Probably the best interpretation of the ninth of the past twenty years
Jun 30, 2011
Very few contemporary conductors present a fresh rendition of Beethoven's venerated warhorse, and Vänskä is one of them. This interpretation is taut and meticulous, performed at a brisk tempo, but never hurried. Vänskä's reading is by no means historically exact, but neither is it indulgent. Under his baton, the Minnesota Orchestra's playing is exceptional, simultaneously nuanced and forcible. It may be too early to determine if Vänskä possesses the greatness that Szell imparted in his time, but at the very least, this recording confirms that the pairing of this celebrated Kapellmeister with such a fine ensemble has produced a versatile, superior symphonic instrument.
Whether or not this particular recording of the Ninth is for you depends on your tastes. If you're looking for an exuberant reading of this work, you're more likely to enjoy Furtwängler's lush, widely praised 1951 live performance at the Bayreuther Festspiele; if you're inclined to a more conservative interpretation, Abbado's recording with the BPO will surely be your cup of tea. While I don't agree that Vänskä's work is radical or groundbreaking as some of his devoted admirers do, this punchy, exigent take on Beethoven's iconic achievement is exemplary.
Even when played in my Walkman or cheap CD player, the clarity and transparency of this recording is remarkable, and quite complimentary to such a fastidious performance. I don't possess equipment capable of exploiting the fidelity of this hybrid disc's HD layer, but I can imagine how it must sound through a good stereo equipped with an SACD player.