[77] Ludwig van Beethoven – 9 Symphonies

26 Sep

Tom Moon has saved the best for last when it comes to his Beethoven selections.

David Zinman and The Tonhalle Ochestra Zurich

David Zinman and The Tonhalle Ochestra Zurich

There was an initial appearance of a cop-out in choosing a box set of all 9 symphonies as a single recording – if this is a legitimate strategy then surely Queen’s 40th anniversary Box Set containing all of their albums must be included? – but the performances here are coherent and complete, and of course the music is sublime.

Also, I had forgotten how short a single symphony tends to be.

Throughout the 4 hours of this 5-disc set both composition and delivery is dynamic, inventive and thoroughly engaging – the tempo and mood, volume and color is constantly shifting.  I am utterly engrossed, no matter how many times I listen, no matter how familiar the tune.

Although perhaps I should not be, I am surprised that I have heard every one of these pieces before, not just the 6th, 7th and 9th which I could identify before pressing play, and the 5th which is ingrained into the musical consciousness of the entire Western world and beyond.  Everything here is a part of my musical history, heard on radios and televisions throughout my formative years through to today.

And there is a reason that these perfectly formed, 30 minute masterpieces are so ubiquitous, that the name Beethoven is perhaps the most familiar in Classical music.   These symphonies truly are that special.

There are some technical reason why this particular box set was chosen over the multitude of other recordings cut over the decades.  The orchestra here is working from a newer, perhaps more accurate score, playing at the faster pace that it seems Beethoven intended.

But I am quite certain that any number of “lesser” recordings would have moved me as much.

Over and over I find myself wallowing in a melody, enjoying a pretty line, revisiting well known phrases which trigger a multitude of sense memories.  I smile often while these symphonies play.

And the extended explorations of melody through repetition, through rhythm and structure, capture both my imagination and my intellect.

Beethoven is as masterful painting in broad, powerful musical strokes as he is creating quietly reflective internal moments.  Although I do so love the loud, brash movements it is the contrast with the meditative ones that elevate the whole to well earned world class status, and which leaves me wanting more.

Next week:  Bix Beiderbecke – Singin’ The Blues, Vol. 1

Owned before blogging? No. (9 of 77 = 12%)
Heard before blogging? Yes. (12 of 77 = 16%)
Recommend? Yes. (62 of 77 = 81%)

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