• Ludwig van Beethoven
    Leonore Overture No. 1 in C major, op. 138 (11 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

  • Ludwig van Beethoven
    Symphony No. 1 in C major, op. 21 (27 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

  • Ludwig van Beethoven
    Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 36 (33 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

  • Ludwig van Beethoven
    Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, op. 55 “Eroica” (56 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

  • free

    Ludwig van Beethoven
    Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, op. 60 (37 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

  • Ludwig van Beethoven
    Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67 (37 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

  • Ludwig van Beethoven
    Symphony No. 6 in F major, op.68 “Pastoral” (49 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

  • free

    Ludwig van Beethoven
    Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92 (46 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

  • Ludwig van Beethoven
    Symphony No. 8 in F major, op. 93 (28 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

  • Ludwig van Beethoven
    Symphony No. 9 in D minor, op. 125 “Choral” (76 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

    Annette Dasch Soprano, Eva Vogel Mezzo-Soprano, Christian Elsner Tenor, Dimitry Ivashchenko Bass, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Simon Halsey Chorus Master

“The path from the First to the Ninth is the greatest journey ever undertaken within a musical style,” as Sir Simon Rattle once said about the cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies. For this very reason, they appear to be such an exciting challenge for conductor, orchestra and audience, as each symphony embodies a world of its own and, at the same time, an image emerges from the cycle as a whole of a highly complex cosmos.

Sir Simon approached this cosmos with great patience and the utmost respect. The aim of his exploration of historical performance practice and of such diverse interpreters as Carlo Maria Giulini, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Alfred Brendel was also to develop his own distinctive Beethoven style. This is characterised by vivid detail, great flexibility in instrumentation, tempo and dynamics and well-versed rhetoric. Sir Simon’s perspective on Beethoven was revealed for the first time in two complete symphony cycles in the late 1990s with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – a high point and culmination of his time as the orchestra’s music director. This was followed shortly after by a complete recording on CD with the Vienna Philharmonic.

As in Birmingham, Rattle again took time before he presented Beethoven in Berlin with a first cycle in 2008; however, it extended over several months and juxtaposed the works with compositions by Anton Webern. In Sir Simon’s penultimate season as chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, there was “Beethoven pur” in October 2015: all nine symphonies and the first Leonore overture over five consecutive evenings.

On his personal approach to the performances, Sir Simon said, “You can make Beethoven too sophisticated or too elegant, you can clean him up too much. You can try make him agree with himself when often he’s fighting with himself. I have the feeling probably that the more plain-spoken this music is, the better it is. And one knows with this orchestra, when you say ʻwill you joyfully motor this machine off the clifftop?ʼ, everybody says ʻof course we willʼ.” The concerts, in which the virtuosity of these works unfolded just as impressively as their revolutionary energy, were as thrilling as this suggests. Performances in Paris, Vienna and New York followed and were rewarded with standing ovations from audiences.

Sir Simon’s work with this repertoire upholds one of the most important traditions of the Berliner Philharmoniker: cyclical performances of the symphonies took place for the first time in 1914, then almost every year until 1941. Herbert von Karajan and the orchestra immortalised their interpretation of the works in three complete recordings, and Claudio Abbado’s acclaimed performance in Rome was fortunately captured in both image and sound.