Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 1
Sound Quality: 9
Remember Sugar Plums? That was the Hoffnung Festival performance by the Dolmetsch Ensemble of Tchaikovsky’s greatest hits (including the 1812 Overture) on baroque instruments. It was ridiculous and hilarious, intentionally so. This Beethoven Ninth is ridiculous and probably more obnoxious than hilarious, because its ridiculousness is unintentional and certainly no joke. Honestly, I have no patience for this foolishness anymore. If you want to hear this piece played by a vibratoless, period-instrument string section numbering 8,8,6,5,3, knock yourself out. It sounds horrible.
As for the interpretation, Suzuki has few ideas, most of them bad. The first movement is relatively swift, not unduly so, and some might find the climaxes interesting with the strings overbalanced by the winds, brass, and timpani. The scherzo, with lots and lots of repeats, moves too quickly in its outer sections to secure rhythmic clarity, and Suzuki takes the trio at the absurdly fast tempo possibly inspired by Beethoven’s likely erroneous metronome marking. At that speed the solo horn’s intonation becomes especially atrocious.
To his credit the Adagio isn’t insanely quick–it’s actually almost exactly the same tempo as Klemperer’s, believe it or not, so Suzuki isn’t consistent about the metronome business. The only problem is that at the slower speed the baroque strings sound even thinner and more anemic than they would otherwise. The finale goes by quickly, which comes as a relief, with the teeny tiny choir (31 strong) sounding audibly stressed in the big central fugue and woefully undernourished elsewhere. This symphony is nicknamed the “Choral”, not the “Madrigal”. You get the picture. Avoid this like death.
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: Wand (RCA); Böhm 1 (DG); Schmidt-Isserstedt (Decca)
- BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN:Symphony No. 9