Beethoven: Complete Symphonies/Cluytens/Berlin Philharmonic

by Audiophilia on July 30, 2013 · 0 comments

in Classical Recordings

by James Norris

Beethoven: Complete Symphonies
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
André Cluytens
EMI Classics
B0040UE18G

This complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies has been around in some form for most of the last fifty five years since they were recorded. The reason is simple – they are very good indeed!

EMI has rereleased them as a box set with no frills packaging and a booklet only printed in French so those that want further information about the music will have to look on the internet. At less than the cost of one full price CD, they are well worth it.

This was the first complete stereo cycle recorded by the BPO between 1957 and 1960 and shows us what a fine, warm and disciplined orchestra the Berliners were and what a fine job Furtwangler did in rebuilding them after the Second World War. There is only one word of warning about the performances and I have never read this anywhere else – Cluytens misses out the exposition repeats of a number of these symphonies as was the custom of some conductors in those days, probably in order to fit the symphonies to the space available on an LP record. This is not a major problem if you don’t mind a slightly truncated performance. But, if you are a purist and want every marking observed like the Holy Grail then this might annoy you. I have to say however that the quality of these performances far outweighs any other consideration and they are well worth getting for your collection at such a modest price.

Purchase at our affiliate, Amazon.

Great Conductors of the 20th Century
André Cluytens
EMI Classics
B00005V33G

The Great Conductors release provides us with further evidence of just how good Cluytens could be in the right repertoire. Here is a blistering account of Berlioz’ Fantastic Symphony given on tour in Japan in 1964 by the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra of which Cluytens was principal conductor during the 1950s. This together with rare Philharmonia recordings of French music that EMI and Cluytens recorded in the late 1950s in London.

Interesting to note that Cluytens only appeared once at the Royal Festival Hall conducting the Philharmonia and despite recording concertos with Solomon did not have a huge following this side of the English Channel. Cluytens career was cut short by cancer and he died at the age of 62 in 1967.

These performances are getting more difficult to find in the CD market and will soon, I am sure, only be available as downloads, so probably worth picking up these discs while you can. They won’t disappoint.

Purchase at our affiliate, Amazon.

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