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Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 CD


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Product details

  • Performer: The New Company, Neal Davies, John Mark Ainsley, Amanda Roocroft, Fiona Janes
  • Orchestra: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
  • Conductor: Charles Mackerras
  • Composer: Ludwig Van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (24 Oct. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Signum Classics
  • ASIN: B005NZ63VW
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,378 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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View the MP3 Album.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Samples
Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. i. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestosoVarious artists14:13Album Only
Listen  2. ii. Scherzo: molto vivaceVarious artists13:27Album Only
Listen  3. iii. Adagio molto e cantabileVarious artists13:16Album Only
Listen  4. iv. Presto - allegro ma non troppo - vivace - adagio cantabileVarious artists22:43Album Only

Product Description

Review

Listening to this superb performance from the 1994 Edinburgh Festival, you wonder how anyone could have been puzzled by, or have resisted, the composer s metronome marks. The mighty first movement loses nothing of its power, its bleakness and menace, when taken up to speed on the contrary, you hear the nightmarish textures, the displaced accents, and the offbeat anticipations of themes and phrases (a constant feature of the score) with thrilling clarity. The adagio, too: though Mackerras and his excellent strings may miss the hushed mezza voce of the opening, the movement works beautifully at Beethoven s pace. Fine choral singing by the New Company, and Mackerras s masterly control, make the finale as electrifying as only it can be. --David Cairns, Sunday Times, 13 November 2011

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. Grygar on 16 July 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A lively account that was recorded, well, live in 1994 at the Edinburgh International Festival.

That means the sound does suck a bit and lacks the sonority of a controlled environment but it's not haunted by anything atrocious (e.g. a tuberculosis outbreak) and there's a certain punchiness to it, although I would enjoy more bass where appropriate. It takes a movement for the orchestra to get into its 'enlightened' mode but after the poco maestoso, they don't look back. The lovely flute playing that can be found in the middle movements is worth the patience and maybe even the price of the disc itself.

When it comes to period performance of the Ninth, Gardiner is still my preferred choice, but this is an inspired, albeit a little disjointed record.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Geoff on 17 May 2012
Format: MP3 Download
I had to write something to offset the one-star rating that this wonderful CD currently has due to the earlier review.

The performance here is a BBC recording of what must have been a remarkable concert of startling immediacy. There is much eloquent and natural playing by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Charles Mackerras' conducting is brings an attention to detail, sonority and overall conception that gives the performance a revelatory quality. The sound may not be in the studio demonstration class but it's quite adequate given the class of the performance.

I could not agree more with Andrew Clark in the FT when I wrote about this performace: "Mackerras's 1994 Edinburgh festival performance with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is one of the most thrilling Beethoven interpretations I have ever heard. It bristles with revolutionary spirit: there's no attempt to tame or otherwise civilise the sounds that Beethoven's imagination is racing to conjure into being. You feel as if the conductor can barely keep the music on a leash, such is its volcanic energy - and yet Mackerras's way with this symphony is all part of a coherent vision. The OAE play like gods and demons, with pure string timbres one moment, raw woodwinds the next, and even the slow movement catches your breath, thanks to Mackerras's ability to shed new light. The performance is crowned by a finale that clearly inspired everyone taking part."
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yi-Peng VINE VOICE on 24 Dec. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Mackerras has been a silent stalwart of the historically sensitive performing style. From all the recordings I've heard from him, he struck me as being a fastidious yet musical conductor who sough excellence in everything he did. Anything from Czech music to the Gilbert & Sullivan operas benefited from his music-making.

Among the composers who benefited from the Mackerras touch was Beethoven. I am aware of Mackerras's two commercially released Beethoven cycles and gravitate towards his 2006 Hyperion cycle. That cycle is in the same exulted company as the Gardiner cycle.

It comes as a surprise that Signum released a Beethoven 9th that Mackerras did with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in 1994. Like the 2006 Hyperion Beethoven 9th, this was performed at the Edinburgh Festival in Usher Hall. Mackerras is still Mackerras and it is good to have this version. It just seems coincidental that Mackerras did this version in the same year as the first release of Gardiner's historically sensitive cycle. Admittedly, the sound may not be the best, being sourced from what I believe might be an off-air copy. Also I note that there are times when the orchestra is not together and the balance seems to favour the winds and the strings. Yet I still find that there are parts that I like better than in Mackerras's two recordings.

The historically sensitive perspective on the 9th seems to be the hardest for people to take and to stomach. This is because the conception is so radically different from the conception of traditional versions. Beethoven's marked speeds (and metronome marks) are radically faster than the speeds we have got used to from the traditional performances.
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2 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David35029 on 14 Mar. 2012
Format: Audio CD
I purchased this CD on the recommendation of the BBC Music magazine and was very disappointed. I found the speed of some passages confusing and the balance of the recording not to my taste. Like many Beethoven fans I already have the 1977 Karajan / BPO version but am always on the lookout for something better - regrettably, this was not it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A smashing Ninth in HIP style, with plenty of drama and boldness 17 Mar. 2012
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Since this Beethoven Ninth under the late Charles Mackerras features the Orch. of the Age of Enlightenment, one naturally expects a period performance; thankfully, however, nothing irritating appears in the way of zingy strings, sour winds, and bad intonation. The OAE has become a truly fine ensemble, and they play with skill and gusto, matching the best HIP orchestras under Herreweghe in belgium and France. Herreeghe has produced some impressive Beethoven that manages not to make him sound anemic, and Mackerras follows suit here. The first movement is handled with sufficient drama and boldness to satisfy anyone attuned to Beethoven the revolutionary and universal humanist. He's not reduced to being Haydn's bright nephew. At 13 min. the first movement is paced for excitement but not a jack-rabbit run. Dynamics rise and fall naturally without ridiculous Baroque hairpins, but Mackerras does set a fixed tempo without rubato, a period quirk I find irritating.

If the Scherzo is taken at Beethoven's metronome markings, it turns into a mad dash without humor or heroics. Mackerras acts sensibly and resorts to a conventional tempo that is only marginally on the brisk side. Despite the extensive repetitions, the whole movement maintains its high spirits; all repeats are observed (leading to a total timing of 13 min. - too long), and the Trio is taken a tempo rather than slowing down for contrast. The scale of the sound is made larger by the roomy acoustics and vivid engineering - instead of being from the Edinburgh Festival in 1994, this could easily be a studio recording.

The greatest pitfall in HIP Beetoven appears next, in the contradiction between Beethoven's marking of Adagio molto (the slowest tempo available to him) and a metronome marking that seems impossibly fast. Mackerras splits the difference, allowing the music to flow and expand with dignity, yet at 13 min. still trimming a couple of minutes off even Klemperer's timing, which was fast for its day. This movement is the first time that the massed string body sounds Baroque, with the total absence of vibrato, but the OAE is so skillful that it goes down well enough.

The way that period performances attack the chaotic opening of the finale accents the tumult that Beethoven wanted to communicate before the voice of joyful concord brings peace; Mackerras is good here, not too strict with his pace, although no real rubato or expressiveness is allowed. The famous tune isn't turned into a zippy triviality, which is also to the good. The arrival of the bass soloist reminds me, as always, why the logic of HIPness denies vibrato to the instrumentalists while it is given full sway with the singers. The vocal quartet is accomplished but light-voiced compared to conventional performances: Amanda Roocroft (soprano), Fiona Janes (mezzo), John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Neal Davies (bass).

I'm not so sure what i think of the reduced but highly vigorous chorus, who are called The New Company. But forcefulness is the order of the day in all the singing - I wish there ere more humanism and idealism, which after all is the point of Schiller's Ode and the music itself. The miking is good but still loses most of the chorus's pronunciation. Certain episodes, like the tenor's Turkish march solo, are taken briskly and therefore at high risk(he survives but doesn't cover himself in glory). Many other sections are sensibly paced. By now the listener will be sympathetic to a bold, brusque, visceral reading or he won't. I surprised myself by going along. In the end, this is the best period Beethoven Ninth I've heard, miles ahead of those from Gardiner, NOrrington, and halfway proponents of HIPness like Rattle and Abbado.
Mackerras's OAE Beethoven - a strong historically sensitive version despite its technical faults 25 Dec. 2014
By Yi-Peng - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Mackerras has been a silent stalwart of the historically sensitive performing style. From all the recordings I've heard from him, he struck me as being a fastidious yet musical conductor who sough excellence in everything he did. Anything from Czech music to the Gilbert & Sullivan operas benefited from his music-making.

Among the composers who benefited from the Mackerras touch was Beethoven. I am aware of Mackerras's two commercially released Beethoven cycles and gravitate towards his 2006 Hyperion cycle. That cycle is in the same exulted company as the Gardiner cycle.

It comes as a surprise that Signum released a Beethoven 9th that Mackerras did with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in 1994. Like the 2006 Hyperion Beethoven 9th, this was performed at the Edinburgh Festival in Usher Hall. Mackerras is still Mackerras and it is good to have this version. It just seems coincidental that Mackerras did this version in the same year as the first release of Gardiner's historically sensitive cycle. Admittedly, the sound may not be the best, being sourced from what I believe might be an off-air copy. Also I note that there are times when the orchestra is not together and the balance seems to favour the winds and the strings. Yet I still find that there are parts that I like better than in Mackerras's two recordings.

The historically sensitive perspective on the 9th seems to be the hardest for people to take and to stomach. This is because the conception is so radically different from the conception of traditional versions. Beethoven's marked speeds (and metronome marks) are radically faster than the speeds we have got used to from the traditional performances. I know that in this hurry-sick world it's not right for me to vouch for hurry-sick renditions of any music. I know that these performances in rush-hour mode may make people die of cardiac arrest, coronary thrombosis or other stress-related illnesses. I know that great works need post-facto re-interpretation to keep them relevant and vital in changing times. Even so, it is good to have revivalists like Mackerras, Gardiner and Hogwood approximating Beethoven's intended conception and removing the stodge and the post-facto Wagnerian lens from the symphony.

The first movement goes along at a brisk, sustained clip. Like the other Mackerras recordings of the Ninth, this one takes time to warm up. However Mackerras sustains the brisk tempo all the way through and allows climaxes to build up and emerge without being forced. Here an throughout the rest of the symphony I note that the orchestra sounds distant and that the winds and the brass are more forward than the strings. I do note that in the fugue the rhythms and different layers are less clearly defined and less pointed. The Scherzo springs along nicely with no problem and the Trio is taken at a fast, yet wise, speed. The slow movement unfolds naturally and is well-sustained. I know that Beethoven's marking is faster than the slow speeds we are used to but Mackerras sustains it through the variations. As with his Philharmonia version I like the way he makes the second theme flighty so that it points the discourse to the Joy theme. The Finale wakes up when we reach the first variations of the Joy theme. I do note that the male soloists fare better than the two female soloists. They have a fuller body and their diction is comparatively clearer. However the choir throughout is strong and fresh-voiced without sounding too militaristic. The Turkish march section is sedate by comparison but it is good that Mackerras takes this section at close to the revised metronome speed of 84 minims, though slightly slower than that. Mackerras sustains the energy level on the home stretch of the symphony, from the first Seid umschlungen Millionen section.

I tend to like Mackerras's OAE Ninth a lot. It holds up well to some of the better historically sensitive versions available. Of these other historically sensitive versions I would regard Gardiner as a first choice. He is comparatively more robust and forthright and offers up a rather polished performance that still bristles with the same electricity. However Mackerras's OAE version is worth having despite the technical hiccups and occasional lack of togetherness in the ensemble. It is perhaps sharper and more penetrating than his other two versions and it makes one regret that he did not do a Beethoven cycle with the OAE.
Live Recording 5 April 2012
By R. D. Chattin - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This may or may not make a difference for many, but unbeknownst to me prior to purchase via mp3, this a live recording (Edinburgh 1994), and thus the sound quality is a little inconsistent. At times the music tends to break, especially, and most unfortunately at one of the most critical times: near the close of the Choral; perhaps one of the most heart rendering moments in all of classical music. I am a huge fan of Mackerras (especially his Mozart symphonies) as well as the OAE, but this is not their finest moment from a quality of recording standpoint. I have no qualms with the tempo, the instrumentation or the size of the orchestra (probably closer in scope to 1824). However, I would much prefer a studio version or if live, an acoustical hall. If you do purchase the mp3, listen via headphones and squirrel around with your equalizer to soften the imbalances in sound, as opposed to computer speakers where the distortions are far more noticeable.
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