Beethoven: Complete Symphonies / Blomstedt, Staatskapelle Dresden

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Herbert Blomstedt's Beethoven cycle with the Staatskapelle Dresden is one of the great ones, as much for the magnificent playing of this finest of all German orchestras as for Blomstedt's effortlessly musical interpretations. The only possible weak link here might be the first movement of the Fifth, which lacks the sheer intensity that, say, Carlos Kleiber brings to it. On the other hand, Blomstedt's more emotionally balanced conception is so well realized that I'm inclined to give him credit for bringing off an unconventional interpretation, particularly as the remainder of the symphony lacks for nothing in excitement or sheer power.

Highlights of this cycle are many: a grand and glorious Eroica, a lithe and lyrical Second and Fourth, a pellucid Sixth with luminous wind playing, an exciting Ninth sporting fantastically buoyant strings in the Scherzo and a marvelously well sung finale, and a transcendentally great performance of the Seventh, with rip-roaring horns and perfect pacing throughout. The recordings, made in Dresden's Lucaskirche in the late 1970s and early '80s, put a silvery sheen around the players (winds especially) and strike an excellent balance between clarity and warmth. At the Brilliant Classics price, you can't afford not to own this set. [6/23/2002]
--David Hurwitz,
reviewing this set previously released as Brilliant 99927


Beethoven's nine symphonies -- composed between 1800 and 1824 -- are true cornerstones of the classical canon. Marking an irrefutable turning point in the history of music, they transformed audiences' expectations of the symphony and influenced the genre's future development through their experimental, dramatic and expressive weight. Conductors have long been drawn to the profundity of these works: a complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies is viewed as one of the ultimate challenges in the repertoire, and the performances in this set are undoubtedly among the greatest to have been recorded, illuminating the skill of the Staatskapelle Dresden and Herbert Blomstedt, one of the most distinguished conductors of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The symphonies trace Beethoven's development as a composer, from the earlier works that document his emergence from the Viennese tradition, through to his experimental and critically divisive late style. Particularly famed for its landmark status in the history of music is the 'Eroica' Symphony (No.3), notable for its innovative approach to sonata form and embodiment of Beethoven's 'heroic' style. Also included are the legendary Symphony No.5, known for its distinctive opening motif and rigorous large-scale structure, the dramatic 'Pastoral' Symphony, and the sophisticated Seventh Symphony. The collection is, of course, concluded by the monumental Symphony No.9 -- known as the 'Choral' Symphony because of its ground-breaking, transcendent finale, sung here by the Dresden State Opera Chorus and a group of acclaimed soloists.

Over 30 years after their initial release, these recordings have remained one of the ultimate Beethoven symphony cycles, a testament to the quality of the performances and Blomstedt's interpretations. Brought together in a set of excellent value, this 5-disc collection is a must-have addition to the libraries of classical music fans, old and new.

Other information:
- Recordings made in Lucaskirche, Dresden, 1975--1980

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: BRI94289

  • UPC: 5028421942896

  • Label: Brilliant Classics

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven

  • Conductor: Herbert Blomstedt

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Dresden Staatskapelle, Dresden State Opera Chorus

  • Performer: Helena Döse, Marga Schiml, Peter Schreier, Theo Adam