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Perfection is having so many choices, really. My last count (I'm going to put a discography out there, this year) has hit on just shy of 200 cycles... which is obscene and wonderful.
P.S. User "lucio"... the lucio of many moons ago, in this forum, when it looked quite different?
I love all his versions of Beethoven Symphonies 1-9.
Overall, I would choose Schmidt-Isserstedt with the VPO on Decca. These interpretations have a superior sense of the structure of these symphonies, to the point where they put me in mind of an orchestral version of Alfred Brendel. The tautness of the playing and conception results in a wonderful sense of drama, balanced by some very beautiful lyrical playing from the VPO strings. Decca's 60s recording is also superb.
I haven't even heard of this Schmidy-Issertedt set. I will have a look for it.......it must be on spotify somewhere......
My favourite right now is Peter Maag with the Padua and Veneto Orchestra. I had never heard of him, either - or the orchestra - until about a year ago when someone recommended it. Maag was a disciple of Furtwangler, as well as a piano student of Cortot. He waited until the the end of his life to record these, fearing he would never be able to live up to Furtwangler. The orchestra itself is small (rather like a period band), but does not follow the usual HIP conventions. What comes across, as much as the superb playing, is the strength and richness of Maag's interpretation. Listen to any of them and you realise a truly visionary intelligence is at work here. A complete contrast, in many ways, to the celebrity conductors who struggle to get underneath the surface of a piece.
Oh Jane, I just read your post regarding Maag Beethoven and I'll second it. I don't necessarily consider it as THE favorite set of mine - it is all personal - but I think it is an impressive set, worth exploring. Regarding Schmidt-Isserstedt in general, I usually find him rather foursquare than inspired/inspiring.
Just joined. First post :)
I recently acquired the Beethoven cycle by de Vriend and the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra. It impressed me musically, despite the idiosyncratic interpretation here and there and the occasionally unusual instrumental tonalities. Rewarding to listen through the whole thing. The (SACD) sound is truly amazing.
Overall, for a cycle by one conductor/orchestra (nothing else, surely, is a cycle per se!) I still prefer Karajan '62.
Eventually, someone who listened to Beethoven's de Vriend cycle, found it worthwhile and report it here. I also appreciate this cylce as well as quite a few other of his recordings so far, including the also worth exploring Mendelssohn's Symphonies cycle.
The sound of the SACD format of his recordings (they are almost all exclusively on SACD) is quite impressive, I have to admit too (Challenge is a wider repertory audiophile label).
What are the best cycles for period instruments?
What cycle had the best sound quality of all?
Also if I was looking for the most intense, bombastic, emotionally stunning etc single recordings of these symphonies what might I look for?
For your first question, the pioneer recording was the Norrington with the London Classical Players, on the defunct EMI (now on Erato). However, who cares now? Hogwood's recording with the Academy of Ancient Music was also a groundbreaking one but who is still fond of it now? Gardiner with his Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique (on Archiv) made a sensation...for some time. Bruggen made two recordings with the Orchestra of the 18th Century, the old one on Philips (a very interesting one) and the latest on Glossa, live and in SACD format (an uneven production both as a performance and recording, but with some very bright, personal and emotional moments). Maybe, the one who passed, somehow, the test of time and collected enough approval across the board is the one with Van Immerseel and the Anima Eterna, on ZIg-Zag: soundwise is quite O.K.; the performances are on the fast track but exhilarating and with enough gusto.
Personally, I do not find any of the period instruments recordings convincing enough. At least, I have a strong admiration and respect for the personalities of Hogwood and Bruggen (and, in a broader sense for his general contribution, of Gardiner), but I am not convinced they are that suitable for Beethoven.
For your second question, while it is a matter of definition of all these terms you used, I will urge you to try some of Karajan's of the 62 recordings, some of the very first Solti recordings, most of Bernstein's and de Vriend's recent one on Challenge (praised above by me and another poster). The latter is -arguably perhaps- the most impressive as for the recording (in SACD format).
Finally, for a more balanced, traditional, strong, on the rather slow track performance of emotional quality and authority, give a shot to Takashi Asahina and the Osaka P.O., on Exton (in SACD format too).
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