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Beethoven: Symphony No.9; Choral Fantasy


Price: £8.37 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Product details

  • Audio CD (18 Jun 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B007TSPQJ6
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 258,612 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. 1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
2. 2. Molto vivace
3. 3. Adagio molto e cantabile
4. 4. Presto - Allegro assai
5. 4. Presto - "O Freunde nicht diese Töne" - - Luba Orgonasova, Anne Sofie von Otter, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Gilles Cachemaille, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, John Eliot Gardiner, The Monteverdi Choir
6. 1. Adagio - Robert Levin, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, John Eliot Gardiner
7. Finale: Allegro - Meno Allegro (Allegretto) - Allegro molto - Adagio ma non troppo - Marcia, assai vivace - Allegro - Allegretto, ma non troppo (quasi andante... - Robert Levin, Angela Kazimierczuk, Constanze Backes, Susanna Spicer, Robert Johnson, Julian Clarkson, The Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, John Eliot Gardiner

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Yi-Peng VINE VOICE on 18 Jun 2012
Format: Audio CD
I am both excited and uneasy about doing this first review of Gardiner's Beethoven 9th in its mid-price reissue. Excited because I'm hoping that my five-star review will give this release a good standing among Amazon's classical music fans, but apprehensive because I'm worried that people might not react well to my unabashed fondness for this recording of the Ninth and clobber me to death. So many people have grown up hearing the Ninth with Wagnerian inflections and refractions through late-Romantic lenses that do a great disservice to the work. They think these inflections and lenses are part of the character of the work and were what Beethoven conceived, and as such they would be unhappy if they were told they aren't.

I know there is unease with this revisionist rethinking of Beethoven symphonies based on the metronome markings and early music scholarship. Furtwängler, Karajan and all the other "doddering old men" who conducted the piece had a valid view on this music, coloured by their desire to use their art to cope with the turbulent twentieth century they were living through. These old school conductors had a unique style in their conducting and were strong communicators, and so we should acknowledge their perspectives on the orchestral repertoire.

In spite of all these arguments about the right way to perform Beethoven, I'm very sure that this recording of the Ninth stands up as an excellent recorded performance of the work. In spite of the many recordings that have followed Gardiner's recording in the past 20 years and adopted many of the Jonathan Del Mar nuances, it still stands up extremely well as a stylistically accurate yet sincere and honest performance of the piece. I myself took time to warm to it but when I got used to it I liked it very much.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A marvellous Beethoven 9 that holds up well after all those years 24 July 2012
By Yi-Peng - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I am both excited and uneasy about doing this first review of Gardiner's Beethoven 9th in its mid-price reissue. Excited because I'm hoping that my five-star review will give this release a good standing among Amazon's classical music fans, but apprehensive because I'm worried that people might not react well to my unabashed fondness for this recording of the Ninth and clobber me to death. So many people have grown up hearing the Ninth with Wagnerian inflections and refractions through late-Romantic lenses that do a great disservice to the work. They think these inflections and lenses are part of the character of the work and were what Beethoven conceived, and as such they would be unhappy if they were told they aren't.

I know there is unease with this revisionist rethinking of Beethoven symphonies based on the metronome markings and early music scholarship. Furtwängler, Karajan and all the past codger conductors who conducted the piece had a valid view on this music, coloured by their desire to use their art to cope with the turbulent twentieth century they were living through. These old school conductors had a unique style in their conducting and were strong communicators, and so we should acknowledge their perspectives on the orchestral repertoire. The Ninth experiences the most radical changes in the conceptions of the historically sensitive conductors and orchestras. It is comparatively harder to stomach than the historically sensitive treatments of the other symphonies. Many listeners complain that adherence to Beethoven's fast metronome speeds robs the work of its innate spiritual power. I know that I shouldn't be vouching for rush-hour, hurry-sick renditions of any music under the "historically informed" banner because these renditions might pose a health hazard and cause cardiac arrest or coronary thrombosis. I know that these renditions may give the impression of a world stuck in fast forward and that the performers are not living the music. Even so, the work still makes sense and more when it approximates what we know of Beethoven's conception and intent for this piece.

In spite of all these arguments about the right way to perform Beethoven, I'm very sure that this recording of the Ninth stands up as an excellent recorded performance of the work. In spite of the many recordings that have followed Gardiner's recording in the past 20 years and adopted many of the Jonathan Del Mar nuances, it still stands up extremely well as a sincere and honest, yet stylistically accurate performance of the piece. I myself took time to warm to it when I first heard it but when I got used to it I liked it very much.

This Gardiner recording of the Ninth comes off as a very polished, yet strong, fiery and passionate performance. There is very good sweep and forward momentum and the sound of Gardiner's orchestra is strong and powerful. The sound of the recording is full-bodied and yet clear. I also admire the fervent, gutsy singing of the Monteverdi Choir and the fresh, spring-like contributions of the four vocal soloists in the finale.

I really admire the chugging, pulsating Sturm und Drang quality of the first movement. It comes off as dramatic and weighty, hurtling from one struggle to the next. The sharp rhythms come through clearly as flashes of lightning and generate momentum. It is perhaps less clumsy than the performances at slower speeds. I really love the way the voices overlap in the fugato. Each voice is clearly delineated and yet everything comes together to whip up a superb musical storm. I also like the way that Gardiner builds up climaxes in a natural, non-contrived way. The rhythms are well pointed and you get the impression that this really is inherently violent music.

There are no problems with the second-movement Scherzo. The outer sections are well-sprung and energetic and it feels reassuring to know that the tempo is marked at close to the usual speeds. The trio flows along nicely at a brisk but never rushed pace. It is to Gardiner's credit that he does not take it to extremes. 116 minims can't be right with the stringendo, and 116 semibreves can't be right either. Anyway, it is a fast, yet intelligible, speed, close to the speed that Bernstein and Schmidt-Isserstedt adopted in their recordings.

The slow movement is played sweetly and flows naturally from one variation to the next. The wind playing is tender, lyrical and sensitive, and it's good that Gardiner has this as part of his style. It's interesting how Gardiner expands the tempo of the 12/8 variation so that it's slightly slower than the previous two variations. Even so I still find that there is momentum as the music leads us higher into the sublime. Interestingly enough I note that there are other times in Gardiner's cycle where his tempos are slower than the marked speeds, such as in the slow movement of the Fourth. So that is a concession to naysayers to the historically sensitive approach to Beethoven symphonies. Also I notice that Gardiner's tempo is slightly slower than the metronome mark, and slower than the tempos of Norrington and Hogwood. To the naysayers and detractors of historically sensitive Beethoven Ninths, it would be helpful to remember that this slow movement is cut from the same cloth as the slow movement of the Pathetique piano sonata, and as such it would be good if the Ninth slow movement were felt in this way.

The finale has sweep, drive, drama and spirit. I like the simple presentation of the Joy theme in its instrumental statements, and then when the soloists and chorus come in it sounds so energetic and lusty. The Turkish march section and the ensuing choral outburst come off well at the brisk tempo. Yes I know that it's faster than normal, but before the 1990s the printed speed was a dreadfully slow 84 dotted crotchets. There have been arguments to suggest that Beethoven meant 84 dotted minims and that the dotted crotchet was a printer's error. Gardiner was not the first to embrace this faster pace, as Benjamin Zander did it up to that speed in his 1991 IMP Boston Philharmonic recording. Anyway, the speed here is slightly slower, at 81 or 82 dotted minims. It is slightly slower than the marked speed yet close to it and the fugue after the march does not generate into garble. After the cathartic choral outburst of the Freude theme, the Seid umschlungen Millionen section is finely moulded. The double fugue is treated as the climax of the movement. It has spine-tingling energy and you can hear the parts clearly. The closing sections for the soloists and the headlong rush to the conclusion are done superbly too.

As a bonus, this CD includes two extra gems from Gardiner's DG Archiv Beethoven project. It includes Robert Levin's version of the Choral Fantasy, originally released as a coupling to the Emperor Concerto. Also, you get a free download of the piano quartet arrangement of the Second Symphony, played by Robert Levin and members of the ORR. You also get the chance to hear Gardiner's insights into his Beethoven cycle, which were only available in the first pressings of the original full price box of the symphonies. Curiously enough these First Choice extras don't provide the complete work for download. It is good that these other Gardiner Beethoven rarities are made available again, and let's hope that DG will release a jumbo 9-disc set with the boxes for the Piano Concertos and Symphonies. Oddly enough I would have liked the Choral Fantasy to be part of the extras rather than on the main CD. It's only because one might be exhausted after hearing the mighty Ninth that you might not be in the mood for the Fantasy.

In short, this is an excellent Ninth that holds up well and gets better with age. It can still take its place among the many fine recordings of this symphony and as part of Gardiner's marvellous and excellent Beethoven cycle.
Excellent CD 5 Sep 2013
By rocks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Robert Levin's playing in the Choral Fantasy is excellent. Granted, the instrument is not a modern piano, but the sound recording is very good and his vigor and excellent playing really come through. The orchestra in both the Fantasy and the Ninth is exquisite. I grew up on the Chicago/Reiner Ninth from decades past, and over the years have loved it - but the Gardner Ninth is very refreshing. The choir is superb as well. This disc is a great buy.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Scholars, not Artists 22 Mar 2014
By Raymond B. Beegle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A dry, skimpy academic reading of both the symphony and the Choral Fanatasy. I feel like I'm hearing a lecture rather than a celebration of Schiller's - and Beethoven's - great visions.
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