ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven Symphony No. 9
PERFORMER: Measha Brueggergosman (soprano), Kelley O’Connor (mezzo-soprano), Frank Lopardo (tenor), René Pape (bass); Cleveland Orchestra Chorus; Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst
CATALOGUE NO: 477 7132
This is on the whole a fine performance of Beethoven’s Ninth, with Franz Welser-Möst admirably conveying the work’s mystery, drama and warmth. The slow movement is particularly impressive, its relaxed tempo allowing the music’s expansive lyricism adequate space to breathe, without ever sentimentalising it. Not quite as successful is the finale, where the terrifying discordant fanfares lack sufficient impact, while the ‘Turkish’ march episode unfolds at a comfortable jog-trotting pace that’s far from the urgent Allegro assai vivace Beethoven had in mind. Both passages are more vividly handled in the recent Hyperion recording by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Charles Mackerras, though the variable standard of the soloists rules that version out as a prime recommendation. For the strongest vocal quartet you need to turn to Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic (DG), where the presence of Thomas Quasthoff in the all-important bass part is a decided asset; but the team on Osmo Vänskä’s Minnesota version is more than adequate, and Vänskä’s reading of the score generally has greater urgency.
For all the musical strengths of Welser-Möst’s performance, Cleveland’s Severance Hall, with its proscenium arch, is not an ideal recording venue, and the sound here is rather gruff and constricted. It gives little idea of the Orchestra’s