Day 54 – Beethoven Symphony No. 9 (CD 54)

Today’s CD is another double – with nothing on the back cover and nothing on the gatefold inside.

I put up with that before.

But I’m not going to this time.

There’s no excuse not to provide information – especially when I know the original album release contained an entire booklet inside the box that contained four vinyl LPs.

Given that these are supposed to be original album-art reproductions (albeit in miniature CD size), I’m not sure why people wouldn’t think to do something more with these double-album releases. Like include the credits, essays – whatever was originally printed on the booklet in the original box set. Or, how about this: WHY NOT INCLUDE THE ORIGINAL BOOKLET?!?!?!

This is a glaring, unconscionable omission.

Aside from very tiny type informing me of when this was originally released, there’s nothing else printed here.

Lest you think I’m just complaining for the sake of complaining, let me ask you this simple question: Which of the two albums inside this double am I supposed to listen to first?

To put it another way, in the original album release, which Beethoven symphony was the first one (Album One, Side One) RCA Victor wanted us to hear?

Your initial response would probably be, “Symphony No. 1, of course.”

But you’d be wrong.

The album RCA Victor wanted us to hear first when this album was originally released on February 16, 1962, was Beethoven’s Ninth.

Who’s in here? No one!

But you won’t know that given the blank album covers on this CD version in the Fritz Reiner box set. I had to google the shit out of the situation until I found the original box set and then looked at the photos of the four albums, and find a Used one listed that showed the booklet that came with the box.

So why is all that missing from this CD version of the album?

While I’m up on this soapbox, this Fritz Reiner box set is supposed to be 63 CDs in size, right?

Technically, it is.

However, the folks who put it together are counting the double CDs as two, not one, even though when these were originally released – like today’s Beethoven album, for instance – they were considered one album release, not four.

So, technically, we may get 63 separate CDs in this box set, but we’re not getting 63 different albums.

Okay. Rant over.

But, gee whiz. Having little to no information about this album still frosts my cookies.

The Objective Stuff

If you want to read about Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1829), click here.

From its entry on Wikipedia,

The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, is a choral symphony, the final complete symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, composed between 1822 and 1824. It was first performed in Vienna on 7 May 1824. The symphony is regarded by many critics and musicologists as Beethoven’s greatest work and one of the supreme achievements in the history of music. One of the best-known works in common practice music, it stands as one of the most frequently performed symphonies in the world.

The symphony was the first example of a major composer using voices in a symphony. The words are sung during the final (4th) movement of the symphony by four vocal soloists and a chorus. They were taken from the “Ode to Joy”, a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with text additions made by Beethoven.

In 2001, Beethoven’s original, hand-written manuscript of the score, held by the Berlin State Library, was added to the Memory of the World Programme Heritage list established by the United Nations, becoming the first musical score so designated.

Although the performance was officially directed by Michael Umlauf, the theatre’s Kapellmeister, Beethoven shared the stage with him. However, two years earlier, Umlauf had watched as the composer’s attempt to conduct a dress rehearsal of his opera Fidelio ended in disaster. So this time, he instructed the singers and musicians to ignore the almost completely deaf Beethoven. At the beginning of every part, Beethoven, who sat by the stage, gave the tempos. He was turning the pages of his score and beating time for an orchestra he could not hear.Phyllis Curtin (1921-2106), soprano.

Florence Kopleff (1924-2012), contralto.

John McCollum (1922-2015), tenor.

Donald Gramm (1927-1983), bass.

Margaret Hillis (1921-1998), choir master.

Chicago Symphony Chorus.

The Subjective Stuff

Recording quality: 5
Overall musicianship: 4
CD booklet notes: 2
CD “album cover” information: 0 (total misuse of space)
How does this make me feel: 5

Photo of the booklet inside the original album.

Although I’ve heard better performances of Beethoven’s Ninth, this one is very good.

I think Reiner’s tempi is a little fast for my tastes.

This performance doesn’t have the power or punch that I’ve heard in other performances of Ludwig’s last symphony.

Be that as it may, this is Beethoven, and one of the greatest of his symphonies. To me, this is stunning music, despite Maestro Reiner’s seeming lack of feeling for it.

Although I dearly love Beethoven’s Ninth, I’m not sure I’d listen to this performances of it again.

Something is missing, and I can’t put my finger on what it is.

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