Composers: Beethoven
Compositions: Symphony No 9
Performers: Kampe s, Sindram ms, Fritz t, Pape b, Wiener Symphoniker/Jordan
Catalogue Number: Wiener Symphoniker WS017

I read one description of this performance as “lean, mean and joyless”. My version would be trim, taut but certainly not terrific; or, refreshingly scrubbed, grimly business-like and fatuously dynamic. For me, it seems to cleave to the 21st-century default setting of Beethoven’s Ninth where the architecture, fury, depth and ultimate glory are all deliberately (or so it seems) underplayed. Then again, Charles Mackerras recorded it in the last century and the result was streamlined and even faster.

I’ve seen Philippe Jordan in the flesh and he’s impressive, but I kept recalling Christian Thielemann (am I the only person who worships that guy?) who recorded a Beethoven symphony cycle with the VPO for Sony a few years ago and who was derided for “channelling” Furtwängler, Klemperer etc. This version seems another foray which skims the surface.

Best is the Scherzo, taken at a relatively moderate tempo. I wrote a few months ago when reviewing these forces in Beethoven’s Sixth and Eighth that it was nice to see a “real” symphony orchestra recording this repertoire. I just wish they’d let it sound more like a traditional full-bodied symphony orchestra. The sound is generally good, although the passage towards the end of the first movement where the horns nobly carry the main theme goes for nothing. Soloists are fine but not sufficiently outstanding to change the overall impression. A disappointment.

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