BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor “Choral” – Maria Stader, soprano/ Katharina, contralto/ Waldemar Kmennt, tenor/ Heinz Rehfuss, bass/ Orchestre National/Carl Schuricht – Music&Arts

by | Jul 29, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Choral” – Maria
Stader, soprano/ Katharina, contralto/ Waldemar Kmennt, tenor/ Heinz
Rehfuss, bass/ Orchestre National/Carl Schuricht

Music&Arts mono CD-1166  66:03 (Distrib. Albany)****:

The addition of the 12 September 1954 Montreux performance of
Beethoven’s Ninth under the leadership of Carl Schuricht (1880-1967)
admits collectors into a spiritual realm hitherto denied us, although
we have had glimpses of Schuricht’s humanism via his Mahler and Missa
Solemnis readings. A meeting-ground between the Romanticism of
Furtwaengler and Abendroth, and the leaner classicism of Toscanini and
Weingartner, Schuricht’s style might be akin to that of Erich Kleiber –
fusing a fiery motor impetus with a reverent and plastic respect for
the individual note, color, and turn of phrase. The last movement, for
all its Freemasons’ call to Brotherhood, becomes a kind of spiritual
call to arms, a fiercely paced battleground inexorably moving to an
epiphany wherein all contradictions are resolved in the regions where
chorus, vocal soloists, and orchestra shed their mortal coil.

The volcanic Scherzo has much of Toscanini’s driven mania; but the
moments of repose, even in spite of the kettledrum’s earthy insistence,
yearn for grace. We are reminded that the huge Adagio is indeed a
double-theme-and-variations, that in the course of the interweaving of
strings, winds, and horns, a mighty architecture beckons us upward.
Though we cannot see the conductor’s flexible left hand nor witness the
eye contact between him and his principals, we have the palpable
effects of a severe and concentrated vision of this colossal work, a
driven conception equal to anything in Toscanini or Furtwaengler and
savoring something of each. The sound is quite pungent, although a bit
sharp in places. I am beguiled by Ms. Stader’s high tessitura and the
clear, lean diction of Mr. Rehfuss, whose Westminster LP of Brahms
lieder influenced my early listening to German art song. The scherzino,
featuring the janissary plaint of Mr. Kmentt, impresses me as lithe and
pointed. The volcanic rush to judgment after the dark, slow section at
Seid umschlungun manages to harmonize the opposing forces of faith and
skepticism, a peroration whose utter frenzy dazzles the audience for a
pregnant moment prior to its own eruption of unanimous applause.

-Gary Lemco

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