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Beethoven: Symphony No 9, Op. 125 / Klemperer, Stader, Hoffman, Cologne Radio So, Et Al

Release Date: 04/28/2009 
Label:  Medici Masters   Catalog #: 31-2   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

We already have three Beethoven Ninths conducted by Klemperer in London, all with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus. This one, recorded in Cologne in 1958, is quite similar to those, dating as it does from the same period. It had been sitting in my pile of discs to review for quite a while, until a timely recommendation by a reader shook it loose. I’m grateful for the push. It is excellent in almost all respects.

Klemperer’s approach by now is well-known. The most noteworthy aspect of the interpretation is its cogency. There are numerous places where conductors traditionally insert pauses or other rhetorical gestures that Klemperer avoids. Examples include the first movement recapitulation and the moment just before the
Read more new theme enters at the end of the coda; the conclusion of the orchestral recitative of the cellos and basses at the entrance of the “joy” theme in the finale; and the usual big pause after the choral shout of “vor Gott,” preceding the movement’s march variation, with solo tenor. Beethoven indicated none of these, and so Klemperer pushes on ahead. It feels surprising, but it’s what Beethoven wrote. The result is a reading that always seems to be pushing forward, whatever the music’s basic speed.

Also, for a conductor known for his slow tempos, at least later in his career, there are some important exceptions. True, the scherzo is deliberate, but also full of character and subtle detail (sound clip). Klemperer always took the Adagio quickly (fourteen minutes here), but he also punches out the initial, orchestral variations of the “joy” theme with remarkable swiftness and energy (sound clip). The choral singing, from the combined choruses of North German and Cologne Radio, is generally good, although the men are weaker than the women (no surprise there). As for the soloists, Hans Hotter is having a tough night. His opening recitative is approximate in pitch, but everyone else is fine. The vocal writing is hideous in any case, no matter who sings it, and Klemperer certainly knows it. The vocal cadenza just before finale’s coda is very smartly paced to spare the singers the usual embarrassment.

The mono sonics are quite good, well preserved, with natural balances and a real sense of space. The booklet and tray card remind us continually that Medici Arts releases come to us from the producers of BBC Legends, as if that’s a recommendation. It isn’t. Credit the German radio engineers for doing their usual fine job. If you already have a couple of Klemperer Ninths, I wouldn’t say you need this desperately. The orchestral playing, mostly very good, has a few shaky spots (the fanfares in the Adagio, for example) but it is more spontaneous than the contemporaneous studio recording, and collectors will surely enjoy the interpretation.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1822-1824; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 70 Minutes 32 Secs. 

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