With his Symphony No.9, Beethoven introduced a whole new compositional territory into the musical world of Vienna. From its 1824 premiere, this work not only influenced several generations of symphonic composers but also became the symbol of victory for humanity. The struggle and rise of man (on both personal and universal levels), so powerful in this symphony and unlike anything heard before it, has produced a wide array of interpretations and recordings. Many argue passionately which one is the best. A few of the notable ones definitely include Karajan’s version from 1962, Bernstein’s from 1989 and the recording by Gardiner in 1994 on period instruments.
So it is in this good company that Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra offers its own dynamic interpretation under the direction of Bruno Weil. Recorded at live concerts at Koerner Hall in Toronto in February 2016, the album holds the animated energy of a live performance. I enjoyed the precise and light articulation of the period instruments in the second movement and slightly subdued colours and the beautiful swelling of the third movement phrases. But make no mistake – Tafelmusik sounds just as powerful as any contemporary symphony orchestra. It builds the momentum of the emotional narrative with conviction, starting from the solemn D Minor theme of the first movement all the way to the jubilant ending of the fourth in D Major. Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and soloists – Sigrid Plundrich, Mary-Ellen Nesi, Colin Balzer and Simon Tischler – are all superb in bringing out the purity and drama of Beethoven’s music.