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Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
Ludwig van Beethoven, Claudio Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
Genre: Classical
 
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CD Details

All Artists: Ludwig van Beethoven, Claudio Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Karita Mattila, Thomas Moser
Title: Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Dg Imports
Release Date: 4/9/2002
Album Type: Original recording reissued, Import
Genre: Classical
Styles: Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830), Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 028947149125

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CD Reviews

A more affable "historic" Beethoven 9
Yi-Peng | Singapore | 04/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Most of the time we associate Beethoven's 9th with Furtwa"ngler, Solti and Karajan recordings, complete with the Wagnerian vandalism that has so tarnished the essence of the work. However, Abbado's reading is a different creature altogether from any previous reading. His third reading, this time with the Berlin Phil, is a nicely balanced reading that carries the weight of the music yet observes historical performance practice. Abbado keenly grasps the structure and character of this work and elicits peerless playing from the Berliners. It's true the recorded sound is good, but could do with more clarity and a closer balance.

Abbado's first movement still conveys a cataclysmic electricity about it. He conducts it briskly, yet also majestically, such that his speeds are never extreme. The movement builds up steadily and there is always a forward momentum that keeps the listener on his seat, especially in the devastating recapitulation. The scherzo is a brisk account, with a fast-paced yet light Trio that still makes sense and conveys the Olympian character of the music well. In the third movement, again taken twice as fast as a traditional performance, Abbado conveys a hushed repose, building the individual variations of the devotion theme steadily, helped by the telling wind solos. Then he caps his performance with a riveting rendition of the weighty choral finale, and is helped with a fresh-voiced quartet of soloists and a weighty, commited choir. It truly sounds ecstatic and fresh, and only gets better with every listening. My only complaint is that the soloists and chorus seem to be distantly recorded, as I can't feel the impact of the singing.

Overall, a superb achievement all round in this hyper-competitive market for Beethoven symphonies, in renditions that do the Master proud yet don't sound extreme. The accuracy and the style, and Abbado's thorough rethinking of Beethoven make this a version to really own."
Decent, but not last word
Leonardo | Argentina | 09/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Well, well, well. Here the most impressive symphony of history. Which is the best recording? Difficult to say. Do you want a "correct" reading, without "amendments" made to the score? (eg horns doubling winds in the scherzo)? There are new versions, almost literal to the original score. I don`t know if this is one of them, since the booklet says Abbado worked inspired by recent Del Mar edition, but not always following his suggestions. It seems he is consucting an "original" score. And there are traditional versions. Of these, they say Fricsay is very good, and also Gunther Wand, who benefits from modern recorded sound. As far as I know, not all are enthusiasts fans of Karajan. If you want a spiritual experience with the worst choir ever recorded and a very unbalanced orchestral sound, try W Furtwangler (WF) Bayreuth (come on, I think Beethoven wanted you to hear the words - first time used in symphony- or at least listen to vocal parts, this is not possible in WF`s Bayreuth, and also look at the first movement and try to guess what brass are playing ... surely a great version, but it CAN`T be a single basic 9 th). In the modern, HIP - based ones, there are in period and modern instruments.
Abbado belongs to the last group. His is a version with the Berliner Philarmoniker but it seems a new, perhaps more full-bodied, Chamber Orchestra of Europe instead of the tradfitional Karajan Orchestra. I think this is good, bringing transparency to the score and recreating the smaller performing apparatus Beethoven had in his lifetime. Please don`t think there is lack of force or power: try recapitulation of the 1st mov and see brass, strings and speccially timpani. Then try Furtwangler and discover one of the weakest moments of his career: you will see what a recapitulation is about in Abbado`s hands. It seems the world is finishing right now! The playing of BP is consumate. This recording is a proof of a new type of sound Abbado created: transparent, crisper attack, sweet strings and delicious winds. And his tempi! Not leisurely, but really moving (in general)! Indeed, BP became "HIP"! Perhaps WF if he became to life again and listened to his orchestra today, would come back to death again!
1st mov is really dramatic. A bit fast but still slower than Toscanini RCA. Also great coda.
snd mov a bit slow, lacking WF and Toscanini`s passion, but very refined. It seems relaxing after the storm of 1st mov. Not "bad" but not ideal. There is plenty of anger just in certain places. In a word, very good but not impressive.
3 rd mov: yes, WF is sublime, nothing can change that. His is the opposite view of Abbado's. Here there is a very fast reading. At first listening seems misconceived, but please go on and you will see how Abbado is building the mov structure. His reading of the score sound very cohesive and with progressive urgency, and seems more clear now there is a crescendo towards the last variation and the fanfarres (superbly played). A benefit from fast tempi ! And the orchestral balance! Here you will find violins are just a part of the score, woodwinds are prominent and very important (carry the main theme sometimes). So, while WF is the most emotional scene-by-scene, Abbado is moving in its own way, building an impressive reading gradually.
Last mov: Fresh opening, but should be more powerfull sometimes. Very fluid Joy theme. Great quartet (little-vibrato) and choir (very clear). Fast fugal orchestral passage before reprise of Joy theme bychorus. Overall it seems a richt mov, plenty of drama. But I miss soem of pauses WF makes (eg before the tenor solo passage or the rittard in the last words of the Choir)which makes his reading a very rewarding reading, albeit technically seriously flawed. Abbado perhaps seems too "rushed" in some places but is fluid and coherent, and played and sung by Gods and goddesses. A good reading, and required listening if you want to see a traditional orchestra which has "updated" its look through the past sounds."
Abbado and Rattle rethink the Ninth Sym.--which is better?
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado released competing sets of the Beethoven symphonies from Vienna and Berlin respectively. Both were major events, and both, we are told, represent a rethink of performing traditions. I thought it would be intriguing to compare the two in the Ninth Symphonny to see how the new thinking paid off.

Since I'm going into detail, let me synopsize first: Rattle keeps much closer to tradition than Abbado, who incorporates a dose of period-performance style. Both readings have their strong and weak points. One's choice may eventually depend on which conductor appeals to you more, not the intrinsic quality of their versions.

Rattle: The first thing to nte is the thin, recessed sound, which somehow turns the wonderful acoustics of the Musikverein into a dry box. To get any kind of impact the volume must be turned up considerably, and fortunately it can take it--loud passages don't get glassy and hard. At 16:55 min., Rattle's first movement is a minute slower than Karajan's famous 1963 recording, so he's not adhering to the fashion for much faster speeds in Beethoven--not so far, at least. There's a palpable sense of mystery here that's tremendously effective, and Rattle uses the braid pace for high drama, contrasting whispered detail with thunderous climaxes (the bad sonics don't allow these to register as they should, however).

The Scherzo, at 11:59 min., is a minute slower than Karajan's timing, reinforcing the notion that Rattle's interpretation clings to the old more than it explores the new. He imparts exuberance and vibrancy in this movement, which could hardly be better. The sublime Adagio, at 17 min., adds a minute to Karajan's timing and is cnducted with such depth of emotion that one can be sure that Rattle is placing himself in the great Romantic tradition--he shapes each bar even more than Karajan or Furtwangler, in fact.

His finale times out within seconds of Karajan's at 23+ min., and although Rattle goes for somewhat sharper angles, the opening follows tradition in eveyr way--I especially like that Rattle is so free in stating the recitative-like passages, making them sound as if they wre invented on the spot. This music is strugglng to find its shape from primordial stuff. Excellent as Thomas Hampson is, his entry reveals a baritone voice struggling with a bass role--the sudden addition of embelishments comes as a surprise but is refreshing.

The rest of the quartet is a bit rough in ensemble, and each voice is too light for the part. The Birmingham chorus, which sounds sizable and a little amateurish, has been enoucraged to add punchy accents that are unfamiliar--perhaps the new del Mar edition indicates them. It takes a while to get used to such explosive singing, which sometimes becomes too militant rather than joyful. Rattle suddenly indulges in extreme tempo shifts, also. That's a shame, because up to this point, Rattle had produced one of the finest traditional reading in many years, full of musical invention.

Abbado: Whereas Rattle had avoided Beethoven before producing his complete cycle, Abbado had a cycle to his credit form the Seventies with the Vienna Phil, as well as a live Ninth from Berlin, but all had struck me as dull and uninvolving. His rethink motivated him to speed up, reduce the size of the orchestra, and reduce the vibrato in keeping with period style. He is not as aggressive about this as Harnoncourt, however, who also used a modern orchestra with period touches.

The spirit of the new enters immediately in a fast, energized first movement that eschews mystery in favor of kinetic power. At 14 min. it's more than two minutes faster than Rattle, but it feels like more. Abbado Scherzo times out at 13 min. without being slower than Rattle's--perhaps there's an extra repeat I didn't catch. Here he runs out of energy a bit and doesn't deliver quite the vitality in Rattle's version. Abbado tries for a touch of delicacy that doesn't quite suit the Scherzo's rollicking robustness.

It needs saying that DG's sonics, while a touch better than EMI's in Vienna, are nothing special, being too constrained and limited in impact--the latest remastering of Karajan's 1963 cycle far surpasses it.

Abbado's Adagio, at 12+ min., is radically faster than either Rattle or Karajan. This isn't necessarily a period feature; Klemperer also heard this movement faster than usual. In terms of phrasing, Abbado remains traditional. Nothing here sounds radical; it's Romanticism in a hurry. Abbado's finale, at 22+ min., cuts two minutes off rattle's timing, but it's well within traditional limits, and one hears almost no period otuches except for a lack of vibrato when the cellos and basses introduce the famous theme.

Abbado's besetting flaw in his earlier Beethoven was a lack of dramatic involvement. The finale here feels a bit that way, too, and things aren't helped by the distant, anemic miking. One's spirits are lifted by Thomas quasthoff's superlative declamation of the bass solo, and the Eric Ericosn Chamber Choir--smaller than the Birmighma and made up of professional singers--is clear, strong, and emotional. The solo quartet belnds beautifully and sings in tune. Once we reach the body of the finale, Abbado has found more energy; he even has some manic moments. He doesn't really approach the heaven-storming passison of Toscanini or the depth of Furtwangler, but his account feels stronger and more natural than Abbado's--this movement is the high point of his recording.

How, then, to compare the two? I wound up being confused, since I liked Rattle so much in the first three movemetns but felt badly let down in the finale. Abbado is more consistent, and he has a somewhat newer, if not revolutionary, view of the Ninth. Neither CD sounds very good, yet in the current market, they are both worth a close listen. I wish I could jump and shout for either one, but I can't."