or 1960 (my copy is in an omnibus "Records in Review" volume covering July '59 to Dec. '60), he noted that Krips was a specialist in this work, and it shows: his performance is affectionate and lyrical. I've heard more dynamic thunderstorms, but after all, this is a downpour in the German countryside, not Hurricane Katrina, and Krips's concept is well within the bounds of reason.

    Sym. no. 7: Another case of an underpowered first mvt., a bit slow and lacking punch. The remainder is better.

    Sym. no. 8: The first and third mvts. are a bit slow for my taste, but the second is uncommonly lovely, and the fourth brings things to a satisfying conclusion.

    Sym. no. 9: A decent account up to the final mvt., which is cut at a noticeably lower level than the others and begins with some offputting tape instability. Raising the volume to match its partners reveals that it lacks the others' winning clarity. Among the vocal soloists, the ladies generally have it better than the gentlemen; tenor Rudolf Petrak, in particular, has pronounced, not entirely agreeable vibrato. The choris is capable but more polite than dramatic. One nice detail: the march segment of the last mvt. has a delightful swing to it.

    The 64--well, 9.99--dollar question: how does this set stack up as a "bargain" among many competitors? My selected comparisons to the Masur cycle found the Dresdeners at least matching and usually outperforming Krips and co. at nearly every turn, meaning that Masur remains my preference as a "basic library" edition of the syms. His interpretations, to my ear, are simply more centrally "Beethovenian." On the other hand, curiously, I thought the Krips recordings *as recordings* often to be more detailed and open, at least compared to the Pentatone stereo SACD layer. Masur's set can be had as a bargain on SACD, but, that said, it still will be substantially more expensive than the pittance that Walmart asks for the Krips recordings. Taking my own experience as a beginner into account, on that basis I'd say that Krips is just about good enough, on average, for a first taste of these works, understanding that anyone staying with the genre for very long will outgrow them and want to move on to more compelling accounts. Those wanting a loving account of no. 6 might also take note, as the rest of the set can be viewed as a nice "filler" for that item at a good deal less than one would pay for a full-priced single disc. Otherwise, I'd say the set just has too many weak points--especially the dreary no. 1 and low-voltage no. 5--to be competitive, even at the near-giveaway price.
     
  17. pdenny

    pdenny 19-Year SHTV Participation Trophy Recipient

    Location:
    Hawthorne CA
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  18. The Hud

    The Hud AKA: AKA

    Essential Beethoven--Essential Classics

    A "greatest hits", if you will. Sounds awesome as well.
     
  19. Of course, Beethoven's symphonies and piano works are very renowned (with good reason, of course), but if there's something I consider truly amazing from him, that's his late string quartets. To me, they show his greatness as a composer in an amazing way. I have this double CD with his Opus 127, 130, 133 ("Grosse Fugue") and 135 quartets:

    http://www.discogs.com/Beethoven-Quartetto-Italiano-The-Late-Quartets-Vol-I/release/885177

    Not that I've heard lots of versions, but I think this is a truly great CD.
     
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  20. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
    The entire Italiano set of the Beethoven quartets is justly a classic. Wonderful performances.
     
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  21. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    Annie Fischer's set apparently was re-released. I would not call $100 a second mortgage. I've owned [or currently own] the cycles you mentioned. There is something special and singular about Annie Fischer's recordings of the Beethoven sonatas.
     
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  22. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    It is a special recording. I would also mention the Smetana Quartet's set for Supraphon from the 60's and 70's and the recent Takacs Quartet recordings as well.
     
  23. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    That Krips set is a dog—worst ensemble playing I can recall from a Beethoven Symphony cycle. The decent sound in that tin box only informs you that this set is a total clambake. Don't even think of buying the dismal Vinyl pressings.
     
  24. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
    Depends where you live.

    ;)
     
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