Beethoven Der Glorreiche Augenblick

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COMPOSERS: Ludwig van Beethoven
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven Der Glorreiche Augenblick
WORKS: Der glorreiche Augenblick; Fantasia in C minor for piano, chorus and orchestra
PERFORMER: Claire Rutter (soprano), Matilde Wallevik, Marta Fontanais-Simmons (mezzo-soprano), Peter Hoare, Julian Davis (tenor), Stephen Gadd (baritone); City of London Choir, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Hilary Davan Wetton
CATALOGUE NO: 8572783

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Beethoven’s cantata Der glorreiche Augenblick has generally had a bad press, and it’s not hard to understand why. The ‘glorious moment’ in question was the Congress of Vienna in 1814, and the sycophantic text, singing the praises of the Emperor and attending dignitaries unsurprisingly failed to inspire Beethoven. With its stilted choruses, this is one of his very few large-scale works that’s almost unrecognisably his, and only a soprano aria with an elaborate solo violin part (very well played on this recording by Clio Gould) brings it momentarily to life. However, it has to be said that with the aid of a strong team of soloists, Hilary Davan Wetton makes as strong a case as possible for the piece.

Much more rewarding is Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. Often regarded as no more than a dry run for the finale of the Ninth Symphony, and undeniably the seed from which that later piece grew, it’s a fascinating amalgam of variation, concerto and symphonic forms in itself. The performance here benefits greatly from the contribution of Leon McCawley, whose account of the long opening piano solo has just the right degree of dramatic intensity and improvisatory freedom. With first-rate recorded sound, the disc is strongly recommended.

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Misha Donat