Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Freedom)

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: EuroArts
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Freedom)
PERFORMER: June Anderson, Sarah Walker, Klaus König, Jan-Hendrick Rootering; Bavarian & Berlin Radio Chorus; Members of Bavarian Radio SO, Staatskapelle Dresden, Kirov, LSO, New York PO & Orchestre de Paris/Leonard Bernstein


Recorded live in the Schauspielhaus

on Christmas Day, 1989, this Choral

Symphony celebrated the fall of the

Berlin Wall. And it’s some of the

last work Bernstein did – he died

in November the following year. In

his short introduction, the director

Humphrey Burton explains why it’s an ‘Ode to Freedom’, rather than

the usual ‘Ode to Joy’: Bernstein

felt authorised ‘by the power of the

moment’ to change the word ‘Freude’

to ‘Freiheit’, which may be closer to

Schiller’s original intention.

So this is very much the record

of an occasion. There are a few

rough edges in ensemble, but the

performance is more than respectable.

It’s much what you might expect from

late Bernstein: the slow movement is

very slow, but there’s an affection in

the moulding of the decorated violin

melody which cuts deep. And there’s

humour and a dancing quality in the

scherzo, mirroring the conductor’s

body language. We do see quite a

lot of Bernstein, but the direction is

basically untricksy, and the sound

quality excellent. In the choral finale,

the performance really takes off,

with choirs and soloists singing at

full stretch. Rootering’s first cry of

‘Freiheit’ and the choral answer are

completely thrilling, and must have galvanised the audience in what was

still officially East Berlin. Where are


those hopes now? Martin Cotton