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Reviews: Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 - Vänskä

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Reviews: 4

Site review by akiralx October 27, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:  
A powerfully played and recorded account, with a similar interpretative approach to the earlier SACDs in the series. The total timing is under 66 minutes, the Adagio comes in at 13'26, which should give some indication that this isn't a performance that will necessarily appeal to devotees of, say, Furtwangler's 1954 Lucerne Festival performance with the Philharmonia.

I say 'necessarily' as I like both performances very much, despite the differences. The first movement and scherzo here are urgently played with great impetus, not quite with the same emphasis on grandeur as one might find with older fine accounts from Karajan, Fricsay and Boehm. The phrasing is less smooth (string playing often with more aggression than normal), the tempi quicker but the whole seems to relate the work firmly with the other symphonies rather than treating it as a separate interpretative entity to be blasted out in a totally different way - here it all sounds wholly Beethovenian.

Such is the detail of the excellent recording (I listened in stereo via a Stax earspeaker system) that instrumental lines appear clearer than in any other recording I know, though I listened at a slightly higher than normal level. The acoustic is perfect as well and this must be well up to the standards of this cycle and BIS in general.

The slow movement is not the quickest recorded by a long way and the movement's spirit (as we would normally understand it) is maintained - but occasionally one wonders if one is listening to an Andante rather than an Adagio. Still I felt this was true to the composer's intentions and sounds even more authentic than some other HIP versions.

The Finale opens superbly with great intensity and sweep, and there's a great bass recitative - though I felt the tenor soloist was slightly small scale. Similarly after a fine 'fife and drums' episode the 'pursuit' orchestral tutti which follows didn't quite take off as I thought (and hoped) it would. Other performances like Karajan in 1961 really do make the spine tingle here. But these are the only flaws as the Minnesota Chorale sing superbly as do the female soloists.

Apart from the slight caveats about the finale I recommend this, even if you're not collecting Vanska's cycle - it probably won't replace your favourite Choral Symphony recording but it does offer something genuinely new and convincing in Beethoven interpretation - which these days is not easy.

Review by krisjan November 6, 2006 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

http://www.HRAudio.net/showmusic.php?title=4136#reviews

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Review by Cellophile November 10, 2006 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I have just listened to Vanska's version of the Choral Symphony, and I am floored. As stated by the other reviewers, the tempi are fleet for the most part, with the scherzo about the "usual". For fun, I played it after listening to the Bernstein/Vienna Philharmonic lp version. The styles are profoundly different. Bernstein's timing for the final movement is 26'43 compared to 22'29 for Vanska. They both work. It is wonderful to have different ways of doing things.

The recording is magnificent. Never before have I heard so much detail in a chorus. Not a mass of singers, but many individuals in the chorus, with air and space around them. And the instrumental detail and soundstage was equally magnificent. The dynamic range of Vanska and the Minnesota Orch. was clearly wider than any other recording I've heared. And how gloriously it was depicted on my system in my room (2-ch stereo SACD, as my multichannel system is down temporarily for repair of a component). And without losing any detail. Every note heard if you critically (actively) listen. No conglomerations of sound...just a well blended collections of all the right sonorities creating what Beethoven blessed us with.

We can always quibble about this tempo or that emphasis, but as a whole this interpretation is excellent, and modern, and so well recorded that even if you already have a dozen 9th symphonies, get this one. It is different from all your others. It got my spine tingling in a different way from the grander more romantic interpretations of yesteryear. Those older oner still work, but I like hearing something so distinct and new....like a surgeon cut away the fat and left us with the essence at the core.

I wonder if it will stun me again in multichannel?

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Review by Luukas January 29, 2014 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Osmo Vänskä's Beethoven cycle with Minnesota Orchestra is very interesting, and maybe the best modern performance. This recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is very powerful and stunning. I heard many recordings of this symphony (Abbado (DG), Drahos (Naxos), Fricsay (DG), Vriend (Challenge Classics), Haitink (LSO Live), Tennstedt (LPO), Chailly (Decca), Thomas (Avie)) but I can say that this beats all previous recordings.
1) BIS label's recording quality is stunning. Minnesota Orchestra's Concert Hall's acoustics is very good for this massive choral work: it is clear, deep and galavanic.
2) Vänskä's tempi are very lightly and moving. First movement (14'45) is very dramatic and punchy: Vänskä implements score's all markings very well: sforzatos, accents and dynamic alternations. Second movement (13'26) is also very good: tempi are fast and timpani's strikes are stunning! The beautiful trio (D major) is magical and movement's stormy coda is awesome. Third movement (14'12) is moving: it isn't slow and boring as Fricsay's or Tennstedt's recordings. The masterful and dramatic finale (23'01) is very effective: timpani's tremolos are like ligtnings and Minnesota Chorale sings clearly and strongly. The soloist (Helena Juntunen, Katarina Karneus, Daniel Norman and Neal Davies) are excellent.
3) Orchestra plays very purely.
I think that this is the best performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and I like it very much. Buy this, this is great experience. You don't lose your money, I'm sure that you like this. Strupendous release!

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