Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphonies No. 1-9
Additional Artists: Angela Denoke, Marianna Tarasova, Endrik Wottrich, Matthias Goerne, The Moscow State Chamber Choir (conducted by Vladimir Minin)
Mikhail Pletnev, conductor
The Beethoven Project
Deutsche Grammophon 477 640-9
Purchase via RNO iTunes


Recording of the Month, MusicWeb

WGUC Top CD of 2007



This new 5-CD set of all nine quintessential symphonies by Beethoven offers a great way to jump-start a music-lover's collection of great recordings.

The Arizona Republic

Pletnev plays the Eroica like it means something, and replaces tunes and rhythms with the kind of persuasive rhetoric that starts nations marching.

The Wall Street Journal

[Pletnev] gets the Russian National Orchestra to play -- or so I'd swear -- as if it never heard this music before... In his performance [of "Ode to Joy"], when the tune appeared -- first softly, then radiant with light -- it sounded like a discovery. When finally it called to heaven with the massed voices of the full orchestra, I wanted to get up and shout. I wanted to sing along.... The strings just sing their hearts out, making all the melodies they play alive and eager... The performances are precise, even in the midst of all the wildness, with every rhythm exact and every instrument clearly heard. Which leaves us with some lovely contradictions, with music that seems to be in flux, caught in the heat of inspiration, often breaking all the sober rules of classical music by giving each new moment its own sound and flow, or even a distinctly different speed. I'd often wonder what was coming next, caught up, like those audiences long ago, in Beethoven's drama and suspense -- in symphonies I've heard a hundred times.

The New Yorker

The Russian style is basically a combination of brute power and high sentiment. These performances by the Russian National Orchestra - filtered through the radically Romantic sensibility of its conductor, Mikhail Pletnev - will not please everyone, but their audacious originality is indisputable.

Seattle Times

The wonderfully imaginative conductor Mikhail Pletnev...extracts every possible bit of drama from Beethoven's great symphonies, with full-blooded and passionate playing from his Russian compatriots and lots of interesting details. Soloists in the Ninth are very fine.

New York Times

... this compelling, driving and sometimes shocking set ... demands to be heard.

Toronto Star

The result is crystalline interpretations that play fast and loose with the composer's instructions, yet manage to sound utterly convincing. The audio quality is excellent.

International Record Review (London)

...the Russian National Orchestra plays Beethoven marvellously.

MusicWeb International

...with Pletnev there is both the detail and the grand sweep or gesture of each movement, which unfolds to become more the sum of its parts... Like the detail in a beautiful or striking building you can examine its design and craftsmanship closely, or stand back and swallow it as a breathtaking whole ... I love Pletnev’s sense of playfulness or empathy with the mood of each moment ....The sheer wealth of associations Pletnev conjures from these pieces makes this new set something of an extra delight... I’ve learned more about Beethoven’s symphonies through these recordings just by listening than with any other complete sets... with Pletnev’s imaginative approach our imaginations are set to work as well, and with that effect these recordings are more likely to live on in your mind and draw you back than many others that I can think of.

Arizona Republic

Mikhail Pletnev, in his new set of Beethoven symphonies, doesn't want to run his musicians down the smooth rails of expectation; he wants to rattle us, shake us from our complacency and astonish us. He wants us not to glide through familiar music, but to wake up and pay attention - as if hearing it again for the first time... Each movement is played as if he wanted us to hear it as an act in a drama, with themes playing the various parts, and being here angry, there imploring, yet again, joyous. It should never tick along like a clock.... For anyone with adventurous ears, this set provides what we most desire in our music: not familiarity but a genuine experience. Something that will expand us, make us feel things we haven't felt before, think things we haven't thought before.

The Times (London)

Pletnev’s cycle, recorded over 11 hectic days last summer with his excellent Russian National Orchestra, is... significant.... Pletnev’s volatile behaviour gives the symphonies a sense of exploration and growth. The Eroica first movement in particular is a triumph of flexible speed – there’s life and surprise in every bar... there’s a dangerous delight about Pletnev’s approach.

What They’re Saying

"The Russian National Orchestra... has become a living symbol of the best in Russian art."

The Miami Herald