2006-06-18 21:39:13 UTC
Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 was
conducted by Richard Edlinger and performed by the Zagreb Philharmonic
in September 1988. This recording has been published as Beethoven:
Symphony No. 9 'Choral' (Naxos 8.550181), and in the five-CD sets
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9 (Complete) (Lydian 18501), and
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9 (Complete) (Amadis 7501). (Amadis is
the current budget-brand of Naxos, and was formerly under the name
Lydian. These two five-CD sets are apparently identical, as far as the
actual recordings go.) This is an all-digital recording (stereo, DDD).
This recording has also appeared in various other Naxos sets.
I own Naxos 8.550181, which is no longer in print. But this recording
is the fith CD in the Lydian 18501 and Amadis 7501 sets, of which I
see that the Lydian 18501 set seems to be the one currently available
from online stores. I do not own nor have I listened to the other
recordings in these sets, but going based only on this recording of
the 9th Symphony, I can emphatically recommend and indeed urge that
people get this set (all the more since the entire set is going for
the price of a single typically-priced CD).
Beethoven is my favorite composer, and I've been collecting recordings
of his 9th Symphony since my early teens (I'm currently 28 years of
age). Beethoven's 9th Symphony is my single favorite piece of music.
Currently I only own five different performances and recordings of the
9th Symphony, although previously I've owned quite a number more.
Besides Naxos 8.550181, I also currently own the recordings of Wilhelm
Furtwängler conducting the Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther
Festspiele on July 29, 1951 (mono, ADD, EMI 5 66953 2), and Herbert
von Karajan conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker in October 1962
(stereo, ADD, Deutsche Grammophone 447 401-2), among others.
But of all the many different performances of Beethoven's 9th Symphony
that I've listened to in great detail, none have I found that come
anywhere close to the competency, grace, grandeur, and emotional power
of the performance given by Richard Edlinger and the Zagreb
Philharmonic. It makes all the other recordings of the 9th Symphony
that I've heard figuratively seem like jerry-built contraptions
hobbled together with duct tape and Bondo by comparison, i.e., an
attempt at something that they didn't have the resources (i.e., skill)
available to do right; or even more often, straining at trying to
achieve a goal without knowing how to do it.
Whereas the prowess and the intellectual and emotional command of the
material displayed by Richard Edlinger and the Zagreb Philharmonic on
this recording is breathtaking--as if they have untold skill in
reserve and are just having fun toying with us puny humans. Never do
they come to a passage wherein it seems as if they're lost and don't
know what they're doing. From the first sound of the first movement to
the last in the fourth movement, it feels as if every sound takes its
place and truly belongs, with no sound seeming out of place. And every
passage is performed at a tempo which makes it lock into the entire
movement, forming a seamlessly coherent whole. The result conveyed is
a masterfully articulate performance wherein the masters know
precisely, exactly what it is that they are doing at every moment, and
execute their intention just as they had wanted; moreover, that
Richard Edlinger and the Zagreb Philharmonic have an exceedingly
profound understanding of what it takes to make every passage, every
note, every vocal utterance fit perfectly within the entirety of this
While all the movements on this recording are performed with this
phenomenal adroitness and deep comprehension, most stunning of all is
the fourth movement, especially the choral performance. The vocals
come through loud, clear and awesomely beautiful. One can actually
hear the words pronounced, instead of being a muddled mess like on a
number of recordings of the 9th Symphony. The hormonics created by the
choir are heavenly, as if a host of radiant angels had just descended
from paradise, bringing with them, in song, otherworldly and divine
music. Never have I heard the choral arrangements of the 9th Symphony
performed with such poised competency as on this recording.
Now I say the foregoing based solely on the actual performance, and
not the technical quality of the recording medium or the conditions
under which it was obtained. But when we come to the fidelity of the
actual recording, this performance has been superbly, exquisitely
captured. Although the printed material that came with my CD doesn't
say, based just on listening to the recording, I take it that it's a
studio recording, as there are no coughs, sniffles, or other
extraneous noises to be found, and indeed no clapping at the end of
the fourth movement. And given that no specific day is listed for the
performance, I assume it might have been recorded over the course of
some days in September 1988, possibly with a number of takes.
If the latter part of the previous sentence is the case, then it
somewhat helps in explaining how this masterwork came to be. Although
it is the penetrating choices made in how to perform this piece and
the sheer skill of its execution which makes it the truly magnificent
treasure that it is.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Conductor: Richard Edlinger
Gabriele Lechner, Soprano
Diane Elias, Mezzo-Soprano
Michael Pabst, Tenor
Robert Holzer, Bass
Recorded in Zagreb in September 1988.
All-digital recording (stereo, DDD)
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9 (Complete) (Lydian 18501):