BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 • Franz Welser-Möst, cond; Measha Brueggergosman (sop); Kelley O’Connor (mez); Frank Lopardo (ten); René Pape (bs); Cleveland O & Ch (Robert Porco, dir) • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 000966102 (66:07 Text and Translation) Live: Cleveland 1/2007
This recording continues the proud legacy of Beethoven Ninths established by such former music directors as George Szell and Christoph von Dohnányi; it is the kind of performance that is refreshing andRead more familiar all at once.
It is heartening for those of us Luddites happily mired back in the 20th century that DG has released this recording, not only as a digital download, but also on CD (in pretty spectacular stereo, too). It is also a pleasure to welcome the first commercial recording in seven years by one of this country’s finest orchestras under its current music director. All things considered, I looked forward to this recording with keen anticipation. I was not disappointed.
The sound is immediate, detailed, and bass-heavy: the winds and low strings benefit, while the violins sound somewhat recessed; the basses are remarkably deep and resonant, easily the most impressive I’ve heard in quite some time, though the balance tends to direct the listener’s attention toward the right channel (especially in the first movement). Never having had the pleasure of visiting Severance Hall, I can only speculate that the listener’s perspective is from midhall; at any rate, the excitement of the live concert setting is vividly communicated.
Welser-Möst’s timings are midway between the monumentally scaled Barenboim (30:5) and the metronome-conscious Zander and Gardiner, but the performance isn’t monolithic—the pace of the finale should please even the staunchest authenticist. This is the kind of performance that results when conception and execution mesh—one of those recordings you can sing along with, and not just in the finale; it is also tremendously exciting.
Some of the more notable highlights: an opening movement in which the excitement is communicated through playing of admirable precision, particularly for a live recording; the clarity of the inner voices in the Scherzo; an Adagio in which the cantabile marking is given voice in violins that are particularly poignant; and a finale in which the drama is palpable—powerful, deeply eloquent, and very musical. The Cleveland Chorus is inspired (though the recorded balance tends to favor the men). The vocal quartet features two standout soloists: Pape delivers another riveting performance, summoning the spirit of brotherhood with authority, and Brueggergosman’s voice soars above the orchestra with seeming effortlessness. The coda is breathtaking, and the audience erupts, initiating an ovation that surely continued for quite some time.
This recording continues the proud legacy of Beethoven Ninths established by such former music directors as George Szell and Christoph von Dohnányi; it is the kind of performance that is refreshing and familiar all at once. One other aspect of the recording that bears mention is the program note written by Welser-Möst: in a piece titled “Politics, Religion and the Enlightenment,” the conductor explores the perennial appeal of Beethoven’s masterwork. This throwback to the days when musicians held forth on the back of LP sleeves adds yet another dimension to this release. I hope this splendid disc portends a long-range commitment by DG for more recordings—and more CDs, please—from Welser-Möst and the magnificent Cleveland Orchestra.
Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral"by Ludwig van Beethoven Performer:
Frank Lopardo (Tenor),
René Pape (Bass),
Kelley O'Connor (Mezzo Soprano),
Measha Brüggergosman (Soprano)
Cleveland Orchestra Chorus
Period: Classical Written: 1822-1824; Vienna, Austria Date of Recording: 01/2007 Venue: Live Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohio Length: 66 Minutes 8 Secs. Language: German
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
The sound is spectacularMay 19, 2012By robert perry (Tulalip, WA)See All My Reviews"I love this recording. I find the sound spectacular and as a rule I am not impressed by the cound of most cd's. But this one grabbed me immediately. It's a bit bass heavy but hell, I'm a bass player so for me "bass heavy" is just right."Report Abuse
Ultimately disappointingDecember 16, 2011By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH)See All My Reviews"Being a Clevelander, I wanted to like this recording. Despite some grumbling in the local press, Welser-Most ("Call me Franz") is a popular figure among local music lovers. But I can't escape a sense of profound disappointment at the quality of this recording, the Cleveland Orchestra's first in several years.
Interpretively, this is neutral performance, meaning Welser-Most and the orchestra deliver a faithful rendition of the text, with tempos as indicated and few inflections. The Cleveland Orchestra plays well enough, but the performance as a whole lacks the sharp profile that one expects. Unlike his predecessors, the conductor favors a smoothed over approach to the extent that the opening violin triplets lack clarity and emerge as a kind of fog hovering over a lake.
The snag here, and it's a considerable one, is the recorded sound. I did not expect to hear a modern digital recording that is sonically inferior to Szell's 1960s remastered version, but that's what I was faced with here. Severance Hall is a wonderful location for concerts, but as a recording locale, it has always been problematic. Apparently, Deutsche Grammophon's engineers were not able to find an appropriate microphone placement, because the recording is poorly balanced. Violins are nearly inaudible against over-prominent winds. At times, the double-basses and percussion almost overwhelm the orchestra. It's rather like looking at someone's reflection in a funhouse mirror. From what little I can hear of them, the vocal soloists sing well. The chorus, easily audible, is exemplary, both in tone and German pronunciation.
With the plethora of exemplary Beethoven 9ths on CD (including Szell and Dohnanyi for Cleveland fans), this disc is a non-starter. "Report Abuse
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