Abbado/VPO: Beethoven Symhony No. 9 "live" - DG 419 598-2
VERY GOOD / made in the E.U.
With the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor (Director: Walter Hagen-Groll) and soloists Gabriela Benackova (soprano), Marjana Lipovsek (alto), Gosta Winbergh (tenor), and Hermann Prey (baritone)
This Ninth hails from Claudio Abbado and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra's outstanding Beethoven Symphony cycle, made 'live' in the rich acoustics of the Musikvereinssaal during the years 1985 to 1988. In addition, 3 'bonus' works are also included, not least the remarkable Choral Fantasy Op. 80, with Maurizio Pollini giving the most commanding performance of the opening piano flourish on record, absolutely unsurpassed, both here and in the finale. The Choral work Op. 112 and the Coriolan Overture Op. 62 are also brilliantly done, with DG providing rich, warm sound.
Though Abbado's more recent Berlin Philharmonic Beethoven Symphony cycle has rightly won widespread acclaim and garnered numerous awards, his earlier VPO traversal, more expansive and interpretatively daring, remains under-rated and only grows in stature with repeated hearing. Abbado's VPO Beethoven Op. 92 is one of the great Seventh's on disc, well within the ranks of Furtwangler (BPO), Toscanini (NYPO), and, for this listener, Munch (RCA, 1949). The Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth are also wonderfully brought off, and if ensemble playing isn't always as secure as it would be in Berlin, there is nonetheless a tremendous sense of occasion, as befitting 'live' performance – this is a great Beethoven cycle – period.