Beethoven’s nine symphonies are one of the fundamental building-blocks in the history of Western music. Under the direction of Franz Konwitschny they were an early part of the recording and release programme at Eterna, where recordings of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies with the Gewandhaus Orchestra appeared on several shellac discs each. This stereo edition of the complete cycle was made in co-production with Philips in the Bethanienkirche in Leipzig during three extended recording sessions over the period from 1959 to 1961.
Franz Konwitschny (1901–1962), a conductor known for his down-to-earth approach to music-making, was appointed Gewandhaus kapellmeister in 1949. Born in northern Moravia, he studied in Brno for two years and then enrolled at the Leipzig Institute which Mendelssohn had founded in 1843. During that period (1923–25) he assimilated the city's musical traditions with an open and alert mind. By the time he began to study in Leipzig, his ability to play the violin and viola had already reached such a standard that Furtwängler chose him as a substitute for Gewandhaus concerts.
Just as he would in a live concert, he took the refinement and precision of orchestral playing for granted. With his authoritative, flexible and impulsive but relatively sparse gestures, Konwitschny knew how to inspire the orchestra and respond to it. When interruptions or corrections became necessary, his unfailing sense of pace enabled him to resume playing at exactly the same tempo as before, thereby preserving a sense of over-all coherence. The featured recordings are important testimonials of the Beethoven tradition at the Gewandhaus as well as the German recording history.