Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Choral)

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Choral)
PERFORMER: Jane Eaglen (soprano), Waltraud Meier (mezzo-soprano), Ben Heppner (tenor), Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone); Swedish Radio Choir, Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: SK 62634
In the ten years since Abbado last recorded the Ninth, with the Vienna PO, he has radically rethought his interpretation. In particular, the opening Allegro and the slow movement are both palpably quicker. Alas, neither change is actually to the music’s advantage, and in the slow movement the two opposing themes of this set of double variations now actually unfold at virtually the same tempo. This cannot be what Beethoven had in mind – not least since the first theme is marked Adagio and the second Andante moderato. At this stage, following on from an opening movement of overwhelming intensity and a dynamic scherzo, what the music needs above all is serenity; and I find the Adagio sections infinitely more affecting in Abbado’s Vienna recording.

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Sony has assembled an impressive cast of soloists, but Bryn Terfel’s very first entry comes a whole bar too soon; and if he had listened to the earlier instrumental version of his initial phrase, he would have known that its penultimate note should be performed, in recitative style, as an appoggiatura. All in all, a disappointment. Misha Donat