msafier | Buenos Aires, ---- Argentina | 06/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording was made in April 1969 following the farewell concert of Erich Leinsdorf as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra with the same programme. For that ocasion Maestro Leinsdorf choose Beethoven's 9th preceded with Schoenberg's short but dramatic and intense work. This is a demonstration of Leinsdorf as a smart concert scheduler: both works speak on freedom and human rights, besides the great differences in motivation and inspiration. The results are terrible. Sherril Milnes as narrator in A Survivor form Warsaw frezees one's blood, exposing al terror from the nazis invading the Jewish ghetto (it is told that Schoenberg heard the story from an actual survivor and composed the work on it). Leinsdorf's Beethoven is a well paced, classic performance. You will not find here spectacular sounds, just an honest and exact performance with great sound form the Bostonians in a very german style. Timpani have a great presence and execution, also the chorus and the soloists. Besides, this is the first Ninth sung by Domingo, then an ascending star in the opera arena who had just signed an RCA contract. Recording is clear, wide and detailed."
Powerful Music with Powerful A Powerful Theme
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 10/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Beethoven and Schoenberg are two perfect examples of composers who have put power into music through selecting a powerful theme. Beethoven, in fact, had an influence in Schoenberg's music. The 9th symphony and Survivor from Warsaw are excellent pieces that are connected and can be performed at a concert. In fact, it has been. I attended a concert featuring both works with the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing, under the baton of newcomer Esa Peka Salonen. Schoenberg put the words of a Jewish survivor from Warsaw and made it into a short but grandiose work for chorus and orchestra. It is chilling and dark but it is an excellent prelude to Beethoven's 9th. The Ninth expresses the horrors that mankind can create, such as is the Holocaust and in the case of Beethoven's period, the Napoleonic Wars. But the tremendous fury of the opening movement and the scherzo can express any war at any time. The Adagio offers hope of peace and is sublime, a great and nearly religious-like prelude to the final movement with chorus. This was the first symphony ever to use chorus, later composers would use this method. "Ode to Joy " based on Schiller's poem became a fanfare for freedom and brotherhood of mankind thanks to Beethoven. It is so popular that even films and televisions use it in moments of victory. Together, Schoenberg and Beethoven have created powerful music. A must have."
Some of Leinsdorf's Best from Boston
T. Beers | Arlington, Virginia United States | 01/04/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Erich Leinsdorf's stint as music director of the Boston Symphony lasted from 1962 through 1969; these recordings were made at the very end of his tenure and they are glorious. The performance of the Ninth Symphony is lean, beautifully articulated and powerful, rather in the manner of Toscanini, Szell or Reiner. But unlike other, to my ears rather impersonal sounding Leinsdorf/BSO Beethoven symphony recordings, here the conductor seems thoroughly engaged with the music. And undoubtedly that is the result of the brilliant theatrical stroke of preceding the performance of Beethoven's paean to triumphant humanism with Schoenberg's shattering little cantata about the Holocaust. Leinsdorf insisted that this juxtaposition, one he had devised for his final public appearance as BSO Music Director at Tanglewood, should also appear on his recording of the Beethoven symphony. And it is positively chilling how the Schoenberg seems to fade into the opening string tremolos of Beethoven's so-familiar first movement. Once you experience Leinsdorf's performance of these two masterpieces you will never hear either the same way again. (I especially recommend the experience to those for whom the Ninth has become perhaps too familiar.) An amazing, unique experience. Sound quality is superb, completely living up to BMG's promotional hype about its 96/24 remastering process. Given BMG's recent pull-back from serious classical recording projects, listeners should rush out to buy this gem before it disappears, perhaps forever."
I was there, and it was just like this
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 06/16/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"When I attended college in Boston, Erich Leinsdorf was in the middle of his dull seven-year tenure with the BSO. To their credit, RCA tried to keep up the orchestea's prestige, but the record-buying public was having none of it. By the time this Beethoven Ninth was released and Leinsdorf headed out the door, morale was at a low ebb. No wonder that despite living another 14 years, Leinsdorf hardly made another commercial recording. He simply lacked any spark of imagintion and warmth.
This Ninth is one of his better efforts. He favors propulsive speeds throughout and tries to keep up tension and drama. Certainly the results are better than under Munch, who had recorded the Ninth a decade before. Toscanini was Leinsdorf's hero and mentor, and he wrote articles about the superiority of "objective" conducting that remains faithful to the written score. You sitll have to have inspiration, though, and Leinsdorf phrases Beethoven in a brusque, clipped manner devoid of nobility.
The first movement is proficient and superficially exciting but without depth. The Scherzo is successful; Leinsdorf marshals a good tempo and nice balance. Period enthusiasts might like his fast-moving Adagio (14 min. compared to 16 min. in the classic 1963 Karajan on DG, which was considered fast at the time). But Leinsdorf can't find much eloquence or intensity in this movement.
His objective approach works best in the choral finale. Not having to worry aobut interpretation, he could concentrate on directing the complex vocal and orchestral forces, which he does well. It helps to have Sherrill Milnes and Placido Domingo in their early prime, both sounding great. Jane Marsh and Josephine Veasey are careful but musical. The chorus is large and sings with rreal emotion, another big help.
I don't own this latest remastering and tthereforce can't comment on the sound, which was always good. The filler is Schoenberg's moving six-minute monodrama, A Survivor from Warsaw, recited by Milnes, who isn't quite the vocal actor needed to extract the harrowing emoitons of thee text. but the orchestra's performance is clear and beautifully played."
The best-sung Ninth on disc
Sheri Wild | Chicago, IL | 09/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording of the towering Ninth is a revelation--not in spite of, but BECAUSE of Leinsdorf's ability to get out of the way and let Beethoven be heard! I'm sick to death of having overzealous conductors drop anvils on my head to demonstrate the effects of their supposedly "inspired" deep thoughts on this work. If there's a composer whose work doesn't require the conductor to turn to the listener as if to say, "See? This part right here is significant!", it's Beethoven. Leinsdorf neither pushes nor drags; he may not be trying to provide the greatest "depth", but he also isn't boring us to death--a trend that started with Otto Klemperer, a well-documented manic depressive who made far too many recordings during his depressive periods and far too few during his manic periods. I like the way Leinsdorf varies the dynamics in the cantabile passages in the second movement, which helps it move, and the tympani are FOR ONCE not suppressed! He keeps the third movement moving (if there's one thing I hate, it's passing out and waking up to find the third movement is STILL going on like a bad day at work). And then there's the finale, where Sherrill Milnes and Placido Domingo blend like chocolate and darker chocolate (which they would do for next two decades), both because of the sounds they make and their incredible skill at ensemble. Their dark tones and careful shading cover the passages where some awful, discordant sounds often emerge when the soprano is suddenly exposed or the principals are scaling in different directions--painful if you have a rather dry, sharp-toned tenor and a too-dark mezzo coupled with a wooly basso and a screechy soprano. This is a very well matched, blended, highly skilled ensemble of principal singers who for once don't sound like they met up ten minutes before the recording--the best sung Ninth you're likely to hear. I've heard too many versions where the singers are singing well but sound like they are on different planets.
I don't know what another reviewer was getting at in saying Milnes is not a good enough vocal actor to put Schoenberg's Warsaw piece over. It's not an operatic role nor a standard accompanied narration, it's a cantata-like sprechstimme (speech-singing) piece meant to dramatize terrible events that are actually depicted by the music. "Acting" it adds little value for a lot of effort, and whatever there is to be added that supposedly isn't provided by Milnes is not something I'd search the catalog for to in the hope of acquiring a mythical better version of this short piece. It's not like Sherrill Milnes was muttering to himself in this version!
The remastering has excellent sound and adds a little boom to what was already a well recorded and spacious LP issue; the previous CD issue was a bit more remote in sound and cut the Schoenberg."