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Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Bach Collegium Japan/Suzuki)

Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki, et al (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Symphony No. 9 ‘Choral’
Ann-Helen Moen (soprano), Marianne Beate Kielland (mezzo-soprano), Allan Clayton (tenor), Neal Davies (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
BIS BIS-2451   66:28 mins

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Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium are best known for their epic recorded survey of JS Bach’s complete sacred cantatas. In recent years, though, they’ve branched out further afield into the choral repertoire, not only with Mozart’s Requiem, but also a version of Beethoven’s Missa solemnis released a couple of years ago. Now we have Suzuki and his forces tackling Beethoven’s Choral Symphony – and making a fine showing of it.

What’s particularly impressive is the high standard of the orchestral playing, and not least the virtuosity of the horns and the spot-on accuracy of the string intonation. Suzuki may not quite plumb all the depths of the slow movement, but his is a highly intelligent reading and one that seldom fails to convey the music’s atmosphere.

Beethoven wasn’t altogether clear about the question of repeats in the scherzo second movement, but it’s generally thought he meant the da capo to be done without any repeats. Suzuki does include a repeat of the first half here; and since his tempo for the movement as a whole is on the fast side, the repeat works well enough.

He fields a fine team of soloists, though the baritone Neal Davies could have been more au fait with the conventions of recitative notation.

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Misha Donat