SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 “Choral” – Soloists/ SF Sym./ Michael Tilson Thomas – SFS Media

The Ninth is the latest in the SF Symphony/MTT Beethoven works series, following on the recent SACD of the Seventh.

Published on April 19, 2013

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 “Choral” in d minor Op. 125 – Soloists/ San Francisco Sym./ Michael Tilson Thomas – SFS Media multichannel SACD 821936-0055-2, 1:10:41 [4/9/13] *****:

First, the vocal quartet of soloists is Erin Wall, soprano; Kendall Gladen, mezzo; William Burden, tenor and Nathan Berg, bass. This performance was recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall in June of last year at the end of the orchestra’s centennial season and as part of a continuing Beethoven Symphony series. It follows on the SF Sym./MTT SACDs already released of Beethoven’s Seventh and of his Fifth paired with the Piano Concerto No. 4. The soprano here was also featured on the SF Symphony’s Grammy-winning SACD of Mahler’s Eighth. The mountain on the cover photo is Northern California’s Mt. Shasta.

MTT’s Beethoven Fifth didn’t rouse any rave reviews, but the Ninth seems a most exciting experience. Of course it’s up against probably more competition than any of the other Beethoven symphonies if you don’t consider sonic qualities. There are amazing historical mono interpretations by such as Klemperer and Furtwangler, but I’ve been happy with my LSO Live set of the complete Beethoven Symphonies conducted by Bernard Haitink with the London Symphony, which we reviewed back in 2007.

I like MTT’s choice of tenor soloist on the Ninth better, and the feeling of the interior of Davies Hall is very strong, even though the original masters for this were just 96K/24-bit PCM rather than DSD. But Haitink has just a bit more snap and greater contrast in dynamic range than MTT. I’m not one of those collectors who likes to compare different recorded versions of the same selection, but I would say in the SACD format go can’t go wrong with either of these Ninth versions.

—John Sunier




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