Peter Maag

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

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Peter Maag recorded Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 late in his career, and it is perhaps significant that he did so with a small orchestra and chorus. Considering that this conductor's past association with Furtwängler might have entitled him to carry on the late-Romantic tradition of expansiveness and monumentality, it is surprising to find that the forces are reduced here and the details of the music are given extraordinary attention, almost as a reflection of developments in authentic period practice as advocated by Gardiner, Norrington, and others. Schools of interpretation put aside, this live performance with the Orchestra di Padove e del Veneto is delicate and transparent in its lines, and far from a heaven-storming affair. Maag's streamlined reading is agile and flexible. Conscious of tempo markings and dynamics, yet relaxed enough to let the music flow easily, Maag produces a light and unpretentious performance that works well on an intimate level, especially in the warm Adagio. The orchestra is almost Classical in its bright timbres and utterly clear in its articulation, despite the distancing effect caused by the basilica's live acoustic. The Athestis Chorus and the four vocal soloists are fine, though male voices dominate, lending a heaviness to the finale that is the most noticeable flaw of this recording.

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