BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Choral” – Wilma Lipp, soprano/ Elisabeth Hoengen, contralto/ Murray Dickie, tenor/ Gottlob Frick, bass/ Choeurs Elisabeth Brasseur/ Paris Conservatory Orchestra/ Cal Schuricht – Testament

by | Mar 22, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Choral” – Wilma Lipp, soprano/ Elisabeth Hoengen, contralto/ Murray Dickie, tenor/ Gottlob Frick, bass/ Choeurs Elisabeth Brasseur/ Paris Conservatory Orchestra/ Cal Schuricht 

Testament SBT 1409, 66:02 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) ****:

An important addition to the legacy of Carl Schuricht (1880-1967), especially as the original recordings derive from stereo masters from the period 27-31 May 1958. This wonderfully dramatic, fluent account is rife with especial touches in inflection and dynamic shadings from Schuricht, a master of orchestral definition who only now is receiving something like his due. Several of the vocal participants had turned in sumptuous collaboration with Jascha Horenstein for the Vox label three years prior. Take, for instance, Schuricht’s acceleration of the tempo at the first trio in Scherzo, a whirlwind for horns and strings, with tripping figures and lovely interweaving of the oboe solo.

The thoroughly improvisatory, groping quality of the first movement, too, attests to a spiritual attempt to take inchoate masses of sound and congeal them into a visceral entity of magnificent power. I find the Paris players extremely responsive to agogic shifts in the Scherzo, still without losing any of the cumulative momentum that shakes the hands off the clock. The coda snaps one back to earth, only so that the pursuant Adagio molto e cantabile can take us to the places Mahler, Scriabin, and Bruckner wished to inhabit. Positive comparisons with Furtwaengler’s layered approach to the Ninth are inevitable, not only in terms of pacing and phraseology, but for the broad humanity of the performance. Exemplary work in the flute and French horn.

Testament has divided the last movement into three sections, two Prestos and the Alla Marcia. A sudden thrust into the first declamation and orchestral recitative, then a quick survey of the prior motifs. The orchestral melos treats the materials as an overture rife with arias from the ensuing vocal parts. Schuricht’s style lies between Furtwaengler’s German pensiveness and Toscanini’s liquid, driven long-view. Gottlob Frick’s warm invocation to dismiss abstract tones in favor of human ones ushers forth lovely responses from the Elisabeth Brasseur Choir, celebrated in its time for its excellent ensemble. Wilma Lipp’s soprano part soars along with the flute, and the frenzy of joy erupts in full, dizzying force. Janizzary figures of the first order, and a Murray Dickie who sounds a bit like Wagner’s Mime. The high sopranos at “Seid umschlungen” invoke our own “Himmel hoch.” The preparation for the mysteries of the fugue is as subtle as the power of the contrapunctus itself. Impressive on all counts, a real addition to the great readings of the Ninth Symphony.

— Gary Lemco

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