Herbert Blomstedt / Dresden Staatskapelle

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 "Ode an die Freude"

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Lest it ever be forgotten, the 1980 recording of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, "Choral," by Herbert Blomstedt and the Dresden Staatskapelle has been reissued by Brilliant Classics multiple times, and one might assume that it merits some attention for the myriad occasions it has been repackaged. It is certainly a durable performance that closely adheres to the score, and the dedicated follower of recordings of this celebrated work would be hard-pressed to find fault with it on any but the slightest points. Blomstedt and his musicians deliver the music with sharp accuracy, and the microphone arrangement is close enough to highlight everything from soft and fleeting woodwind solos to the faintest tremolos in the strings. Where one has to make allowance is in the quality of the recording, which is a clean but dry analog sound that is terrific for picking out details, but too crisp and clinical for bringing across the majesty of the music in anything resembling glorious sonorities. Beyond this, there is no doubt that Blomstedt is meticulous, or that the Dresden Staatskapelle can play brilliantly, or that the singers and choir are all skilled and capable of handling Beethoven's demanding parts. Yet one wants this performance to be much more than a technical tour de force, but feels that for all its mastery of execution it is less inspired than many other imperfect but more emotionally compelling recordings. This rendition would be excellent for studying the symphony because everything is audible, but it is not the revelation most listeners seek in the greatest recordings, and so must be regarded as a valiant effort that doesn't quite scale the heights, despite its sure footing.

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