Author Topic: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9  (Read 150737 times)

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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« on: April 26, 2009, 07:39:39 AM »
This is the third in a very irregular series discussing recordings of famous works that you enjoy listening to. The first 2 were Schubert's 9th Symphony and Mendelssohn's 3rd. As before, I don't wish to make this a competition over "the best..." or "the greatest...". It is simply recordings that you enjoy, and if you feel like it, a brief explanation why you enjoy it.

Beethoven completed the 9th symphony in d minor in 1824, and it premiered May 7, 1824 in Vienna. Right from the start it was controversial, since it was unique and difficult to understand, and contained such novel and unprecedented conceptions as a chorus in the final movement. And the opening itself, an open chord with only a first and fifth (I-V) which refused to establish tonality, was disorienting for the audience accustomed to hearing good solid comfortable chords right from the start. But this very thing, Beethoven's conception of chaos, even today grabs us right by the throat and says "listen to me!!!".

I admit freely that, IMO, this is the greatest piece of music in the Western Canon. You don't have to agree, I don't mind. Just sayin'. :)   I have listened to it every Sunday morning since October 1995. Sort of a ritual you might say, which cleanses my mind and damn well makes me happy. Everyone has a work that they rely on for beauty and sanity in their lives, that's why we listen to this music. This is mine.  0:)

You probably mostly know that I have no taste for historical recordings, and in fact my favorites are mainly on period instruments. We can divide available recordings into 3 categories:
A - Traditional, big band, post-Romantic
B - Period instruments
C - Modern instruments, influenced by the "HIP" movement

I will attempt to divide mine up like that, since there is no other logical way to do it that I know of.

Group A  (Traditional)
Furtwängler - March 1942
Furtwängler - Lucerne 1954
von Karajan - Philharmonia Orchestra
von Karajan - Berliner Philharmoniker (1962)
Jochum -       Symphony & Chorus de Bayerischen Rundfunks (1952)
Jochum -       London SO
Jochum -       Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (1968)
Böhm   -       Wiener Philharmoniker (1970)
Böhm   -       Wiener Philharmoniker (1982)
Bernstein -    Wiener Philharmoniker (1982)
Blomstedt -   Staatskapelle Dresden
Dohnányi  -   Cleveland Orchestra
Fricsay     -    Berliner Philharmoniker
Haitink     -    Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Kempe    -     Munich PO
Klemperer -   Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (1956)
Kletzki      -   Czech PO (1968)
Masur       -   Leipzeig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Mehta       -   NYPO
Schmidt-Isserstedt - Wiener Philharmoniker
Solti         -   Chicago SO
Wand       -   NDR Symphony Orchestra
Zander     -   Boston Philharmonic

Group B (period instruments)
Gardiner    -   Orchestré Revolutionaire et Romantique
Goodman  -    Hanover Band
Herreweghe -  Orchestre Des Champs Élysées
Hogwood    -  Academy of Ancient Music
Immerseel   -  Anima Eterna
Norrington  -  London Classical Players
Spering      -   Das Neue Orchestra

Group C  (Modern - HIP influenced)
Harnoncourt -  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
MacKerras    -  Royal Liverpool
Vanska        -  Minnesota Symphony
Hickox         -  Northern Sinfonia
Zinman        -  Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra

It is very likely that I have a few more hanging around that I can't put my finger on right now. But anyway, I can always catch them up. I am not going to list these in any particular order for the moment, I am only going to say up front that every one of these recordings has its merits and drawbacks. I suppose the ratio between them is what makes one or another a favorite at any given time. :)

So, kindly feel free to discuss, add your own. My only requirement is that if you don't happen to like this piece of music, keep it to yourself. I (we) don't really care if you don't, so start a thread of your own saying how it is overrated if that's what you think. I'll join that one, too. :D

8)




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Immerseel, Jos van; Anima Eterna - Op 067 Symphony #5 in c 4th mvmt - Allegro
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Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2009, 08:46:21 AM »
For Group C (modern - HIP influenced) my favorite 9th is a dark horse recording from Van Zweden and the Residentie Orchestra on Philips:



Unfortunately this 9th is only available as part of a complete set. But the other eight symphonies are absolute gems as well so the outlay shouldn't hurt too much. 

I doubt anyone else has heard this one but as a set it's really an accomplishment. To my ears it far surpasses the HIP influenced/modern instruments attempts by other notables in that it really sounds HIP, not just 'quicker/leaner' for the sake of quicker/leaner.

In all modesty, I quote my words from earlier about this 9th:

Quote
Van Zweden's Beethoven is HIP influenced as far as overall approach though performed on modern instruments. Tempos are fresh, lively, and buoyant, though minus anything that approaches the furious. Textures are crystal clear and warm, with sweeping gestures full of felicities making their mark. 

This is 'lights spectacular' Beethoven with every phrase aglow and every bar crackling. So good, in fact, it's as if the music were freshly minted.

That "lights spectacular" part sounds like pure fanboy hyperbole but it's an honest and apt appraisal to my ears. I can think of very few performers who can put a new spin on warhorse material (in this case, the 9th) but that's what Van Zweden manages to do here. 
Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2009, 09:03:41 AM »
Thanks, Donwyn. I read your earlier review of this set, and it is on my list already. I always give you the nod, since you got me into Kletzki... :)

8)
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hornteacher

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2009, 10:00:27 AM »
Everyone has a work that they rely on for beauty and sanity in their lives, that's why we listen to this music. This is mine.  0:)

Mine too!  8)

My very favorite would be Mackerras with the Royal Liverpool.  Aside from the clarity of the recording I enjoy the treatment of the horns in the opening, the timpani work in the scherzo, a third movement that doesn't drag to a crawl, and his removal of the Wagnerian influences in the finale.  The string recitatives are not drug out to the nth degree and the texture isn't too thick to wade through.  My ONLY complaint about this recording is I wanted to hear the final instrumental presto taken a little faster.  It seems he's holding back deliberately.

The live recording buy Zubin Mehta in 1983 with the NY Phil is my favorite live version.  The chorus is unbelievable and the last two minutes are played with an energy and excitement I have yet to hear done anywhere else.

Offline FideLeo

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2009, 10:02:59 AM »
I doubt anyone else has heard this one but as a set it's really an accomplishment.

I have this set (one of the first and cheapest LvB integral sets on SACD).  I don't think I'd rate it as highly as you do, but it surely can't be any worse than the Vanska.  
HIP for all and all for HIP! Harpsichord for Bach, fortepiano for Beethoven and pianoforte for Brahms!

Offline david johnson

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2009, 11:02:54 PM »
Fricsay - Berliner Philharmoniker
von Karajan - Berliner Philharmoniker (1962)
Schmidt-Isserstedt - Wiener Philharmoniker
Solti  - Chicago SO

these i enjoy.

dj

Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2009, 03:55:26 AM »
Do you know where I can hear samples of that set, Don?

JPC has samples, George. :)
Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

karlhenning

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2009, 04:00:19 AM »
I like every recording of this that we own.

[1] We only own two.
[2] We don't obsess about owning "the perfect recording" of this.
[3] We probably gravitated to recordings which we figured we should prefer.
[4] We probably prefer hearing it live to purchasing any more recordings.

Offline RussellG

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2009, 04:10:36 AM »
I only have two, both of which I enjoy:  Vänskä/Minnesota and Dohnányi/Cleveland.  I plan to add Karajan 1962, and would also be interested to hear one on period instruments, such as Herreweghe.

ChamberNut

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2009, 04:14:45 AM »
The Harnoncourt COE set of Beethoven symphonies was my first major classical music purchase.  A first love that is still as grand now.  :)

Hearing it live though is an incredible experience, it really is.  And I've had the good fortune of hearing it live twice now.  8)

Offline dirkronk

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2009, 06:54:49 AM »
- Mengelberg/COA (1940 AVRO recording)--excitement to the max, amazing phrasing, segues and start-to-finish flow.
- Furtwangler/Berlin (March 22/24, 1942)--emotional devastation unmatched by any other performance.
- Fricsay/Berlin--drama w/o mania, simply a beautiful and satisfying stereo-era account.
- Szell/Cleveland--I swear Szell studied Mengelberg's 1940 version before recording this; suberb sonics on the earliest Epic 3-sided vinyl, progressively less impressive on later issues, but transfer to CDs not bad and I haven't heard the latest reissue.
- Bernstein/VPO (live)--slower than some but natural and with special sense of occasion.

I have literally dozens of other performances, but these are the ones that get the most spin time with me.
 ;D

Dirk

Offline Sorin Eushayson

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2009, 08:57:52 AM »
Good grief, what a list, Gurn!  Well done.  Given my preference for period instruments and fiery performances I do like the John Gardiner recording; he hits the nail on the head.

Given the listings for 'Group C' I don't suppose you've heard Norrington's newer recording of this with the SWR? 

Offline Holden

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2009, 11:26:31 AM »
My preferences:

#1 Fricsay - no one has done it like him. The 4th movement is where a lot of conductors fall over but FF is one of the few that manage to get the timbral balance between the choral and orchestral sections just right.

Also

Furtwangler 1942
Furtwangler Lucerne 1954
Toscanini NBCSO
Cluytens BPO

....and a special mention to Rene Leibowitz whose RPO recording is just about perfect...until the entry of the "O Freunde, nicht diese tone ..." The choice of Ludwig Weber as bass, who was well past his prime, spoils the rest of the performance as you hear him literally struggling to meet the technical demands of his part. This recording contains the most exciting Scherzo I've ever heard.
Cheers

Holden

Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2009, 04:05:09 PM »
Fricsay - Berliner Philharmoniker
von Karajan - Berliner Philharmoniker (1962)
Schmidt-Isserstedt - Wiener Philharmoniker
Solti  - Chicago SO

these i enjoy.

dj

Those are four good performances, David. Pretty much in the order I would like to listen to them, too. :)

8)
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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2009, 04:10:17 PM »
I like every recording of this that we own.

[1] We only own two.
[2] We don't obsess about owning "the perfect recording" of this.
[3] We probably gravitated to recordings which we figured we should prefer.
[4] We probably prefer hearing it live to purchasing any more recordings.

1 >   2 is good, Karl. ;)

2 >   Me neither, which I hope I made clear in the OP. I don't believe in "the perfect recording" as a concept.

3 >   Yes, that's often the way. That's what I did in nearly every case, although I have some wonderful friends who have taken good care of me.

4 >   So would I. I've never had the pleasure, my nearest has been seeing it "live" on TV 2 or 3 times. :-\


8)

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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #15 on: April 27, 2009, 04:14:24 PM »
I only have two, both of which I enjoy:  Vänskä/Minnesota and Dohnányi/Cleveland.  I plan to add Karajan 1962, and would also be interested to hear one on period instruments, such as Herreweghe.

Herreweghe is a good choice, Russell. I don't think you would be disappointed in it. The playing, singing and sound are very good, it would be a good one to have if you only have 1. Karajan '62 is, IMO, a "must have" too. I don't care so much for the 2 later versions he did, but the '62 is a nice contrast between the youthful Philharmonia and the later, smooth as butter sound. Great soloists too. :)

8)


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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #16 on: April 27, 2009, 04:16:45 PM »
The Harnoncourt COE set of Beethoven symphonies was my first major classical music purchase.  A first love that is still as grand now.  :)

Hearing it live though is an incredible experience, it really is.  And I've had the good fortune of hearing it live twice now.  8)

I'm a Harnoncourt fan too, and I really do like that entire set. It was also one of MY earlier versions, so I guess it just stuck with me through thick and thin. :)

I'm envious. :'(

8)

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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #17 on: April 27, 2009, 04:20:22 PM »
- Mengelberg/COA (1940 AVRO recording)--excitement to the max, amazing phrasing, segues and start-to-finish flow.
- Furtwangler/Berlin (March 22/24, 1942)--emotional devastation unmatched by any other performance.
- Fricsay/Berlin--drama w/o mania, simply a beautiful and satisfying stereo-era account.
- Szell/Cleveland--I swear Szell studied Mengelberg's 1940 version before recording this; suberb sonics on the earliest Epic 3-sided vinyl, progressively less impressive on later issues, but transfer to CDs not bad and I haven't heard the latest reissue.
- Bernstein/VPO (live)--slower than some but natural and with special sense of occasion.

I have literally dozens of other performances, but these are the ones that get the most spin time with me.
 ;D

Dirk

Dirk,
Thanks for reminding me of Szell/Cleveland. I bought it this afternoon after reading your post. I had meant to get it long ago, but kept forgetting. So, you pushed me over the edge. :)   As you know, I don't share your taste for historic recordings, but you do have some goodies on there. Thanks. :)

8)


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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #18 on: April 27, 2009, 04:23:41 PM »
Good grief, what a list, Gurn!  Well done.  Given my preference for period instruments and fiery performances I do like the John Gardiner recording; he hits the nail on the head.

Given the listings for 'Group C' I don't suppose you've heard Norrington's newer recording of this with the SWR? 

Yes, for all the seeming controversy about Gardiner's Beethoven, I have to admit it sits atop my list with not much company. All in your taste, I guess, but that one IS to mine!  :)

As a matter of fact, yes, I do have it. One of those that I forgot to list. Aging is not a pretty thing... ;)

8)

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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Recordings that you enjoy: Beethoven Symphony #9
« Reply #19 on: April 27, 2009, 04:27:38 PM »
My preferences:

#1 Fricsay - no one has done it like him. The 4th movement is where a lot of conductors fall over but FF is one of the few that manage to get the timbral balance between the choral and orchestral sections just right.

Also

Furtwangler 1942
Furtwangler Lucerne 1954
Toscanini NBCSO
Cluytens BPO

....and a special mention to Rene Leibowitz whose RPO recording is just about perfect...until the entry of the "O Freunde, nicht diese tone ..." The choice of Ludwig Weber as bass, who was well past his prime, spoils the rest of the performance as you hear him literally struggling to meet the technical demands of his part. This recording contains the most exciting Scherzo I've ever heard.

Yes, Fricsay is excellent. It seems like no conductor can go wrong driving the BP in this work, plus he brings his own style and elegance to this work, which he has in abundance. I am intrigued by your description of the Cluytens. It really is a pity about the baß singer, it is such a crucial part! :(

8)


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