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P Stumpf
# Posted: 16 May 2009 03:41 - Edited by: P Stumpf

What a glorious performance. Such strong singing from the combined forces of the Westminster Symphonic Choir and the American Boychoir, and sublime playing by the orchestra. Boulez seemed to get to not only the heart, but the soul, of this music. The first verse of Part I, "Veni, creator spiritus" rang out so strongly, and the various parts were sung with enough clarity to be differentiated (often difficult to achieve, and to hear, with the overlapping verses). The dropping off in volume and orchestral forces for the "Infirma nostri corporis" verse was thus made even more poignant.

Part II began exceptionally well, with the choir's first lines sung so softly that they seemed to simply emanate from the orchestra, like another group of instruments. Stephen Gould, singing Doctor Marianus, has a voice with exciting heldentenor qualities. The music for the entire section seemed to flow organically from one part to the next.

An exceptional and memorable performance.

William Zucker
# Posted: 16 May 2009 06:34

Yes, it was one of the better ones of this series, perhaps even the best, depending on what occurs with the last two performances, but at this stage, I don't expect much from Barenboim.

I was unfortunately situated, in the front of the orchestra, so I got a somewhat distorted sound picture which for me was hardly well balanced, but I could still tell that this was a decent, respectable performance.

I would like to single out the children's choir as having a particularly beautiful, rounded tone - these usually sound somewhat strident.

I was bothered by the fact that in the first movement, the soloists did not step forward to the edge of the stage as they did in the second movement.
As a result, I heard them in this situation far less clearly.

In the development section of the first movement, where the uprise begins, at the "Accende" caesura, Mr. Boulez beautifully calculated a ritard into it so that at the point of pause it would match the tempo of the ritard exactly, across the divide.

In the introductory section of the second movement, there appears what I would refer to as a "ditty" (for want of a better description) for the high woodwinds. It sounded fine when it appeared later in the movement, but on the first occasion is was unnaturally and unaccountably drawn out in tempo.

I note in this work that there are places, mainly in the second movement, where the scenario of the drama and the musical statement work on totally different planes. This can be very disconcerting, but as so often happens in Beethoven and many other mainly Austro-German composers, the musical issues always get or should get the first priorities. With that there should be no question, despite audience perception. I wrote a piece on this work some months ago, and implied as much.

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