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Thread: Symphony 9, Mov. 1, Fugato.

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    Default Symphony 9, Mov. 1, Fugato.

    This is very important to me, so I will be very grateful for any help.

    I am curious which recording of the fugato from the first movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony you feel is most correct, or which you prefer most.

    So far I have found Bernstein's 1989 Berlin performance (the ~25 second section beginning around 11:08 of the video) to be best.

    Furtwangler 1942 is next in rank for this section (I think it is a better performance overall), but I'd appreciate any other pointers or discussion regarding this section of the symphony, which I find to be the essential section of the work.
    Last edited by Beethoven14; Jul-03-2019 at 16:30.

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    Senior Member Allerius's Avatar
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    I prefer the Toscanini versions. In my opinion, his Beethoven has vitality and expression, and he is one of the few very famous Beethoven conductors from before the HIP movement to use tempo markings close to what the composer suggested. The relatively good sound quality of the 1952 performance of the Ninth means that this is my favorite of his recordings.
    Last edited by Allerius; Jul-03-2019 at 16:55.
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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Bernstein is too ponderous.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beethoven14 View Post
    This is very important to me, so I will be very grateful for any help.

    I am curious which recording of the fugato from the first movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony you feel is most correct, or which you prefer most.

    So far I have found Bernstein's 1989 Berlin performance (the ~25 second section beginning around 11:08 of the video) to be best.

    Furtwangler 1942 is next in rank for this section (I think it is a better performance overall), but I'd appreciate any other pointers or discussion regarding this section of the symphony, which I find to be the essential section of the work.
    I've seen many threads asking about the best recording of the "Ninth" but this is first asking about a particular sub-sections of the first movement.

    I don't think I can answer such a specific question as I've never bothered to carry out any such comparisons.

    Perhaps you might seek out the recent thread concerning Beethoven's Ninth. There were many recommendations. There might be some relevant comments that relate to your query, but I do not recall seeing any.

    Taking the symphony as a whole, my overall favourite is Furtwangler, 1951 Bayreuth Festival. I find the 1942 Furtwangler Berlin live performance has lots of power, a it's a bit too much for me, and the sound quaiity is not good.

    Another version I like is Rudolf Kempe/Munich PO of 1957. I know that it's not among those that are usually most recommended on the lists that tend to be created on forum threads. I like Kempe's conducting (pretty straightforward and accurate) and the Munich Philharmonic has always been good in my opinion. The choral ending is good too.

    .
    Last edited by Partita; Jul-04-2019 at 11:59.

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    FUGATO. A name given to an irregularly fugued movement, in which the fugue-form is not strictly followed (especially as to strettos and pedal-points), though the structure is fugal and contrapuntal. Fugato passages are often introduced in orchestral music with the happiest effect, as in first and last movements of the Eroica Symphony, in the Allegretto of No. 7, both by Beethoven, and in the first movement of Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony, immediately after the double bar, etc.

    I would give the Wyn Morris/LSO recording of the 9th a listen; the fugato contrapuntal lines sound clearly defined and easy to hear, including the bass lines which can sometimes sound muddled in other recordings. I feel it's a well-written 1st movement even if Beethoven might be considered somewhat long-winded. But he's taking his time and seems to be working himself up with anticipation, expectation and excitement. Not bad for a virtually deaf composer!

    Actually, here it is:

    Last edited by Larkenfield; Jul-04-2019 at 12:56.
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    I personally like the Munch/BSO version here.

    >>generalization warning<< As a general rule, Germanic performances of the Ninth tend to be slower and more ponderous, French and Italian ones more free-flowing. My personal preference is for the latter, but no judgment implied. It's one's individual taste.

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    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allerius View Post
    I prefer the Toscanini versions. In my opinion, his Beethoven has vitality and expression, and he is one of the few very famous Beethoven conductors from before the HIP movement to use tempo markings close to what the composer suggested. The relatively good sound quality of the 1952 performance of the Ninth means that this is my favorite of his recordings.
    I like Toscanini's interpretation quite a bit as well. The tempo is brisk but it doesn't sap the music of emotion. The sound quality of the 1956 just doesn't cut it for me, though.

    It's a real shame that greats like Toscanini and Furtwangler didn't survive just 10 more years so that they could be recorded in the 60s.

    As such, Karajan is my main man for Beethoven.


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    I have heard all the great ones including those cited here and continue to more enjoy Richard Hickox's version with the Northern Sinfonia of England using an orchestra the size Beethoven would have known in his day. The first movement, in particular, is enormously propulsive and effective including the section discussed here. The choral finale befits Hickox's reputation as a choral conductor well, also.

    beethoven 9 hickox.jpg

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    Listened to the 9th, Wyn Morris playing the primo movement. Just another reading to my ears, nothing special.

    Then I tried Gardiner with the ORR, a superb cycle but hardly a place you’d think to look for a superb 9th. Surprise! Gardiner’s reading is explosive. It’s obviously fast, but that only adds to the energy. And like the rest of that cycle, you can see the pebbles 50 feet deep at the bottom of the lake. Yes, a fugato with superb clarity.

    Last edited by KenOC; Oct-09-2019 at 20:18.


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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    I have the Norrington/LCP Beethoven 9th on CD. May have to give it a spin soon.

    @Ken, what do you think of the rest of that Wyn Morris cycle? I think I'm going to pick up the 99 cent download of that set, because why not?

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    I have the Norrington/LCP Beethoven 9th on CD. May have to give it a spin soon.

    @Ken, what do you think of the rest of that Wyn Morris cycle? I think I'm going to pick up the 99 cent download of that set, because why not?
    To me, the Wyn Morris cycle is unremarkable. But others think highly of it. However, it's a perfectly sound cycle and for 99 cents, as you say, why not?


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    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    I wonder which recording comes the closest to the way the 9th sounded at the premiere, warts and all.
    I would like to hear what the audience at the premiere might have heard.
    Last edited by Fabulin; Oct-09-2019 at 20:53.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Bernstein is too ponderous.
    Certainly in his Berlin Wall show. Is he always this ponderous?

    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    Then I tried Gardiner with the ORR, a superb cycle but hardly a place you’d think to look for a superb 9th. Surprise! Gardiner’s reading is explosive. It’s obviously fast, but that only adds to the energy. And like the rest of that cycle, you can see the pebbles 50 feet deep at the bottom of the lake. Yes, a fugato with superb clarity.
    Yes, I like this one too. And the Chailly/Gewandhausorchester. Karajan/BPO is OK. Toscanini/NBCSO is rather a gallop, but I like one that errs towards too fast rather than too slow. Barenboim/WEDO is a bit muddy, and that's the other thing - I prefer something with a bit of attack and vigour - most seem too smooth, whatever the speed. Am I expecting something that shouldn't be there?
    Last edited by MacLeod; Oct-10-2019 at 06:50.
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    I also find Bernstein too ponderous, here. Karajan/BPO/'77 is probably the default for me. I had forgotten about that passage. I also greatly enjoy the fugato that follows the Turkish March in the finale of the 9th.

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