Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Choral); Leonore Overture No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Medici Arts
WORKS: Symphony No. 9 (Choral); Leonore Overture No. 3
PERFORMER: Angela Denoke, Waltraud Meier, Burkhard Fritz, René Pape; German State Opera Chorus, Berlin; West-Eastern Divan Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 2055528 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)


In Berlin the two leading resident conductors are Daniel Barenboim and Christian Thielemann, vying with one another in their adoration of Furtwängler. In this noble concert on this disc, Barenboim imitates almost every one of Furtwängler’s extreme idiosyncrasies in this, his favourite music, with results that are on the whole surprisingly satisfying.

The young musicians in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra play with all the mastery and commitment of a great orchestra, and in the last movement of the Ninth they are joined by a fine team of soloists and a quite magnificent chorus.

With his despotic gestures and his Olympian expressions, Barenboim sometimes seems to be caricaturing the great podium maestros of the past. But he gives an almost wholly convincing performance of Leonore No. 3 Overture, and in the Ninth one that overall is powerfully impressive.


If one doesn’t mind Barenboim’s not making a single concession to period performing practice, the impact is moving and even overwhelming. Even if you’ve grown used to fast tempos, lack of vibrato from the strings, shorter-breathed phrasing and the rest of the ‘authentic’ apparatus, it may be refreshing to hear what a grand performance was like forty years ago, and can be like now, and in superb sound. Michael Tanner