One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Salon Treasures from the Max Jaffa Library



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


alternatively Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (1822) [67:01]
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano); Elisabeth Höngen (mezzo); Julius Patzak (tenor); Hans Hotter (bass)
Wiener Singverein
Vienna Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan
rec. Musikvereinsaal, Vienna, November-December 1947
EMI CLASSICS 4768782 [67:01]

Given Herbert von Karajan's status as a conductor, his first studio Ninth automatically acquires documentary importance. But is it really a Ninth for the ages?
The first movement, unfortunately, mostly offers foreshadowings of the "bad Karajan," the conductor who valued soft edges and a specious "refinement" over such niceties as clarity and tight ensemble. The opening is hushed to the point of murkiness - the darting string motifs barely stand out against the tremolos and the sustained horns - as is the analogous passage at 5:17, near the opening of the development. One might attribute the dull, prevailingly grey tutti sound to the monaural recording, save that Karajan drew similar sonorities from the Vienna orchestra well into the stereo era, especially in their Decca sessions. Sluggish, heavy basses render the punctuating cadences soggy, most notably at 12:14, though the earlier ones aren't much better. The turbulent buildups churn mightily, but they're not always tightly bound - the outbursts at 13:09 and following, for example, are a smear. It's all a lot of sound and fury, probably signifying something.
After an emphatic introductory statement, the Scherzo - shorn of repeats save for the first, short one in the Trio - is incisive, accelerating slightly during the fugato, decelerating by a similar degree in the first tutti. By 2:48, however, Beethoven's sprightly 6/8 rhythm has audibly settled into a lumpish 2/4, a hazard in the finest performances; the timpani are boomy and, in the recap, diffuse in intonation. The Trio scurries crisply, with excellent wind articulation.
All of a sudden, the "good Karajan" emerges. The Adagio opens simply and tenderly - not hustled along in the recent "historically correct" mode, not dragged out in pseudo-profundities - with the clarinets injecting light into the predominant dark sound. The Andante moderato seems a bit fast to start, but settles into a pleasing cantabile. The variations are poised and flowing, while allowing sufficient space for the unfailingly lovely, burnished violin filigree. The famous horn solo is bathed in velvet; the fanfares arrive without undue aggression, although soggy timpani are a drawback in the first of them. Beautiful.
The finale is an extended case of swings and roundabouts. The opening outbursts get a bit scrambled, but the 'cello and bass recitatives are lively and communicative, a feeling that persists into the main theme, though the variations suffer some slurry playing. The contrasts at the little woodwind reflection (track 5, 5:58) are overdrawn, though this is a passing flaw. The young Hans Hotter sounds surprisingly light and baritonal in the recitative, to the point of riding it slightly sharp - though the vocal freedom is gratifying - but then he sits too squarely on the beats in the theme. The soloists' variations fare better, each flowing well into the next, but the third strophe's choral response abruptly speeds up (a side-join?). Patzak's tenor proves a bit light for the end of the march, though elsewhere his vocal ease is refreshing. Karajan makes something special out of choral dynamics and textures at "Seid umschlungen, Millionen" - the Wiener Singverein, by the way, is well-balanced throughout - after which a flatfooted double fugue brings things squarely back to earth. The soloists prove well-matched for the "Alle Menschen werden Brüder" quartet - even Höngen, buried in the texture, can more or less hold her own - but the frantic coda is more a bid for (virtual) applause than a really satisfying culmination.
Walter Legge's original production has held up well in the remastering. The background rustle from the source discs, and  a modicum of ambient white noise, while nearly constant, are unobtrusive. Oddly, EMI separately tracks the slow movement's Andante moderato, but not any of the subsequent variations. More logically, the finale gets new tracks at each of the seven major sections.
Given Karajan's subsequent re-recordings of the Ninth, I'd not pay this one any special mind. My favorite is the 1963 DG - the one from what a generation of LP collectors called the "Bicentennial" set. While I'm not a great fan of the Berlin Philharmonic's mode of attack and release - a sort of carefully cultivated imprecision - their ineffable sense of Beethoven "tradition" is stronger than the Vienna orchestra's; and their shinier, more varied timbres, with supple, translucent woodwinds in the Adagio, consistently ravish the ear.
Stephen Francis Vasta


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I

June 2022

Beethoven Sonatas 29, 32

Orchestral Works

String Quartets Vol 1




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.