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Beethoven's 9th Symphony
Shpongled
post Oct 24 2006, 01:28
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I am currently looking for a good, hopefully the best, performance on Beethoven's 9th. I am looking for historical accuracy and high sound quality. Any suggestions?
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Axon
post Oct 24 2006, 01:37
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This topic should be moved to Music.

"Best" 9th? "Historically accurate"? Pbpbpbt. Those are very controversial questions to ask and you won't get a particularly clear concensus on them. In general, performances aiming for historical accuracy tend to sound vastly different from how most performances sound, especially of Beethoven symphonies, and many people do not prefer their sound over a more modern one.

For what it's worth, I have the complete Harnoncourt symphony cycle, which is sort of a mix between modern conduction and a few period instruments. It also happens to be the only complete 9th I've listened to. It sounds pretty good, although many people have noted balance problems with strings being placed excessively to one side - it doesn't bother me.
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keytotime
post Oct 24 2006, 01:45
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Wilhelm Furtwangler 22/8/1954
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woody_woodward
post Oct 24 2006, 02:06
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This is intriguing in many ways. To begin with the standard pitch of A at 440 cycles/second did not achieve international acceptance until 1939. Also, an equal temperament scale was not universally accepted until the mid 1800's. During Beethoven's time compositions were written for a much smaller orchestra than the 100-piece concert hall orchestra to which we are accustomed today.

Even if you should find a modern recording which is 'historically' accurate, you may not like it. I certainly wish you well in your persuit. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

Woody
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AndyH-ha
post Oct 24 2006, 02:10
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Not to critize Axon's personal choices, but rather to emphasize his general remarks: Some people find the Harnoncourt performanxes to have just too too much Teutonic authoritism and rigidity. Make you own pick.
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rjamorim
post Oct 24 2006, 03:19
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QUOTE (AndyH-ha @ Oct 23 2006, 22:10) *
Some people find the <...> performanxes to have just too too much Teutonic authoritism and rigidity. Make you own pick.


Gah! that sounds like a perfect description of Karajan's interpretation of Mozart's Requiem I had here. Fortunately I ditched it in favour of Abbado (1999-07-16) years ago.


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Irie
post Oct 24 2006, 10:18
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I recommend Claudio Abbado's interpretation with the Berlin Philharmonics, see this link. It is said to have both high sound quality and historical accuracy. As I'm not an expert for classical music, i can only confirm the first point smile.gif
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Nick E
post Oct 24 2006, 12:20
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QUOTE (Shpongled @ Oct 23 2006, 18:28) *
I am currently looking for a good, hopefully the best, performance on Beethoven's 9th. I am looking for historical accuracy and high sound quality. Any suggestions?


"Authenticity" is a can of worms in itself. It's doubtful whether such a thing can be said to exist because of the "historicity of the ear", and you can certainly find trenchant criticisms of the notion:

QUOTE
The effect of authentic performance is not merely to produce that raucous and out-oftune sound which is the inevitable result of playing imperfect instruments with techniques that have now been superseded; it is also to sever the works of the past from the living tradition that gives sense to them, to seal them hermetically within their "period," and to create a museum of musical taxidermy, with Bach, Handel, Haydn, and now Beethoven and even Schubert, exhibited as eerie carcasses.

Review: Music and More


For recommendations, it might be worth looking at BBC Radio 3's database. It's a bit dry compared to listening to the Radio 3 review programmes themselves, since you don't get to hear passages from the many offerings currently available, and also have no way of knowing what the reviewers' recommendations were based on. It's a leap in the dark, really. Or there's the Penguin Guide, which is often available to be consulted on the counter at many record stores.
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sTisTi
post Oct 24 2006, 12:30
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If you care for period instrument performance, look for conductors like Gardiner, Norrington, Hogwood or Brüggen. But as others have stated, you might discover that you do not like period instrument sound in Beethoven. A "compromise" approach like Harnoncourt (period trumpets + modern strings + period playing technique and orchestra size) might be the best of both worlds, but you'd have to decide for yourself if you like this approach. Otherwise, for modern instrument recordings, Karajan's 1962 or 1977 recording of the 9th is a pretty non-controversial recommendation.


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Jan S.
post Oct 24 2006, 13:33
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The penguin guide recommends the 2000 recording (DG 471491-2) by Abbado and BPO from it's large list of qualified recordings.

In the gramophone guide Abbado is not even mentioned (it always has a lesser selection of good options) and generally tends to recommend older recordings favouring Karajan's 1976 recording (DG Galleria 415832-2GGA). Penguin also praises this recording.

From these 2 I would go for the Abbado recording. From the comparisons I have done (not on this particular piece) I usually find Karajan pushes power too much when it is not appropriate and the orchestration looses transparency (transparency in the sense that you hear every detail). On the other hand Abbado is probably the conductor I have found that most brilliantly attempts to keep transparency (the best example I have found of this is indeed Mozart's requiem as Roberto mentioned where I have compared a handful of recordings).
This is just a guess as I only have the Karajan recording ATM (will order the Abbado one from teh library if they have it...).
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legg
post Oct 24 2006, 15:06
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I like this set (director Hans Schmidt Isserstedt): http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Symphonies...TF8&s=music

However the 7th seems slow. But you get a really great 9th and 5th, as well as the piano concertos and an really good performance of the violin concerto.

This post has been edited by legg: Oct 24 2006, 15:10


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Shpongled
post Oct 24 2006, 19:55
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ok how bout this to narrow things down a bit.

When I said historical accuracy, I meant the notes, tempo, time signature, meter, everything performed as Beethoven wrote it.

So taking that into consideration I could rephrase this asking for a version played exactly (time period instruments, exact amount of instruments used, original time sig, meter, tempo, etc), and then one that is the same as that but with modern instruments, if yu get what Im saying. One exact repdroduction of what Beethoven would have had done in his day, and a modern interpretation.
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rjamorim
post Oct 25 2006, 21:42
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According to a friend of mine, the most historically accurate interpretation of Beethoven is probably by Günter Wand (conducting the NDR). So much, that Wand uses Beethoven's original score, and not Wagner's "corrected" notes (that most conductors use these days).

QUOTE
One exact repdroduction of what Beethoven would have had done in his day


That is pretty much impossible to achieve. How do you know how early 19th century instruments were tuned, for instance?

Besides, Beethoven didn't even listen to it smile.gif

Anyway, this friend of mine reccomends Hogwood as a high quality interpretation with "period instruments"
http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Symphonies...TF8&s=music


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guruboolez
post Oct 27 2006, 13:24
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I don't like Beethoven 9th, but my favorite is currently Zinman's interpretation. The score is based on Bärenreiter new edition (the closest to Beethoven's manuscript IIRC) and the CD also contains an alternate version of the last movement. If you're not found of "Panzer" performance of Beethoven and wish to hear something more airy and entousiast: try David Zinman.

Zinman's cycle was published by Arte Nova and got several awards. Price is really low ($26 on amazon - 5CD).
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-...174&s=music

Osmo Vänskä (BIS) recently published his own interpretation. According to classicstoday and Christophe Huss (Classicstodayfrance) this new SACD is a real jewel (artistically and technically).

David Hurwitz's conclusion:
QUOTE
As I said at the beginning of this review, everyone will have their own idea of what makes a great Ninth, but I can assure you that the above description is true to the musical facts. Vänskä's Minnesota Beethoven cycle is not yet complete. Still, there's no question that this Ninth will crown the whole magnificently and set a very high standard for modern-instrument performances in the "new" Beethoven tradition.


This post has been edited by guruboolez: Oct 27 2006, 14:44
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cbstxbill
post Feb 22 2009, 15:32
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This is especially difficult since interpretations are vastly different and overall tastes even more so. I have listened to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony since my teen years and have heard many recordings. I'm now well into my 40s. I suppose it's somewhat of an obsession. I'll mention several "problems" with Urtext editions which have led me to disregard recent trends toward adherence to specific tempo markings and the like.

At the time Beethoven's deafness was, from all known sources, functional and total. The metronome was relatively new. His tempo indications with whatever metronome he used were then based on hearing in his mind; much different, even for Beethoven as far as I'm concerned, than actual physical hearing and live experience of sound. Try to "think" of any musical piece, something simple at first, and note the time it takes to "hear" the piece in one's mind. Then play the piece or listen to a recording of the same piece. Are the times even close? Probably not and the differences in time would vary greatly as the length of the piece increases.

In short, I believe the tempo notations, e.g. "Allegro ma non troppo" are the best way to negotiate the matter of tempo although this may be regarded as far too simple a solution. Whether Beethoven's metronome was faulty or whether note lengths were misinterpreted are unresolvable items of history. Unless we have actual written record (conversation books) of tempo indication and whether we agree that these even mean the same thing today in modern orchestra realms, it must all be thrown out more or less.

The question should be asked on a personal level, "Does this music feel right to you?" We will never know whether it really represents Beethoven's original intention, anyway. If a work of art can reach across time and influence on the level of personal feeling, then hasn't it succeeded beyond most art anyway? This work is monumental on any level. The first movement alone is gargantuan in what it sets out to achieve and it succeeds brilliantly with inverted chords, triple counterpoint and a funeral march which is spine-tingling, to say the least. What does it mean? I have been perplexed by the "meaning" of the first movement since I heard the opening strains in a vacant hallway as it was played in my school auditorium as a child. It stopped me in my tracks then and has confounded me ever since. Tempos? Bah.
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