Beethoven Ninth Symphony
Beethoven 250: online festival of Beethoven Symphonies and Chamber Music
The Hanover Band, Sir Mark Elder
Recorded at London’s Mansion House
First broadcast 16 December 2020
The conclusion of The Hanover Band’s Beethoven 250 project (previously reviewed here) came with the release of the Ninth Symphony on 16 December (the assumed date of Beethoven’s birth). Unlike the previous eight symphonies, which were recorded in Stationers’ Hall, this recording with its much larger orchestra took place in the curiously named Egyptian Hall of London’s Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. All nine symphonies were recorded one after the other during August, with the Hanover Band’s associate director Benjamin Bayl as conductor for the previous 8 symphonies. He was prevented by Covid-19 regulations from travelling to the recording sessions for the Ninth Symphony, Sir Mark Elder stepped in to conduct. The recordings from the whole project can be accessed here, and Beethoven’s Ninth on the Hanover Band website here or on their YouTube channel, with programme notes, here.
In case you noticed something missing from the photo of the recording session above, the space wasn’t big enough for a socially distanced orchestra and the choir for the final movement, so the choir was recorded separately in the same space (with headphones) just after the orchestral recording and the two spliced together. The technical complexities of this were overcome magnificently. Video production and sound quality are excellent. The soloists are Sophie Bevan, soprano, Madeleine Shaw, mezzo, Ed Lyon, tenor, and Darren Jeffery, baritone. They were recorded along with the orchestra. Sir Mark Elder’s direction by is compellingly sensitive and beautifully controlled. This must have been an extraordinary moment, particularly for the orchestral musicians who had rehearsed and recorded all nine Beethoven symphonies one after the other.
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was commissioned by the Philharmonic Society of London, ‘even though the fee paid by the English cannot be compared with fees paid by other nations’. It was completed in February 1824 and first performed in Vienna in May 1824. It was performed in England at a Philharmonic Society concert on 21 March 1825, conducted by Sir George Smart in the New Argyll Rooms. Of course, the Ode to Joy has become particularly linked to recent politics in the UK, and it is therefore entirely appropriate that the Hanover Band are broadcasting the Ode to Joy this evening, the 31st December 2020 at 23:45, just after the transition period for leaving the EU ends to mark the fact that Brexit will have an enormous impact on the music arts and musicians. That broadcast can be viewed here.