Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies

Reviewed on Mon 09 Sep, 2019

Fischer the empowering musician always maintains essential tension ... dedicated musicianship communicated on an immense scale is yours for the taking.

Those dominant sevenths in the three opening bars of the Adagio molto introduction to No 1 emerge with a whiplash decisiveness that puts paid to “the composer’s hesitation to trust himself too far ahead of his compeers” (Edwin Evans). Ádám Fischer, trusting the text, then transits into the main Allegro con brio with sharp attack and tense flow, showing that Beethoven had no fears. Continue into the Andante cantabile con moto slow movement and absorb how Fischer relaxes into a singing tone and flexible phrasing. Here is a combination of effervescence, expressive variety and inner vitality that also reflects in lithe, coruscating playing (violins separated) throughout this cycle. Absorb, too, his observance of all repeats and almost total observance of Beethoven’s metronome markings. They only denote the beats – or pulses – per bar across which tempos may be changed without compromise. Malleability rules when necessary (“feeling has its own tempo” said Beethoven) and Fischer understands. But, where he believes he “could do more justice to the musical expression of a work by using a rather different tempo”, he does so, most noticeably in the Poco Andante section of the finale of No 3. And, by lowering the specified quaver=108 to between 93 & 99, Fischer portrays a more volatile interlude, then adds force to the succeeding Presto with a 6 point uplift. Both changes work. So, in the first movement, don’t be put off by unexpected rubatos and altered dynamics; or by some smudged ensemble leading into the final, forte statement of the main theme from trumpets. Fischer the empowering musician always maintains essential tension. Mingling with drive, fire and majesty are other movements of much feeling, eg the Scene by the Brook (No 6), the cello line dominated by two muted instruments, here of hollow timbres contributing to Fischer’s concept of subdued strings and bright woodwinds balanced to create an atmosphere of unique beauty; and calm, prior to a magisterially intense No 7, plus a No 9 of the strongest credentials. Heartfelt emotions of an Adagio e molto cantabile lead into a finale of unpretentious drama, instrumental recitatives adroitly shaped, solo voices not overpowering, though a smaller chorus would have allowed the orchestra their full due. In sum, dedicated musicianship communicated on an immense scale is yours for the taking.
–Nalen Anthoni