Recorded between 1972 and 1974 and released in time for Christmas in 1975, Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's stereo cycle of Beethoven
's symphonies was a classic in its time and remains so 30 years later in this splendidly remastered 2007 re-release. As was typical of the Solti/Chicago partnership, the performances here are big boned, heavy muscled, and very aggressive with highly dramatic conducting matched by hugely powerful playing. Though for some listeners, Solti and the Chicago's approach to the "First" and "Second" may be too massive and their way with the "Fourth" and "Sixth" too monumental, few would argue they aren't great performances of their kind. More importantly, Solti and the Chicago's "Fifth" is unbelievably ferocious, their "Seventh" incredibly vital, their "Eighth" flat-out hilarious, and their "Ninth" appropriately heaven storming and star spanning with a final coda that will leave listeners gasping. And even with the then-rarely observed exposition repeat in the opening Allegro con brio, Solti and the Chicago's "Third" is a staggering architectural achievement with a Finale that matches the finest ever recorded for grandeur and glory. For the neophyte, there is no better place to start a Beethoven collection than this set. And for even the most jaded collector, these tremendously exciting performances will help them recall why Beethoven is universally regarded as the greatest symphonist of them all.