Thursday, March 11, 2010

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Choral”

Paavo Jarvi embraces the original metronome marks for this inscription, a wild exquisitely chaste reading of the first order.

Published on March 10, 2010

Audiophile Audition (audaud.com)

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Choral” - Christiane Oelze, soprano/Petra Lang, alto/Klaus Florian Vogt, tenor/Matthias Goerne, baritone/Deutsche Kammerchor/The Deutschephilharmonie Bremen/Paavo Jarvi

RCA multichannel SACD 88697576062, 63:55 ****:

Extending his Beethoven cycle to the Ninth Symphony (rec. 22-26 August 2008 and 20-22 December 2008), Paavo Jarvi embraces the original metronome marks for this inscription, placing him among those conductors--like David Zinman and Nikolaus Harnoncourt--who embrace historical and modern perspectives, that thinning of the musical texture that produces a more “authentic” sound. The microphone placement, so as to include the tympani’s (Stefan Rapp) vivacious part in the first movement, adds an energetic dimension--along with the accelerando strings--quite galvanizing in its nervous clarity. String and trumpet figures leap out in asymmetrical units, rife with volcanic fury. The flute and bassoon work equally compels our attention, as the interior lines contribute to the harmonic tension that transpires on a brisk cosmic plane.

The rhythmic ambiguity of the second movement Scherzo comes quite alive in this New Urtext Edition, the pungent beats convincing us that quadruple time rules in the midst of triple meter. Paradoxically, the timbres, moving through the woodwinds, produce a curiously intimate effect despite the often raging fury of the leaping figures. Having opened with a fugato, Beethoven often utilizes all sorts of sonic separation to rivet us to the otherwise obstinate nature of his musical materials. Wicked attacks and sfozati urge us to a state of heart-pounding involvement, the D Major trio then exposing the trombones along with the mischievous bassoon. Nice oboe work here. The legato aspects of the “chorale” tune sail by diaphanously, without sentimentality. The da capo then reverberates with even more crisp force, almost jabbing the staccato notes into our eyes as well as our ears.

The transparent spaciousness of the Deutsche Philharmonie allows the three key centers of the slow movement--B-flat Major, D Major, and G Major--to resonate in lofty, even fluttering harmonies as the double theme and variations unfolds in majestic repose. The flutes work their magic along with no less plastic alchemy from the violas. The harmonic motion remains animated, the 12/8 sequences urged forward relentlessly, a tad manic. The “dry” approach to the clarion trumpet sequence makes for a startling contrast to the pedaled string line that creates a wiry tension to the resurgence of the three-beat tattoo of resigned heroism and lyric outpouring that resolves this exquisite movement.

Attacca to the whirlwind Presto that opens this movement, what Charles Rosen calls “a symphony within a symphony.” The spare vibrato makes for a “dry recitative” response from the cellos and basses as they systematically reject the former motifs as appropriate to the new movement’s intentions. Once the main theme wins acceptance, the cellos and basses (and accompanying woodwinds) amplify the tune in a self-effacing but dramatically fluid manner, a dancing, graceful chorale. At bar 208 an elegant Matthias Goerne quite begs our pardon as he dismisses “absolute” music for an overt plea for brotherhood. The vocal quartet projects its own luminosity, pointedly ardent, the diction etched in ringing German. A glorious epiphany of sound and--Attacca--to the Scherzo a la janissary march and tenor Vogt’s spirited ode to joy. Is Wagner’s Loki present here? A fleet fugato transitions to the wonderful 6/8 variation of the main theme, the chorus and brass radiant. The Andante maestoso (bar 594) invokes the slow movement’s decided air of mysticism. The colors point directly to passages in the Brahms Requiem. The transcendent vocal counterpoint that begins at bar 654--Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato--provokes celestial metaphors, the effect quite equal to my original heartbreak at this music at the hands of Jascha Horenstein. Light feet and inspired voices take us to final pages (at bar 763), another reminder that all men are brothers in hushed yearning tones haunted by compassionate magic. Soprano Oelze’s voice sails into the stratosphere while Goerne’s plangent bass tones echo the humanity we had in his teacher Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Another janissary rush to judgment, and this wild music ends, spectacular, breath-taking, ineffable in its ever-renewed totality of feeling.

-- Gary Lemco

Original post here: http://www.audaud.com/article?ArticleID=7096

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