I have the 1963 remaster that also includes "Eroica." Apparently it is volume 2 of a 10 CD set, which our lone record store in town does not have in it's entirety. Bummer. I suppose I could download it from iTunes, but for classical music I generally prefer to buy the CD and burn it for my iPod at a higher bit-rate than iTunes offers. Plus there's that whole support local family-owned business thing as well . . .
There are various online sites that sell CDs. You can also get that set remastered yet again for hybrid SACD. (A hybrid SACD can play on a regular CD player, but you will only get the CD layer of the sound, not the SACD layer, when played on a CD player. Probably, the CD layer is the same mastering as was done for the DG Complete Beethoven Edition, but I am unsure of that.)
That series, taken as a whole, is generally regarded as Karajan's best traversal of the Beethoven symphonies, though not everyone agrees on that point. I think it is his best performances (overall, not necessarily of each symphony), but I don't think the differences are as great as some people seem to imagine. They all seem to have a similar style, which should hardly be surprising, being conducted by the same person, with the same orchestra (though, of course, some of the members would have been changed between those decades).
I have not heard the SACDs, though I have heard both the original CD release (which I own) and the first remastering (which is owned by one of my brothers, and is what you have of the 4th). I think the remastering is better, and would guess
that the newer remastering for SACD is better still.
The original release set can be had for very little money, so it is worth considering if one is poor. But otherwise, I would recommend going with a remastered version.
And this is my favorite set of the Beethoven symphonies, though, again, there is much disagreement about whose performances are the best. This set, however, is often in such discussions.
Agreed, the Stravinsky-conducted version comes across a bit less lush than other versions I have heard, but it has a certain raw power to it that I enjoy. Plus, it is Stravinsky conducting.
I used to have a really excellent version of Sacre du Printemps on vinyl, but I don't know what's become of it. I think it was a Deutsche Grammophon version as well, but I can't remember now.
My comment was not intended to indicate any disparagement of Stravinsky's conducting of the Rite of Spring (the "Yes" that started my post was in agreement with your statement "it's fantastic"). "Spare" was meant purely descriptively, not as a pejorative evaluation. In this case, it may or may not have been what Stravinsky really wanted (as the limitations of the orchestra may have prevented that), but it has all that it really needs. Sometimes, less is more, and I think the less from Stravinsky on this really is more than what one typically gets. It has a raw visceral power that others often lack.
I suppose I should clarify the above; I have been presuming that you have been referring to the stereo recording Stravinsky did in 1960 (released 1962) with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, instead of his earlier mono recording from 1940 with the New York Philharmonic. I have never heard the 1940 recording; I have the 1960 recording, and my comments above are about that one. (I believe that the 1940 recording is out of print, though it has been released on a couple of different CD labels, and now would cost a lot of money to obtain. It is said to be a superb performance, with very poor sound quality of the recording.)
"Classical" music gets very complicated, when one starts to get into the question of which recording one should get, as there are many considerations to balance, including not only the quality of the performance, but the sound quality of the recording.
I have generally found that conductors matter more than orchestras, and soloists matter more than conductors (in pieces with very prominent solo parts), when making selections of which performance is "best". And, of course, generally speaking, newer recordings have better sound quality than older ones.
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There is a drive to the 1960 Berlin set that is very compelling (for example the explosion at the end of the bridge passage in Sym. 5). Since I have a hour drive to work, I spend last year listening exclusively to the cycle, and although I have recordings of each symphony that I prefer, it is to my ears, the best complete review.
I agree. It is my favorite as well.
And, while one must acknowledge that Beethoven is at the pinnacle of greatness, a musical version of Nietzsche's Overman, this doesn't preclude the enjoyment of other composers. [Aside: I once read something to the effect that Beethoven began writing music for everyone, then beginning with the 9th and the Solemnis only to a few kindred souls, and finally with the last quartets, only for god.] To the list above, I might suggest Handel, Brahms, and of course, Bruckner---even Saint-Saens or Pucinni.
I am sometimes struck with the idea that the great composers are great philosophers, and vice versa.
I very much disagree. I don't think that being a great composer has anything to do with being a great philosopher. I am particularly struck by that thought when I read a translation of the words to Mozart's Requiem
, which is superb music, but if it is philosophy, it is dreadful philosophy. (By the way, I recommend the recording of Mozart's Requiem
performed by the Staatskapelle Dresden, conducted by Peter Schreier, on the Philips label, which one professional reviewer described as a "revelation". I agree with that sentiment.)
In a manner of speaking, powerful music appeals to the emotions, but great philosophy appeals more to the intellect. Sophistry that masquerades as great philosophy often appeals to the emotions. (As has been said before me, witticisms are no substitute for logic
. But, of course, many are seduced by witticisms.)