Paul Kletzki / Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

Beethoven: Symphonies

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Recorded between 1964 and 1968, Paul Kletzki's respected cycle of Ludwig van Beethoven's symphonies on Supraphon rightly should be classified as a historical item for specialists, rather than as a recommended option for anyone seeking a great (and great sounding) modern set. Kletzki was an admired and popular conductor, noted for working with both European and American orchestras, and his interpretations of Beethoven are intelligent and insightful, regarded by some reviewers as among the finest of their time; the performances are still valuable for their musicality and significance among mid-20th century offerings. However, these recordings predate the movement for historically informed performance practice, so fans of late Classical and early Romantic period style will find this set of little interest, and only traditionalists will be enthusiastic about it. These analog versions don't compare well with the best contemporary digital recordings, and the sound of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra is a bit too homogenized and at times too muddy in this remastering to make the music fully enjoyable. Although the instruments can be made out clearly enough, some of their upper partials seem to have been eliminated in the reduction of tape hiss, and the ensemble's overall sound seems a little dulled in tone as a result. Artistically, there is much to appreciate here, but this box set faces serious competition from later and better sounding alternatives.

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