Notes and Editorial Reviews
Herbert von Karajan's way with the Beethoven Ninth is such a known quantity by virtue of his many recordings that it's tempting to look at this live Musikverein performance from 1955 as just more of the same. But this is a far more gripping Ninth than we might expect, based on the conductor's increasingly polished and pristine work with the Berlin Philharmonic for Deutsche Grammophon. There's a certain roughness and grit (as well as slight intonational lapses) that Karajan never would allow in those later versions (though the famous 1962 recording retains much of this performance's energy).
As always with this conductor the strings predominate, and the Vienna players make beautiful sounds at his urging. Unfortunately this is
often at the expense of the winds and brass, but the timpani resound throughout the hall quite clearly--something you really want in this symphony, especially in this dramatic rendition of the first two movements. Karajan's tempos are uniformly swifter than on his later recordings, but by a small degree. What's most apparent is the higher degree of tension, and the shift in emphasis from beauty of sound to power and drama. This is nowhere more true than in the Finale's explosive opening--the jarring dissonance heard here makes far greater impact than Karajan's last recordings.
Karajan has a fine quartet of soloists in Lisa della Casa, Hildegard Rössel-Majdan, Waldemar Kmentt, and Otto Edelmann, but the robust-sounding Vienna Singverein is even more impressive--all of which makes for an exceptionally well-done finale (though some may take issue with the Furtwängler-like rush in the closing bars). The mono recording requires a significant volume boost, but then the sound becomes satisfyingly solid and dynamic. An important release; Karajan fans should not hesitate.
--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Waldemar Kmentt (Tenor),
Hilde Rössl-Majdan (Alto),
Lisa Della Casa (Soprano),
Otto Edelmann (Bass)
Herbert von Karajan
Vienna Symphony Orchestra,
Written: 1822-1824; Vienna, Austria
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