Album: Beethoven, Symphonies 1 and 9 Berliner Philharmoniker (Deutsche Grammophon)

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The Independent Culture

Claudio Abbado's 2001 performances in Rome with the Berliner Philharmoniker has made it into a boxed-set with a re-edited version of their Berlin recording of No 9.

The playing in the Fourth, Sixth and Eighth Symphonies marries the precision and suavity of modern instruments with the vitality of period performance practice. There's some sluggish scherzi and a heavy Fifth, Abbado's tempi is notably fleet, the sound radiant. But in the Second and Seventh Symphonies, emphasis on textural detail dilutes the drama. At mid-price, this set would be a steal. At full price, I'd hesitate.

Pick of the Album: An exquisite account of the Eighth Symphony