BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral."
"NINE NOTES THAT SHOOK THE WORLD"
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 3 in D, Op. 29. Suite from The Sleeping Beauty
Ever since Michael Tilson Thomas assumed the role of music director of the San Francisco Symphony about 15 years ago, the orchestra has become one of the best. They have a distinguished history of performing contemporary music, and their recording of Mahler symphonies has been justifiably acclaimed. Now they are continuing their Beethoven symphony cycle; already issued are a coupling of Symphony No. 5 with Piano Concerto No. 4 (with Emanuel Ax) (REVIEW), and the less generous coupling of Symphony No. 7 with Leonore Overture No. 3 (REVIEW). This vibrant account of Symphony No. 9, recorded during concerts June 27-30, 2012 in Davies Symphony Hall, has full-bodied resonant sound, perhaps a bit over-miked at times (the bass drum at the beginning of the march interlude in the finale (10:16 into track 4) surely is overly prominent. The four excellent soloists and chorus are in perspective. Of course there are dozens of recordings of this mighty symphony, more than 300 are currently listed on ArkivMusic, many on SACD, plus historic recordings by Furtwängler, Toscanini and Mengelberg. This new MTT version surely is among the finest. And don't overlook DVDs with conductors Christian Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic (REVIEW), and Claudio Abbado with the Berlin Philharmonic (REVIEW).
Ronn McFarlane and Mindy Rosenfeld, who first performed together as members of the Baltimore Consort many years ago, now have distinguished solo careers, and join forces on this splendid recording of many different styles of early music scored for renaissance and baroque lutes, Celtis flutes, fifes, harp and bagpipe. It isn't clear just where they came up with the title of the album, Nine Notes that Shook the World, but we do have music by many composers including many new to most listeners. It is a long (75:45) program, a gentle, delightful excursion into the past. Profuse program notes detail the music and its history. Some of the performances are of an improvised nature, and of course all are impeccably played. The 2-disk set listed above consists of a regular stereo CD and an SACD that gives a choice of 5.1, 7.1 or stereo playback. The same performances have also been issued on Blu Ray (92169), which offers the same multi-channel choices as the SACD. Producers have not been very imaginative with the multiple channels; rear channels are virtually inaudible.
This site has mentioned previous Kitajenko/Gürzenich Orchestra recordings of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1 (REVIEW), Symphony No. 2 (REVIEW), and Symphony No. 6 (REVIEW). This new recording of the Polish symphony offers the same qualities as previous issues, but cannot match the best of competing versions. The dynamic performance of four excerpts from Sleeping Beauty are commendable. The Symphony could have benefited from some of that powerhouse energy. Excellent audio although not particularly "surround."
R.E.B. (July 2013)