Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Symphony No. 9
PERFORMER: Angela Denoke, Waltraud Meier, Burkhard Fritz; Bhor der Deutschen Staatsoper Berlin; West-Eastern Divan Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 63927-2
I’m in two minds, or possibly even three, about the performance that is so well captured on this disc. That an orchestra composed of young Israelis and Arabs should meet for several weeks each year and make music together under Barenboim, who with his friend the late Edward Said took this bold initiative, is so moving and encouraging that normal standards of criticism hardly apply. Yet this is a recording of a central masterpiece of the repertoire, and has to be judged in the end as that. It is on the whole very well played, though the blandness of the first movement may perhaps be put down to nerves. The interpretation can only be described as closely modelled on Barenboim’s idol Furtwängler, yet where he conducted the work from his own sense of its form and its message, it sometimes seems as if Barenboim is applying from the outside things that he has heard and admired. ‘Interpretation’ in this sense has to come from within, otherwise it sounds mannered, artificial. Still, there are many lovely and passionate things here, the choral contributions are superlative; and while the soloists are a variable team, the bass René Pape is outstanding. Try it and see. Michael Tanner