"It is not easy to make a splash recording a work widely considered the greatest symphony in history and consequently available in a blizzard of different performances. Vanska does with this marvelous recording.
People looking for the Furtwangler approach might want to look elsewhere. Think of this work as if it was conducted by Charles Mackerras. It exhibits the scholarly approach made famous by Gardiner and others with brisk tempos and tight structure. It is, however, played by a modern orchestra with all of the extra power that implies. The playing is splendid - it brings to mind the "machine like" performances Solti often got from the Chicago. The BIS SACD sound is simply jaw-dropping. You will hear detail that you had not before if your hardware is up to it. This is particularly true in the choral movement which Vanska approaches with a sense of high drama. This work must be heard if one likes Beethoven."
An Absolutely Superlative Bit of Work
K. Beach | Minnesota | 04/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If a single SACD disk could justify the entire expense of a high end playback system, this BIS offering is it. If a single night at an orchestra could justify the cost of air fare to a cold and distant city, the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vanska...performing Beethoven's 9th in their current world class state...would be the one. This is not to say that there aren't other fine interpretations of this work...or that there aren't other fine orchestras about the planet. It's just that this orchestra playing this music at this point in history is an amazing and sublime bit of serendipity (not to mention hard work). The pacing and intensity of this performance is unique unto itself (as are all interpretations of a score). One can compare and contrast it to others, but one should also simply enjoy it for what it is: genius in service of genius. The playing is at once articulate and gentle, powerful and fiery. The shimmering vocals are precisely localized and, properly reproduced, cut to the core of one's soul. The BIS mix sets a new standard for technical excellence. The incredible depth and transparency of this recording is limited only by the accuracy and power of one's playback system. Recorded music simply doesn't get any better than this.
Great sound but where were the heart and soul?
Erik Aleksander Moe | Oslo, Norway | 11/22/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I have just finished hearing the SACD and it left me cold. It is too fast and emotionally empty. The orchestral players play well, but nothing like the Vienna or Berlin orchestras. The chorus too sounded too thin and a little weird. The solists were also so overpowered by the music. Many times I heard that they were very strained. As for the conducting, I found it accurate but cold. I know the comparison is absurd but cannot help it, but comparing to either the '51 or '54 Furtwängler recordings of this magnificent symphony (I find this symphony the greatest piece of symphonic music ever created and those recordings the greatest of all), or for that matter the great Rattle or Abbado recordings with Berlin or Vienna philharmonic orchestras, I cannot help ask myself where the heart and soul of the work is. The conducting was way too fast, especially in the fourth movement. The sound on the SACD was nothing short of magnificent. The level of detail was so great that it was quite frustrating in light of the performance itself."
Now I hear what all the fuss is about
Robert Buchanan | Wisconsin | 10/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Very few contemporary conductors present a fresh rendition of Beethoven's venerated warhorse, and Vänskä is one of them. This interpretation is taut and meticulous, performed at a brisk tempo, but never hurried. Vänskä's reading is by no means historically exact, but neither is it indulgent. Under his baton, the Minnesota Orchestra's playing is exceptional, simultaneously nuanced and forcible. It may be too early to determine if Vänskä possesses the greatness that Szell imparted in his time, but at the very least, this recording confirms that the pairing of this celebrated Kapellmeister with such a fine ensemble has produced a versatile, superior symphonic instrument.
Whether or not this particular recording of the Ninth is for you depends on your tastes. If you're looking for an exuberant reading of this work, you're more likely to enjoy Furtwängler's lush, widely praised 1951 live performance at the Bayreuther Festspiele; if you're inclined to a more conservative interpretation, Abbado's recording with the BPO will surely be your cup of tea. While I don't agree that Vänskä's work is radical or groundbreaking as some of his devoted admirers do, this punchy, exigent take on Beethoven's iconic achievement is exemplary.
Even when played in my Walkman or cheap CD player, the clarity and transparency of this recording is remarkable, and quite complimentary to such a fastidious performance. I don't possess equipment capable of exploiting the fidelity of this disc's HD layer, but I can imagine how it must sound through a good stereo equipped with an SACD player."