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ZANDER'S BEETHOVEN 9TH SYMPHONY

Penguin Guide

A lengthy review of the recording of the Zander Beethoven 9th in the latest Penguin Guide to CDs and Cassettes said:


"Benjamin Zander is deeply concerned with authenticity.... His extensive research, over a period of years on Beethoven's metronome markings has already been acknowledged by Roger Norrington in his version of this work, but Zander believes that Norrington does not go far enough. The question all hinges on Beethoven's communication of the critical tempi indications to his publisher which were not conveyed directly but through the composer's nephew Karl. Zander argues that in certain instances Karl misunderstood his uncle's intentions and the result has perpetuated a tradition of performance that is wholly incorrect. Zander argues his case convincingly and in depth in the booklet which accompanies this extraordinarily 'different' recorded performance....


Zander provides a vibrant account of the Symphony to illustrate his ideas and the very well-rehearsed Boston Philharmonic Orchestra (a dedicated ensemble, part professional, part amateur) make a strong impression in a reading that is nothing if not full of conviction... There is no record of the Choral Symphony more generously cued, and each cue is linked both to Zander's accompanying essay and to the Breikopf score. You may not like everything in this performance - the first hearing of the Adagio is a distinct culture shock - and you may not agree with Zander's conclusions, but you cannot ignore it either."

Symphony No. 9 in D min. (Choral)

(conjectural version using Beethoven's metronome markings).

(N) (M) *** Carlton Dig. 30366 01022 [id.]. Labelle, Fortunate, Cresswell, Arnold Pro Musica Ch., Boston PO, Benjamin Zander.


Zander made this unique recording of the Ninth Symphony in 1992, after extensive research over many years into Beethoven's metronome markings. The question hinges on Beethoven's communication of the critical tempi indications to his publisher, which were not conveyed directly but through the composer's nephew, Karl. Zander argues that in certain instances Karl misunderstood his uncle's intentions, and the result has perpetuated a tradition of performance that is wholly incorrect. The very quick pacing for the Scherzo had already been approximated by Bernstein in his New York recording, but the other two principal differences are even more controversial. Taken at Zander's much faster tempo, the character of the slow movement is totally altered, becoming much nearer that of the Pastoral symphony. Zander also virtually doubles the usual tempo of the Alia marcia section of the finale, arguing that the exultant words of the tenor 'As gloriously his suns fly across the glorious landscape of the heavens' fit this exuberant pacing. Moreover, when it is adopted there is no need for any accelerando either during this part of the work or the fugato which follows. When the chorus returns overwhelmingly with 'Freude, schoner Gotter-funken', the theme is now only slightly faster than when it is first heard. Zander provides a vibrant account of the symphony to illustrate his ideas'and the very well-rehearsed Boston Philharmonic Orchestra make a strong impression in a reading that is nothing if not full of conviction. In the finale

the soloists are very good (there are many groups of starrier names on record that do not sing as well), and the chorus is resplendent in its fervour. The recording could be clearer in focus, but is fully acceptable and rises to the occasion in the last movement. There is no record of the Choral Symphony more generously cued, and each cue is linked both to Zander's accompanying essay and the Breitkopf score. You may not like everything in this performance, and you may not agree with Zander's conclusions, but you cannot ignore either. The result is uncommonly stimulating.



   


 
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