The Vienna Philharmonic is one of the world's leading recording orchestras. Ever since its very first recording of Beethoven's 6th Symphony under Franz Schalk in 1928, work in the studio has taken up a considerable part of its "free time", which is, on account of its duties at the Vienna State Opera, in any case very limited. There are not many major 20th-century conductors, many important works of the operatic and concert repertory, or indeed many important labels that do not figure in its large and comprehensive disco-graphy.
Hollow pathos is not his thing. From an artist like Mariss Jansons Friedrich Schiller’s Ode: “An die Freude” must receive a far deeper significance, which also fully encompasses the doubt and profound hope embodied in this text. And thus, in Jansons’s recording of the Ninth Symphony, the choral finale does not degenerate to mere superficial orgy of jubilation, but rather becomes a delicately balanced, wisely developed drama. On October 27, 2007, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks played Beethoven’s Ninth in the presence of the Pope in the Vatican. The recording of this memorable concert is now being released in the highest audiophile recording quality as a multi-channel SACD.
Because Beethoven's symphonies have been played many different ways, from conventional modern versions with full-scale symphony orchestras to historically informed performances on period instruments, listeners should try several sets to get a clear idea of what suits them. Of the mainstream style of interpreting Beethoven, Otto Klemperer's approach is one of the most widely admired, and his EMI recordings of the nine symphonies have become legendary, representing the serious, rigorous, and clear-eyed treatment that he generally brought to classical music, but especially to these masterpieces…
As with many of the BBC Legends issues, it seems clear enough who the target audience is. Beechamites will want to acquire this recording as a matter of course, and for serious students of the Ninth, this is the only opportunity to hear it performed by one of the most fascinating conductors of the 20th Century. ’Nuff said. – FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan