Classical Album box-set: Claudio Abbado & The Berliner Philharmonic, Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (Medici Arts)
There have been many complete recordings of Beethoven's nine symphonies and successive conductors seek to demonstrate that their own readings of the material adds something new to either Herbert von Karajan's or Wilhelm Furtwängler's versions.
Claudio Abbado completed the cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic, but that is surely outshone, in energy and animation, by his turn-of-the-century recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic, presented here across four DVDs. It's something to do with the particular character of the Berlin orchestra, whose unusually democratic organisation is evident in these performances, all but one of which (the Ninth, done at their home venue) was recorded at Rome's Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Added interest is furnished by the "conductor camera" option which, uniquely, enables one effectively to sit among the musicians and watch Abbado leading them.
Pick of the Album: Symphony No 6 in F major, Symphony No 9 in D major, Symphony No 3 in E flat major, Symphony No 5 in C minor