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#Beethoven250 (Symphonies)


Few figures in music history did as much to revolutionize a genre as Beethoven did for the symphony. 250 years after his birth, no other composer is more associated with the form; his contributions to it are among the best-known and best-loved artworks ever created. His symphonies were longer and more expansive, more tonally complex, more emotionally charged, than any written before—and all those written after had to navigate a new sonic terrain, full of endless possibilities, toward which he had forged the path.

Beethoven composed the last true Classical symphony and the first Romantic one—in that order—with the Fourth and the Third. He created one of the most famous motifs in music history (sing it with us: dun-dun-dun-dunnnn) in the Fifth, and crafted a soul-stirring anthem to international brotherhood in the “Ode to Joy” from the Ninth—the first choral symphony, inaugurating a tradition that would inspire composers as diverse as Mahler, Shostakovich, and Penderecki, among countless others.

Hear where it all began with the First and Second, jubilant Classical masterpieces in the style of Beethoven’s teacher Haydn. Revisit the perennially beloved Sixth (the ebullient Pastoral) and the monumental Seventh, in which Wagner heard “the apotheosis of dance.” Marvel at the unjustly neglected Eighth, a breath of fresh air before the tempestuous Ninth!

We’ve chosen three complete cycles by three illustrious and charismatic conductors with three exciting and unique approaches—you’ll want to check them all out to hear what they each bring to the work! Alongside the Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan recorded the full symphonic cycle for the fourth time in 1989, thankfully preserved in this treasured archival series just a few months before his passing. As always, Karajan’s renditions are among the all-time gold standards—as are those of Claudio Abbado, Karajan’s successor at the head of the Berlin Phil, who defied tradition and achieved world-class results. Finally, experience the electrifying interpretations of wild child Gustavo Dudamel with Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra.