Kent Nagano

Human Misery, Human Love: Beethoven's Symphony No. 9

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Continuing Sony's series of Ludwig van Beethoven's symphonies performed by Kent Nagano and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, this volume offers the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, "Choral," as the centerpiece of a fairly enigmatic presentation entitled "Human Misery, Human Love." The program opens and closes with a poetic recitation, "Where have you gone, my revolutionary friend?" by Yann Martel, given first in English, then at the close in French, thus framing the live performance by Nagano, which was recorded in September 2010 as part of the inauguration of the OSM's new concert hall, the Maison symphonique de Montréal. Apart from the poetry, which adds little to this package, the performance of the Ninth is a mainstream rendition with strong playing by the Canadian orchestra. The conventional approach may not bring this disc much attention, considering the many historically informed and newsworthy performances of the Ninth that are available, but that point should be moot if the performance itself is first-rate. Nagano's interpretation is adequate for an uncontroversial ceremonial concert, but it offers no special insights into Beethoven's intentions or interpretive surprises, and seems almost routine in its predictability, even with the faster tempo for the tenor solo, "Froh, wie seine Sonnen." The orchestra plays with accuracy and abundant energy, and the solo vocalists and choir are commendable in the finale. Yet this is on a par with many other good recordings of the Ninth, so it is a disc that beginners might benefit from hearing, but experienced students of the piece can either take it or leave it.

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