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Beethoven: Symphony No.9
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2009
Tennstedt and the LPO bring their long experience of Mahler to Beethoven's Ninth, and it pays dividends. Every nuance of this remarkable score, written when Beethoven was completely deaf, is brought out, whether it be from the brass, woodwind or percussion. The drums are incisive and I wonder whether the timpanist sometimes used both sticks together, as Mahler often specified. But there is no lack of delicacy when required: the pianissimo passages are very quiet and the subtle scoring of parts of the finale is brought out superbly.

The restless, troubled first movement is excellently played and is truly frightening in places, and is followed by a scherzo which really is molto vivace and suitably exciting, but with hardly any loss of orchestral detail. Then in the wonderful adagio molto, one of the greatest of all slow movements, Tennstedt gradually takes us from deep sorrow, through consolation, to a vision of hope. The clamour that begins the finale follows on immediately, which I do not like, but is probably what Beethoven had in mind. The late Neville Cardus frankly described the finale as "inferior music" and too often it is an anticlimax compared to what has preceded it. But Tennstedt has the measure of it and keeps his grip on it throughout, so the "joy" of Schiller's Ode is well expressed.

In an age where period-instrument performances are all the rage it is so good to have a full-blooded romantic interpretation. So many so-called authentic performances are at best merely interesting and too often gimmicky. Tennstedt and the LPO give us a performance which may not be "authentic" but is undoubtedly genuine and moving. My only quibble is that Beethoven's indicated repeats in the scherzo are not observed.
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on 18 March 2015
From the late 1970's through to his eventual retirement and untimely death in the early 1990's there was a conductor, working regularly in London, who was the greatest Beethoven conductor since Klemperer. His name was Klaus Tennstedt. An exagerated claim? I think not.
There is a world of difference between performances (as has become the modern way) where precision, tidiness, fleetness, accuracy etc replace the passion, meaning, truth and grandeur that this music was understood to contain by Tennstedt and those that preceded him. One skims the surface, the other digs deep. Beethoven's music, more than anybody elses, breathes character, life, truth. He is the greatest "Yay" sayer of all creative artists. His music embraces life, whatever it brings, sorrow or joy, and affirms that it is noble and worthwhile. He is a giant. Performances of Beethoven's music which do not recognise this about him, which seek to shrink his message, to bleach out the meaning, to consign him to a trivial "historically accurate" pageant, ought to be consigned to the bin - the bins would be very full!
No conductor in the past 40 years has brought more insight to these extraordinary works than Tennstedt.
For a contemporary review of one of Tennstedt's concerts - go to ...
I like Stephen Johnson; he has a very nice voice, and lovely hair. I will not quibble with his choice of Klemperer's Testament (stereo) recording of the Beethoven Choral Symphony as his first choice for "Building a Library", but he was quite quite wrong to suggest that this performance was "one to avoid". He made it sound like there is something wilfull and perverse going on here, when there simply is not, although certainly both Tennstedt's recordings of the Ninth sound like they come from another era.
This performance of the Ninth symphony, recorded almost at the end of Tennstedt's career is, like all his other Beethoven recordings, on the grandest scale. This is not to say that it is slow, indeed the Scherzo here is extremely fast (and better played than in the BBC recording). The first movement is craggy, full toned, dramatic and dark. The slow movement is remarkable, an end of the world, "This might be the last time I do this," testament of great beauty. It is slower than the BBC proms recording by the same forces, and extrememly flexible at its climax. At this climax it is as though the sky was rent, and we see into the abyss, the truth of things written in the heavens. If this is not what we think Beethoven meant us to feel at this point, then we are indeed lost. It is awe that we must feel, and here we do. The finale begins with an utter cataclysm. The soloists are good.
The recording has a very beautiful sound, and audience noise is not obtrusive. Perhaps there is too much upper voices in the recording of the choir, which robs the music of some of its grit, but the singing is radiant.
The writers of old Penguin Guide used to use a phrase in their reviews - "communicates the atmosphere of a great occasion". There is wisdom in those words. This recording is included in the same writers' summarising "1000 greatest recordings". It belongs there, even though I marginally prefer the BBC proms perfomance (as a performance, not as a recording), which has slightly greater thrust and tension, and a slow movement which (at a slightly more flowing tempo) is about as perfect a rendition as I have ever heard. It also has an even more incandescent finale and (including more audience coughing), an even greater sense of a "great occasion".
For me any performance of the Ninth that fails to communicate Beethoven's awesome message is dead in the water, but how many actually do it? What is the Ninth about? These are not just notes. Tennstedt knows this. And more than this, he believes it. His orchestra are clearly with him every step of the way.
Buy it - and live it!
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on 21 April 2015
Three stars for Tennstedt seems very begrudging considering what a wonderful conductor he was. My only reason is to point people towards the earlier albert hall proms performance.This one from 1992 seems very earthbound and the soloists do not seem well matched. The lovely Lucia Popp is past her very considerable best. The BBC legends 1985 performance in the words of the original gramaphone review virtually lifts the roof off the albert hall. It is a stupendous life affirming performance that will have you cheering and out of your seat at the end of it. I can think of no more joyful performance in my whole cd collection.
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on 6 June 2014
I sang in this performance at the Royal Albert Hall and am absolutely delighted to be able to buy a copy of it. I was able to talk with Klaus Tennstedt and he was clearly very frail but so in control. Wonderful memory of a wonderful evening and conductor.
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