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Christopher Abbot
Fanfare, September 2011

This is another in the EuroArts series of documentary-and-performance videos called Discovering Masterpieces of Classical Music, pairing short documentaries about the composer and his work with full performances, often taken from previously available DVDs, as this one is. I reviewed Claudio Abbado’s performance of the Ninth (included in the DVD box set of his complete Beethoven symphonies) in Fanfare 33:1. The DVD featuring his performance of the Fifth in this series was reviewed in 34:4; this new release is very similar.

The documentary is narrated in English, Wulf Konold’s lecture is in German, and subtitles are provided in English, German, French, and Spanish. The documentary is brief enough for even the very impatient, but also substantive enough to be more than a mere makeweight. Konold provides context for the genesis of the symphony that includes the political developments of that time; he suggests that the symphony as a form was in disfavor, and, with the return of monarchy after the Treaty of Ghent in 1815, opera was on the ascendant, since it more comfortably represented the established order. It is interesting that later, Konold likens the opening of the finale of the Ninth to that of an opera, setting forth a crisis to be resolved, and with the introduction of the voices, Beethoven “transforms the concert hall into a cosmic stage.”

This video can be recommended for the performance alone, but the documentary is informative and entertaining.






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