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CD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

Choral Symphony

  • Symphony #9, "Choral"
  • Overture "Egmont", Op. 84
Imgard Seefried, soprano
Maureen Forrester, alto
Ernst Haefliger, tenor
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone
St. Hedwigs Cathedral Choir
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Ferenc Fricsay
Deutsche Grammophon Originals 463626-2 78m ADD
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Yet another Choral joins the DG stable but this reissue is surely one of the finest recordings of this symphony ever. It is a reading very much in the Furtwängler tradition, but with the solid Fricsay pulse that enriches so many of this conductor's recordings. A calmly inflected Allegro ma non troppo holds all Beethoven's ideas in balance, and the Hungarian conductor has the inimitable sensitivity of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at their brilliant best. A vibrating pulse permeates the Molto vivace, one of the finest pieces of rhetoric in music and given wonderful rhythmic buoyancy here. Fricsay lingers lovingly over the Adagio molto, in fact he takes almost eighteen minutes, but just listening to the way he shapes the melodies is a lesson in understatement. Menacing chords introduce the Finale which has all four soloists on top form with Seefried and Fischer- Dieskau in particular fine fettle. DG's balance between chorus and orchestra is also excellent, there is an impression of special distance between both ensembles. Fricsay holds the movement together with iron discipline and studiously avoids bombast that often creeps into over mannered Finales (sample Solti in Chicago). The 'Egmont' Overture is another triumph, a miraculous tone poem of heroism and victory over tyranny with a super fast tempo that is really quite exhilarating. It is difficult to choose between Karajn in 1962 and this splendid performance so I advise that both stay side by side in the library of the great Ninths.

Copyright © 2001, Gerald Fenech