Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Choral)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Symphony No. 9 (Choral)
PERFORMER: Lynne Dawson, Jard van Nes, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Eike Wilm Schulte; Gulbenkian Choir, Orchestra of the 18th Century/Frans Brüggen
CATALOGUE NO: 438 158-2 DDD
The Swiss composer and conductor Robert C Bachmann emphasises that, in his new recording of Beethoven’s Seventh, he has observed all the repeat signs of the original and has, as far as possible, adhered to the composer’s own metronome marks, which are rather faster than those in common use. He also employs the large orchestra which Beethoven used in 1814-15 in Vienna. I found the recorded sound and performance on the heavy, aggressive side, without much charm. There is a CD with the Cleveland Orchestra under Dohnányi (coupled with the Fifth) which, using a modern orchestra of about the same size, observes the repeats and the fast tempi, but which, it seems to me, is nearer the spirit of the original score. Bachmann’s own Torso 700 composed in 1991 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Federation, has its most striking feature in the third movement, which consists of ‘700 relentless, fortissimo double strokes from the full orchestra’, which this reviewer found grotesque and pointless.

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As with everything Brüggen records, his Ninth Symphony on period instruments is a model of well rehearsed, well considered playing. The soloists are excellent and the whole makes a highly successful CD. Most impressive.

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HC Robbins Landon