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Beethoven : Symphonie n° 9 "Ode à la joie"
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Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 "Choral"
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Description du produit
Description du produit
SYMPHONIE N°9 AVEC UN CHOEUR FINAL SUR L'"ODE À LA JOIE"
Au début des années quatre-vingt-dix, le chef d'orchestre autrichien Nikolaus Harnoncourt enregistra l'intégrale des symphonies de Beethoven à la tête de l'Orchestre de chambre d'Europe. Lui, le plus fervent instigateur du renouveau de l'interprétation baroque à la fin des années cinquante, il osa se produire avec des ensembles sur instruments modernes. En réalité, sa démarche refermait une querelle qui était bien dépassée. Sa gestique, l'assimilation du texte font de cette intégrale, et de la Neuvième Symphonie en particulier, des interprétations de premier plan. La sonorité est à mi-chemin des versions les plus extrêmes : la légèreté des intonations, l'équilibre entre les vents et les cordes, cette impression permanente de fluidité, sont idéales. Qui plus est, l'ultime symphonie est profondément habitée par cette cohérence dans l'architecture qui ne laisse aucune place à une distribution de stars. Le résultat est que l'on ne s'ennuie pas un instant dans ce bain de fraîcheur qu'il ne faut laisser passer sous aucun prétexte. --Pierre Graveleau
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As a keen fan of the historically informed performance movement I was keen to lend Harnoncourt my ears to hear his paradigm shift versions of the Beethoven symphonies. I know and I understand that HIP in anything means hurry-up speeds and the rush-hour culture. As such there is a high chance that the HIP conductors and orchestras are trifling with the many profound utterances in the music of the likes of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. So their performances might make a circus of such serious music and reduce it to the level of an aimless divertimento. However, I am still grateful that the many HIP conductors, in their own individual ways, have sought to de-stodge the music of the past in their performances and recordings.
In Harnoncourt's Beethoven cycle, he largely tries to keep to the original marked speeds, but he did not go the whole hog as Norrington or Gardiner did. So he could have alienated hordes of listeners if he had gone the whole hog. In any case, he elicits wonderful playing from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. I have some doubts about the playing, as I wished for a bit more vigour and exertion in the tuttis. I also wished that the violins could articulate their spiccatos more lightly. However, the winds and brasses get the chance to shine. The Teldec recordings are clear but I was unhappy that the orchestra was distantly balanced. So the sound is a bit airy and lacking in body.
I would like to start by writing something about the Choral symphony as I would probably have enough material for a considered review of Harnoncourt's version.
The Choral symphony presents challenges to any conductor who attempts it. Performers who adhere to Beethoven's fast metronome markings may be accused of mindlessly hurrying the music or trifling with its profound utterances. However, one can always make a case for the de-Brucknerised, back-to-the-source renditions of the Choral and the paradigm shift that Harnoncourt, Gardiner, Mackerras and others sought to promote. Harnoncourt's first movement is a bit uneven in the exposition because he takes the secondary subject group at a slower tempo than the primary subject group. The development is a bit steadier and there is a bit more thrust in the fugue. At times I note that the music did not exert itself, notably at the angry outburst of the recapitulation. As a result, the first movement lacks that sense of sweep that I hear in other performances. Karajan, Bernstein or Gardiner allow the movement to unfold naturally without changing gear markedly from section to section.
As with some of the other Harnoncourt Beethoven performances, I tend to like the middle movements a little more because Harnoncourt keeps to a steady course. The Scherzo is a little sedate and could do with a little more propulsion. Also, it would be good if the tutti could exert itself a little more. The Trio fares better even though the running quavers were a bit too slurred and less crisp.
The third movement runs for 13 minutes, the usual speed in HIP renditions of this movement. I know that there's a risk that the rush-hour culture could have impacted on this movement especially after the drawn-out and languid Brucknerised versions, but it's worth remembering that Beethoven wants the slow notes to be the beat unit in this Adagio. Moreover, it bears a family likeness to the slow movement of the Pathetique sonata and needs to be felt that way. Anyway, Harnoncourt handles the movement well and sustains the lines and phrases. There is enough contrast between the two themes. At times I wish that the second variation with the semiquavers and demisemiquavers could have been a bit more flighty as if the music is carrying itself away.
Although the finale starts off well, I felt that it was a bit episodic and disjointed. Like the reading of the first movement, it lacked that line that connects the disparate sections. In the cello and bass recitative, I note that most phrases tend to end with a diminuendo. However, the Joy theme started off earnestly. I did note that the full tutti version is a bit subdued and came across as anticlimactic after the buildup in the preceding variations. The soloists and chorus are a fine team and settle by the second stanza of the Joy theme. I confess that they are a bit backwardly balanced and I can't hear their diction clearly. Things wake up a little in the Turkish March variation with the fife and drum. I know I wished it could have gone a little faster, but at that time the idea of a faster speed for this section had not been bandied about. As this march variation shares a family likeness with the corresponding march variation in the Choral Fantasy, it would be good if they could both go at similar speeds. Anyway, the tenor is less militaristic and makes the effort to animate the words before the entry of the male choir. In the rest of the movement Harnoncourt alternates red hot sections with more relaxed section, but not always successfully. Though there is not much of a surge in the ensuing fugue, the big Freude outburst sounds suitably fervent and has well-placed dynamics. The Seid umschlungen, Millionen section is a bit muted and I did feel that the choir sounded half-asleep on the word Sternenzelt. The Ihr sturtzt nieder section is slightly better and leads effectively into the fervent double fugue. After a muted quartet for the soloists, the heat is turned up for the final section.
In the final analysis, I find that this Harnoncourt Choral is a bit unsteady in the outer movements. It is a gamely attempt to show what an HIP version of the Choral might sound like at that point in time. It is a valid approach, and yet I wonder how Harnoncourt's Beethoven Choral would have sounded like if he had lived to re-record the Beethoven cycle. For those who wish to sample Harnoncourt's approach to Beethoven, I would very much like to steer them to some of the other symphonies, notably the Eroica, the Seventh, and some of the shorter symphonies.
I know that some listeners might cling to Karajan, Furtwangler or Schmidt-Isserstedt, but I would gladly opt for Gardiner and the ORR or Mackerras's Hyperion version of the Choral as steadier options for the paradigm shift Beethoven Choral, I highlight Gardiner's robustness and strong team of singers. These performances feel better put together and the different sections flow more smoothly into each other.
2. Its a rarity; if it was available commercially, it likely has been out of the catalog for at least 50 years. I have a vague recollection of this, but I'm reaching back into the late 1950s, early 1960s - pre-stereo days.
3. The recording features the original John Finley Williamson Westminster Choir with its signature bright, manly tenors and basses. Their sound is, as it always was, extraordinary and unmatched. Also a good thing.
4. Here is the problem: the recording contains "skips", the kind we used to suffer with LPs when the tone arm would jump a track. I can't tell you if this is an electronic download problem or an issue with the original recording itself, which to my ear is more likely the later. It also sounds like an LP transcription because I can hear the vinyl.
So if you want to hear what this orchestra sounded like in Ormandy's earliest days, then by all means download it. But do be aware of the issue.
Harnoncourt's orchestra is unique in its texture and sound. The smaller orchestra, however, does not limit the energy and excitement of the piece, and the period brass instruments add real fire in the fourth movement (the weaker period instruments blast furious and terrifying chords in the intro without drowning out the rest of the orchestra!). On the whole, orchestral balance and recording detail are marvelous.
The soloists, while perhaps not the most popular or exciting, are without fault in this recording. The Schoenberg Choir, however, is without equal in musicality, energy, and CLARITY! You can actually tell what they are singing without any sacrifice in energy or musicality. This is a clear advantage over other recordings.
So if you want a fresh (but true) Beethoven with high energy and precise execution, this is the CD for you (and on top of that, Harnoncourt deftly explains his thought process for this recording in the most informative and interesting liner notes I've come across). Novice and experienced listeners alike would greatly appreciate this recording as a great representation of the Ninth, even if this was their only recording. If you are, however, building a Ninth collection (as you should), this is definitely a most worthy and essential addition.