, March 2012
this set is…cause to celebrate as it’s full of delights.
[Abbado’s] First is solid and dependable, if unexceptional, but there is a real crackle of energy to the first movement of the Second and there is playing of quicksilver precision in the finale. He is helped by a Berlin Philharmonic that was on the top of its form and which had clearly grown to love him…It’s easy to take for granted just how exceptional their playing is, but every now and again a little touch will remind you what a fantastic team of musicians they are; the clarity of the horns in the Fifth, for example, or the sheer beauty of the string tone in the Pastoral or the Larghetto of the Second. The Eroica was a highlight for me: the first movement is vigorous and muscular but always cultured, never raw. The funeral march is profoundly lyrical while the Scherzo bristles with energy. The finale, meanwhile, proceeds with powerful breadth, paced with a profound sense of something majestic unfolding before finally letting rip in the coda. Abbado’s sense of architecture and scale is at its finest here.
The Fourth is successful in its first half, but really takes off with the liveliness of its last two movements, and there is titanic drama in the Fifth, every drop of which is ingrained onto Abbado’s face. The Eighth proceeds with bumptious good will, though also with rigorously worked out regard to the tempo relations, something he dwells on in the documentary. The Seventh isn’t quite so good as those around it: the outer movements are exhilarating, but the middle movements lack some of the power they can display elsewhere.
The Ninth[’s] choral singing is good, especially on the great double fugue at Seid umschlungen…
The one definite gain…comes from seeing Abbado and the way he lives every bar of this music, coaxing it into life with the love of a father for a child. One interesting extra feature that these DVDs have is that symphonies 3, 5, 6 and 7 have a “Conductor Camera” option whereby you can change the DVD angle so that you see the camera that is trained on Abbado throughout the whole performance. It’s a great feature and it’s often much more illuminating to watch this than the orthodox film view…
…the joy and the life behind these performances makes it pretty plain why he chose this set as his “legacy set” for Beethoven. Despite my reservations the peerless playing and outstanding direction make it a joy to experience. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review