Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    Measured against the hot-wired First Symphony, the heroic Third, and the heaven-storming Fifth -- all of them written between 1799 and 1808 -- Beethoven's Second is a relaxed work in greater part, akin to the Fourth and Sixth symphonies. This has prompted music listeners ever since to wonder how he could have created a work as buoyant as No. 2 at a time when his worsening deafness had been diagnosed as incurable and irreversible.

    The work came to term in 1802 from sketches organized the previous year. Likelier than not, it reflects several happy months in the rural retreat of Heiligenstadt, on the recommendation of an otologist. From one window in his isolated cottage he could see eastward to the Danube, and beyond. Outside, he roamed the fields and surrounding woods freely, yet his mood was "morose" according to Ferdinand Ries, the devoted pupil who visited him there.

    Beethoven introduced the new symphony at Vienna on April 5, 1803, at a mammoth Akademie in the Theater an der Wien, along with the Third Piano Concerto (completed in 1800), a new oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives, and a repeat performance of the First Symphony from 1800. In the third movement of No. 2, the word scherzo appeared symphonically for the first time, although it retained a song and trio form, and was built on the sudden juxtapositions of loud and soft, with changes in their patterns just when he'd seemed to settle on one. The scoring, however, continued to employ traditional pairs of winds and brass, timpani, and strings.

    An Adagio molto introduction anticipates the soft-loud contrasts that explode like Chinese firecrackers two movements later, although the sound and shape of it recall Haydn. The exposition begins in measure 35, with a main subject of Mozartian levitation, but thereafter Beethoven asserts his own less courtly and more confrontational personality.

    As in the First Symphony, he wrote the first, second, and fourth movements in sonata form. The longest of them is this A major Larghetto in triple meter, if all the repeats are observed. Finding an accommodating tempo can pose problems: largo, after all, means "broad," the slowest tempo in music. Larghetto is a diminutive form -- i.e., not as slow -- but how slow (or not slow) remains the conductor's call.

    After Beethoven's surprises in (as well as of) the scherzo, he chortles throughout a finale marked Allegro molto, mostly at his own syncopated jokes. They begin in the first measure and don't let up till the double-bar. Many of his contemporaries were shocked, and several reviled him in print. One Viennese critic, after a repeat performance in 1804, called Symphony No. 2 "a crass monster, a hideously writhing, wounded dragon that refuses to die and, though bleeding in the finale, furiously thrashes about with its stiffened tail." One should always keep posterity in mind whenever a spiky new piece tempts us to dismiss it without a trial (whereas easy-listening pieces tend to spoil as quickly as unrefrigerated seafood, and most should).

    Parts/Movements

    1. Adagio molto
    2. Allegro con brio
    3. Larghetto
    4. Scherzo. Allegro
    5. Allegro molto

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2021
    RCO Live
    RCO 19005
    2020
    CAvi-music
    AVI 8553111
    2020
    Pentatone / PentaTone Classics
    PTC 5186860
    2020
    Naxos
    8551431
    2020
    Harmonia Mundi
    HMM 902420
    2020
    DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
    19439706502
    2020
    Signum Classics
    SIGCD 616
    2020
    Ondine
    ODE 13485Q
    2020
    SWR Music
    SWR 19525CD
    2020
    Alia Vox
    9937
    2019
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 18066
    2019
    Deutsche Grammophon
    B003111960
    2019
    Warner Classics
    9029539882
    2019
    Naxos
    8505251
    2018
    Edition Taschenphilharmonie
    ETP 010
    2018
    Wiener Symphoniker
    WS 015
    2018
    Alpha
    380
    2018
    Warner Classics
    2018
    ICA Classics
    ICAC 5148
    2018
    Capriccio Records
    C 7275
    2018
    Warner Classics
    2018
    Decca / Deutsche Grammophon
    4798418
    2018
    ABC Classics
    2017
    Warner Classics
    0190295886691
    2017
    Various Artists
    ICA Classics
    ICAB 5141
    2017
    Berlin Classics
    0300926 BC
    2017
    Tafelmusik Media
    TMK 1034CD
    2017
    Decca / London
    2017
    Decca / London
    2017
    Vinyl Passion Classical
    2017
    Warner Classics
    0190295824600
    2017
    Accentus
    ACC 80322
    2017
    Nimbus Records
    NI 1713
    2017
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4797477
    2017
    PentaTone Classics
    PTC 5186249
    2017
    ICA Classics
    ICAC 5145
    2016
    Warner Classics
    0190295975098
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4795977
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4796314
    2016
    Berliner Philharmoniker
    BPHR 160091
    2016
    Tacet
    TACET 974
    2016
    Warner Classics
    0190295929718
    2015
    Analekta
    AN 291505
    2015
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    88875112822
    2015
    BR Klassik
    900138
    2015
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    88875123912
    2015
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    ORC 100045
    2015
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    DUX 1196
    2015
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    ANDRCD 9079
    2015
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    ALPHA 470
    2015
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    RIC 357
    2014
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    2014
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    5099999356521
    2014
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    2564627829
    2014
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    MELCD 1002228
    2014
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    TMK 1023CD2
    2014
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    NI 6259
    2014
    Decca / Eloquence
    2014
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    2564633735
    2014
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    545117
    2014
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    SDG 721
    2014
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    WS 121178
    2014
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    4758147
    2014
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    2014
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    88843014642
    2014
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    AUDITE 95627
    2014
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    BRAU 1144
    2014
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    2013
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    SFS 0058
    2013
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    Brilliant Classics
    94630
    2013
    Brilliant Classics
    94327
    2013
    Crystal Classics
    DELTA 80006
    2013
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    BM 312452
    2013
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    2013
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    83085
    2013
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    5099973530
    2013
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    2013
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    175712
    2013
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    900119
    2013
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    CDBP 9819
    2013
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    94224
    2013
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    OC 090
    2013
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    8501204
    2013
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4791046
    2012
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    2012
    Decca
    4783511
    2012
    Brilliant Classics
    94289
    2012
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    HAEN 93285
    2012
    Challenge Classics / North Star Records
    CC 72550
    2012
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    2012
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    001653502
    2012
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    12109
    2012
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    OC 673
    2012
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    61890
    2012
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    2012
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    002894770055
    2012
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    Rod 3710
    2012
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    2012
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    ANDRCD 9093
    2011
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    4779830
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    MC199
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    94052
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    SU40512
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    88697927172
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    CD1252
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    63779
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    8802077
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    21408
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    4778643
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    477 864-3
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    8869768365
    2010
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    2009
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    2009
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    2009
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    5186314
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    88697542542
    2009
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    2009
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    2009
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    2009
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    2009
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    2009
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    1825/26
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    80756
    2009
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    2009
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    673674
    2008
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    4777578
    2008
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    0184442
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    2008
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    5099921763
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    0115022
    2008
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    4681072
    2008
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    7039
    2008
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    60002
    2008
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    1816
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    23404
    2008
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    10321
    2008
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    80402
    2008
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    0001252CCC
    2008
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    60006
    2008
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    2008
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    5099951586
    2008
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    4630882
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4775864
    2008
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    8593
    2008
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    2008
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    0002672CCC
    2008
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    Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008
    Archipel
    0382
    2008
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    5099951203
    2007
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    4765957
    2007
    Deutsche Grammophon
    004400734325
    2007
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    1489
    2007
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    41007
    2007
    Music & Arts
    1203
    2007
    Brilliant Classics
    93525
    2007
    Cascade Records
    2200
    2007
    EMI Classics
    367530
    2007
    Ambroisie
    9993
    2007
    Rhino
    2007
    Testament
    1406
    2007
    Selection
    8571006
    2007
    Sony Music Distribution
    5185082
    2007
    EMI Classics
    87739
    2007
    EMI Classics
    3777672
    2007
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000966502
    2007
    Decca
    4759090
    2007
    Music & Arts
    1198
    2007
    Hyperion
    44301
    2007
    Various Artists
    Brilliant
    93178
    2006
    Document
    224051
    2006
    LSO Live
    598
    2006
    Warner Music
    63779
    2006
    LSO Live
    582
    2006
    LSO
    82
    2006
    Madacy
    52319
    2006
    Andromeda
    5017
    2006
    Music & Arts
    CD1182
    2005
    Oehms
    522
    2005
    Brilliant
    92766
    2005
    Elatus
    2005
    Arte Nova
    636450
    2005
    Oehms Classics
    605
    2005
    Berlin Classics
    0012512
    2005
    Angel Records
    66794
    2005
    Pentatone Classics
    5186143
    2005
    Audite
    95531
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution
    86504
    2005
    RCO Live
    05002
    2005
    Philips
    4756883
    2005
    Teldec / Warner Classics / Warner Music
    4618902
    2005
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    221790
    2005
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4775838
    2004
    Arts Music
    47700
    2004
    Brilliant
    99793
    2004
    Decca / Deutsche Grammophon / Universal
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    474983
    2004
    Philips
    000251636
    2004
    Naïve
    4971
    2004
    Avie
    40
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    474601
    2004
    Sony Classical
    93087
    2004
    High Definition Classics
    037
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000218502
    2004
    PentaTone Classics
    5186159
    2004
    Naxos
    8508007
    2004
    Various Artists
    Brilliant
    92387
    2004
    EMI Music Distribution
    575751
    2004
    Resonance
    504
    2004
    Philips
    4752722
    2004
    Sony Music Distribution
    92480
    2004
    Laserlight
    40027
    2004
    Apex
    60457
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    474 980-2GM10
    2003
    Capriccio Records
    50000
    2003
    EMI Classics
    57445
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    57566
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    1462
    2003
    PentaTone Classics
    5186118
    2003
    Telarc Distribution
    80187
    2003
    Haenssler
    93084
    2003
    Naxos Historical
    8110856
    2003
    Haenssler
    93089
    2003
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    89109
    2003
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    092749768
    2003
    Berlin Classics
    0021962
    2003
    EMI Classics
    2003
    Apex
    4604532
    2003
    BBC Legends
    41242
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    474018
    2003
    RCA
    55702
    2003
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    87328
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000165536
    2003
    Delta Distribution
    40031
    2003
    EMI Classics
    75965
    2003
    IMG Artists
    75465
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    75474
    2003
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    45515
    2002
    Glissando
    38
    2002
    Brilliant
    99927
    2002
    Urania
    URN 22217
    2002
    Deutsche Grammophon
    471487
    2002
    Teldec
    8573830852
    2002
    Sony Music Distribution
    87885
    2002
    Sony Classical
    89844
    2002
    Dutton Laboratories
    9716
    2002
    Classica d'Oro
    1064
    2002
    D Classics
    70616
    2002
    Testament
    1285
    2002
    Tahra
    420-421
    2001
    RCA
    66656
    2001
    Haenssler
    98375
    2001
    RCA
    66458
    2001
    CBC Records
    5201
    2001
    Erato / Virgin
    7243561943
    2001
    Berlin Classics
    0031342
    2001
    Decca
    2001
    EMI Music Distribution
    67491
    2001
    RCA
    89107
    2001
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243567496
    2001
    Disky
    70708
    2001
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    204573
    2001
    Tahra
    363/365
    2001
    Tahra
    391-393
    2000
    Teldec
    28144
    2000
    Decca
    2000
    Deutsche Grammophon
    469000
    2000
    Orfeo D'Or
    534001
    2000
    Teldec
    83085
    2000
    Amadis
    18501
    2000
    Basic Classics
    3
    2000
    Grammofono 2000
    78893
    2000
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    039
    2000
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    27838
    2000
    EMI Music Distribution
    73895
    2000
    Naxos
    110919
    2000
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    70527
    1999
    Arte Nova
    65410
    1999
    EMI Music Distribution
    573323-2
    1999
    Arte Nova
    63645
    1999
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    55835
    1999
    EMI Music Distribution
    56838
    1999
    Sony Classical
    61835
    1999
    Golden Melodram
    40040
    1999
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    99093
    1999
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    3858
    1999
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    9010
    1999
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    459622
    1999
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    1179
    1999
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    BCI Music (Brentwood Communication)
    223
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    9185
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    78032
    1998
    Angel Records
    72923
    1998
    Nimbus
    NI1760
    1998
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    57931
    1998
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    3984213352
    1998
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    101
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    2840
    1998
    Denon Records
    17001
    1998
    Grammofono 2000
    78826
    1998
    Disky
    703732
    1998
    Lys
    383
    1997
    Point Classics
    267011
    1997
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    8 553476
    1997
    Carlton Classics
    6702292
    1997
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    61375
    1997
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    62344
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    453701
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    L'Oiseau-Lyre
    452551
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    1997
    Magic Talent
    48070
    1997
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    78711/12
    1996
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    2905225.30
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    78012
    1996
    Arts Music
    47370
    1996
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    454032
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    447 902-2GBM
    1996
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    7042
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    47244
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    CD-942
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    30369
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    6800025
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    4008
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    2901192.98
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    4051
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    64460
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    15947
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    14257
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    0021942
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    100
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    1000
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    439 900-2AH5
    1994
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    17
    1994
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    439681
    1994
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    505001
    1994
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    68057
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    6067
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    443 479-2DF2
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    1006
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    442156
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    0020052
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    9
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    442 073-2PB5
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    0500
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    0300
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    5602
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    9107
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    439200
    1993
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    439001
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    48238
    1993
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    76436
    1993
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    1201
    1992
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    5144
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    47651
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    75712
    1992
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    47515
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    48396
    1992
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    1991
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    46452
    1991
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    63606
    1991
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    48099
    1990
    RCA
    60324
    1990
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    15900
    1990
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    4290892
    1990
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    423481
    1990
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    15903
    1990
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    GD60253
    1990
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    1990
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    430400
    1990
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    429036
    1990
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    427306
    1989
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    60090
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    763310/5
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    80200
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    550177
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    4190502
    1980
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    126
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    283286
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    216
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    204552
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    40
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    494872
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    4013
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    749852
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    49852
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    321351
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    320
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    041
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    3510
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    03002
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    2202
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    160204
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    63355
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    554502
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    92766/2
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    120
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    45532
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    125
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    44775
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    524
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    414338
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    19504
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    42009
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    929
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    38469
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    44010
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    5037
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    321
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    78900
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    4266
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    78540
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    35604
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    10451-55
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    0011212
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    8635/46
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    160018
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    705242
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    111104
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    763192
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    92387/2
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    423049
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    071