Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Choral)

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: BR Klassik
WORKS: Symphony No. 9 (Choral)
PERFORMER: Krassimira Stoyanova (soprano), Lioba Braun (alto), Michael Schade (tenor), Michael Volle (baritone); Bavarian Radio Chorus & SO/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: 900108

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In this performance, given in the Vatican some three years ago, Mariss Jansons takes a broader view of the Choral Symphony than we’re used to these days. His solemn approach is most effective in the first movement, bringing out not only the music’s rugged grandeur but also the strain of melancholy that runs through it.

The slow movement, too, gains in lyrical warmth and expressiveness at a tempo that takes greater heed of the Adagio molto e cantabile heading than of Beethoven’s surprisingly flowing metronome marking. Jansons isn’t quite so convincing in the scherzo, though, which really needs greater rhythmic momentum, and he omits the vital repeat of its second half. 

He also takes a rather relaxed view of the finale’s ‘Turkish march’. When the march spills over into a long and powerful development section, the music here seems to hang fire (whereas Osmo Vänskä’s performance with the Minnesota on BIS really proves its mettle at this point). Yet Jansons’s finale benefits from a strong team of soloists, with Michael Volle particularly fine in the all-important baritone part, and as a whole the performance leaves a strong impression.

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Jansons, incidentally, follows the tradition of making an attacca between the slow movement and finale, so that the latter’s discordant fanfares shatter the peace of the Adagio in dramatic fashion. Beethoven might well have approved, but it wouldn’t have been possible in his day – the horns would have had to change their crooks for the finale’s new key, and the timpanist would have needed to retune. Misha Donat