Direct to Disc Brahms Symphony Cycle From Berlin Philharmonic

Sir Simon Rattle conducts Brahms: The Berlin Philharmonic performs the four Brahms symphonies conducted by Rattle and recorded live at the Berlin Philharmonie direct to disc September, 2014 using a One-Point microphone set-up.

No you did not die and go to analog heaven, this is really being released in a limited to 1833 copies worldwide in a deluxe box set that includes a seventy two page hard cover book and a certificate hand-signed by producer Rainer Maillard. Price for the six LP box set is 499 Euros, or approximately $530. Buy it here

Watch the video below:

Jim Tavegia's picture

$200 would have worked out much better. This is why people make fun of the high end audio industry. Poor marketing, but it is their choice.

It is clear that they are trying to create a new level of collector for the 2050 crowd.

theboogeydown's picture

If they sell out all of the copies produced, is it still poor marketing? There is a phenomenal restaurant in my town, I never go there. Why? I believe the menu is grossly overpriced, but it is packed every.single. night. Do I begrudge the owner for meeting the market with a great product that packs them in every night? No. Do I wish i could afford to throw away that kind of money on one meal frequently? Heck yeah!

stretch35's picture

and of course sold out. $1200 asking on discogs.

Muso's picture

$200 won't work. At approx. $530.00 per copy, they are going to gross about $971,490.00 off this. That's not much. They are renting the hall, paying a whole orchestra, a conductor, engineers... renting recording equipment, producing the discs, photographs, books... And this, not for a pop recording, but for Brahms.

D2D recording is HARD. They played again, and again, and AGAIN. Any small error by the conductor, the musicians, or the engineers, and they scrap the whole side and start over and play it AGAIN. All while making it sound fresh. They didn't just sit down and press the red button.

And the sound of D2D - it's worth it. Second only to reel-to-reel off an original 2-track. And that would leave a lousy $530 bucks in the dust, and they couldn't sell 1833 reels anyway.

I'd say $530 is just fine.

Chemguy's picture

...I agree with your displeasure regarding the price of these recordings. It is simply ridiculous, and inaccessible to the vast majority. I consider it elitism, and am none to impressed.

Analog Scott's picture

That this label, they are an excellent label when it comes to sound quality, got the Berlin Phil and Simon Rattle to do the Brahms cycle is a big deal IMO. I'd love to see some reviews. But I am tempted. This has the potential to be a serious high watermark in classical records.

otaku2's picture

Has anyone listened to the recording? I looked up the 2009 performance on ClassicsToday and if this is similar it might not warrant the price.

Analog Scott's picture

I can't watch them now because I am in China but when I get back I will certainly check them out

Michael Fremer's picture
This was recorded in 2014 not 2009.
Eskisi's picture

I wish I liked Simon Rattle. And Brahms. Or much orchestral music.

May be they record an opera. That would be something. Even better, on reel to reel.

PeterPani's picture

But I do not know of one existing piece of classical music that has done by Rattle and the Berliner that I liked. Rattle is a great Humanist and musician, but always a bit boring and not precise music making. I always wondered, how the Berliner could cope with such a long time. But I guess, I will buy this set out of curiousity.

Eskisi's picture

I guess, in truth, Berliner was always a bit boring itself. You first realize that when you see their concert hall in Berlin, some orange-green modenistic horror, it especially sticks out now that Berlin got some decent modern architecture. It is like, really, this is where the most prestigious orchestra in the world has been playing?

But in the end they were always more precise than Rattle can ever manage.

PeterPani's picture

I feel sorry for the British music lovers that he goes back to UK. But I am happy that Kirill Petrenko goes to Berlin. Maybe they will cut another disc direct in the analog domain in future with him, too.

Muso's picture

I do love Direct to Disc recordings. The only thing better is reel-to-reel off the original 2-track tape. If you think $500 for vinyl is expensive, you don't know R2R pricing.

I'm sorely tempted to buy this. The money is a stretch for me, but the music is sublime and it really looks like everybody put up their A Game on this one.

littlebird's picture

Just one doubt: Are you sure they have not used one of those later generations cutter machines that included a AD>DA conversion? I saw the video a few days ago, and there was no claim of "all analogue" path anywhere.

Analog Scott's picture
orfeo_monteverdi's picture

They used the mythical Neumann VMS 80 cutting lathe to do it.
I am not a specialist, but it seems that the VMS80 cutting lathe was introduced on the market in the early eighties, and had no digital processing embedded.

See the good report of Barry Fox about cutting vinyl in this month's issue of Hi-Fi News.
I also got a membership on a forum about cutting lathes. People seem to be crazy about the Neumann VMS80, nearly impossible to find in a good state nowadays, it's said.

So, I strongly suspect the Berliner has accomplished something really special here...

Still have to unpack my set.


lem's picture

. . . it's just advertising.

Might be interesting to compare to the recent Brahms !st with Berlin and Battle offered as a free sample on the Berlin Phil's Digital Concert Hall, a streaming service offered on Oppo, some Samsungs, internet ( and elsewhere.

audiotom's picture

I really shouldn't buy this as how many times would I really play this but it sure is tempting.

As for expensive. Cut printing the big book out and sell it in the $350 range.

Classical recordings are always done straight through to an audience. So why flip out on a d2d?
I am glad they took the recording to a new level.

PeterPani's picture

I threw in the towel. Just ordered. This will be a desaster.

Jascha's picture

I couldn't resist. I wonder how fast they will sell.

audiotom's picture

Let us know your comments on the sound and more importantly the performance

PeterPani's picture

It will take some days to deliver them. I guess, by the time I listened to the records nobody will read this thread anymore.

stretch35's picture

reading now, how was it?

mauidj's picture

...yes. But for Direct to Disc it seems quite reasonable considering how much work must have gone into the production. I'd actually jump on this if it wasn't for the fact that rattle just doesn't float my boat. Bummer because I would love to hear how this process works with a full orchestra. I have many DtoD records but mainly small groups or solo artists.

Analog Scott's picture

Sheffield lab did this already.

Hergest's picture

I've ordered this. I'm no 1% er, I work hands on in construction but I have a couple of thousand lps bought since the late 70s and I reckon this will be an absolute treat. So for the next 3 or 4 months I won't buy any other lps which will cover the cost of this collection.

Interestingly I had an email from Berliner Philharmonik a couple of days after ordering apologising for a delay in sending out the albums as they had had an overwhelming response and it will likely be sent out next Tuesday.

I've heard a couple of Sheffield Labs albums which sonically were very good but their choice of music was never very inspiring. To have a full on orchestral recording on D2D is something special.

Jenn's picture

Different strokes and all, but the Sheffield Labs D2D Wagner and Prokofiev records are pretty inspiring and full on. :-)

Hergest's picture

I bet they are. It wasn't until i went to the link in the post above mine to Sheffield labs that I knew they had done full on orchestral works. I only ever recall small ensembles and solo artists in their catalogue and virtually nothing that appealed to me. Shows how wrong one can be.

Jon's picture

I have the Schumann Symphony cycle 4-LP set from the same orchestra, conductor, label and technical personnel. The difference between my Schumann set and this Brahms (apart from price of course) is that the Schumann was recorded at 24/192, subsequently edited and the vinyl LPs cut from that digital master. The set is unfortunately let down by second class post-production editing, however the sound itself is awesome and I rate it in my top handful of recordings in my collection. The engineering people behind these products are second to none - they are right up there with the best engineers of yesteryear.

If I am able to save the money and there are any sets left, I may consider buying this if only because I currently have no recordings that utilise such a transparent and direct method of capturing analogue sound and with no digital steps involved whatsoever.

I don't think the set is overpriced when you consider what lengths are needed to go to in order to produce something like this.

Jumping Bean's picture

I'd like to start by saying, I've seen the Berlin Phil under Rattle live twice, and both times it was an absolutely stunning and incredible experience. I have to this day never heard a live orchestra sound so good, and I will qualify that by saying I've seen New York live dozens of times, same goes for Montreal. Even the Cleveland orchestra (which was still amazing) didn't leave the impact on me that Berlin did.

Anyway, enough gushing. I would really love to own this set, but the price is so high for repertoire that I already own great recordings of. I own a few of the Bruno Walter/Columbia recordings, those are stellar, a few of the first cycle Karajan did with Berlin, I have the Maazel/Cleveland set on Uk london, which is sumblime, and of course the Solti/Chicago set on the same label. I know a modern direct to disc recording of these symphonies would blow me out of the water, but I think I'll spend some more time getting to know the great brahms records I already own.

Now if this was a Mahler set, then I might be a little more trigger-happy.

ccaquest's picture

One for self, one for friend. Shipping for 2 sets is the same as one set.

orfeo_monteverdi's picture

My set arrived a few days ago.
Not yet listened: I will unpack and listen to it maybe this WE.
As far as the number of copies is concerned, suprisingly my set has the number '169/1200' (and not /1833, as anounced).

I am sure this project will bring the house down. It will be sold out in just a few days.

I contacted the Berliner to suggest them another project: the Beethoven symphonies. But they declined, saying Direct to Disc costs a lot of money to produce.
I bet they could change their mind after the success of this one.

Jascha's picture

Orfeo - How does it sound ??
I must know! I'm on edge.
Mine is also arriving soon n.

orfeo_monteverdi's picture

I said previously: "As far as the number of copies is concerned, surprisingly my set has the number '169/1200' (and not /1833, as announced)".

Here is the answer of the Berliner Philharmoniker:

"The numbers are explained in the back of the book:

1200 copies make up the international retail version
500 copies have a Japanese booklet
128 copies are for the 128 orchestra members
5 copies are for Sir Simon Rattle."

My set is still unpacked...

orfeo_monteverdi's picture

Jascha, I don't know yet: not yet unpacked...
I intend to taste it like a good bottle of wine that I will share with friends.


Jascha's picture

Yes Orfeo,
I completely understand. The anticipation is part of the fun and maximising the experience. Fantastic.
Mine has arrived in Sydney and I expect it in a few days.

Jascha's picture

My wife and I unboxed this together. Well packaged as one might expect, the presentation box was boxed itself and then that was again boxed in the outer box with some polyester bits to stop any movement inside. Inside, there is a authenticity certificate (mine is 100th of 1200), a b/w photo of the orchestra and one of the recording equipment. There is also a high quality 71 page hardbacked book relevant to the recording, orchestra and music. Each record is in a sleeve inside a thick papered outer jacket that is not tight. It is made so that there is plenty of room for the record in the sleeve to slide smoothly and easily inside. I have replaced the sleeves with Mofi Master Sleeves and you could easily slide two lip's inside the jacket.
There are 6 LP's in total.
My system is: ZYX Airy3 1000 - Thorens 160 - Sound Tradition Hashimoto SUT Live MC0901 - Diva (TS LIM) Phonostage and M7 Preamp - TS Lim Diva Blue Sky Power Amp (mod with Black Gate Caps) - mod Proac !.5 - Rel T7 stereo subs.
I gave Symphony No1 a quick clean on my KLAudio machine, inspected the cart and gave a light brush, warmed up the system with some Diana Ross/Supremes and some other pulsy music. Yikes, now that's is a contrast - but I have eclectic tastes. After 60 mins I was ready.
My first impression was that it was quite quiet on the setting I usually have the vol dial positioned. After the introduction I turned it up. Ok, I thought it will take a little attention to dialling this in to find the sweet spot for this recording. Ok, that did;t take long. I have other vinyl recordings - Kubelik, Kertesz, Karajan and recent Jurowski and this is certainly different. Its live, sitting on the edge of your seat. I felt I was sitting 1/3 way back in the concert hall. Large sound stage. Strings upfront most of the time when it mattered. It does not have the pin point kind of imaging that modern digital recordings have (e.g.. Jurowski where it sometimes a distraction to the process of your own emotional responses) but instead a more synthesised and connectiveness between the orchestra sections and players, whilst also being transparant to comfortably bring out inner musical lines and threads. Always, the important musical ideas came through as priority and others could easily be heard. The orchestra balancing itself through the recording mic setup is fantastic. There is definitely a sense of a live atmosphere (a couple of audience noises) and perhaps a few moments of recording noise - but maybe just a player touching the wood of the instrument or the keys of the w/wind players clicking. I listened to mvt 1 twice and the dialling in of the volume control is very important to find the sweet and singing sound. Overall, I am delighted. Tomorrow I'll listen to the rest of Symphony No1.


audiotom's picture

Jascha - how are the dynamics?

Jascha's picture

Oh, I must add that the Jurowski is a live performance too, but digitally recorded. BPO Rattle D2D is pure analogue and much sweeter, warmer and holistic.

lennyw's picture

Like Hergest, I'm no 1%er, and will lay off buying other stuff for a while to "pay" for it. Living in Berlin, I frequent the Philharmonie often (personally, I think the architecture of the hall is fabulous, and much better than most of the crap that's put up here), and it is usually either a thrilling (Rattle's Brahms in 2009, Mahler in 2011/12, pretty much whenever Jansons is conducting) or frustrating (especially that clown Dudamel). This makes a nice "souvenir" of all those great concerts, especially as their other CD releases have been less than inspiring.

audiotom's picture

Michael thank you for an excellent article
will you be partaking this Christmas?

Jascha - thank you so much for the review!
keep them coming

I am sitting the fence and about ready to pull the trigger
so the reviews are nice
listening to the DECCA Royal Concertgebouw with Bernard Haitink

I also have a ZYX and KL audio cleaner

ViciAudio's picture

...that some people and companies still do things like this :) It's a treasure!

orfeo_monteverdi's picture

I went to Berlin a few weeks ago to attend 2 Monteverdi concerts: l'Orfeo and Il Ritorno d'Ulisse, conducted by John, Eliot Gardiner, Monteverdi Choir.

The architecture is fabulous indeed.
Here is a good picture of the inside. The outside is not as beautiful, IMHO.

The acoustics surprised me as I could immediately hear that it was not designed for voices (baroque opera here).
I am eager to go back for an orchestral concert.

I bought their Beethoven vinyl set too (recorded in digital, no D2D, but microphone set up specific to the vinyl production, apart from the general setup).
Sounds very natural too.