Roger Norrington / London Classical Players / Schutz Choir of London

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

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Historically informed though it may be, Roger Norrington's 1987 performance with the London Classical Players of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor is not an especially enjoyable listening experience, let alone a moving or edifying one. The crucial problem of this rendition is its schizophrenic tempi, which are sometimes alarmingly fast, and at other times plodding and unnecessarily drawn out. The first movement's pathos, majesty, and mystery are compromised in Norrington's ultra-fast reading, and his impatient and undignified dashing through the movement does not adhere to Beethoven's marking: Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso. The Scherzo goes at about the right clip, but it otherwise seems inadequate in tension, and falls apart in the rather insipid Trio, one instance where Norrington really drags the beat. The Adagio molto e cantabile is neither very slow, nor particularly songful, but strangely cast as an Andante with a kind of Rococo prettiness that falls short of real Classical beauty. Last of all, the Finale is an astonishing mess of variable pacing, incoherent phrasing, rushed vocal solos, and paradoxically weighty choruses. In sum, Norrington's interpretation has no overarching, unifying scheme or trajectory, and the symphony's grandeur is lost in the confusion. The recorded sound is decent, but it lacks resonance and depth.

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