Ludwig Van Beethoven was too deaf to hear his ninth symphony while he lived, but his most complex symphonic composition has acquired a deafening degree of immortality after his death.
The first weekend of December saw the third reincarnation of the piece in San Diego under the animated baton of Jahja Ling. The short but spirited program benefited from the disciplined San Diego Symphony, four good solo vocalists, and the San Diego Master Chorale, which seems never to have an off night.
Nathaniel Webster's baritone didn't exude as much vocal gravity as a bass would, but his brighter tone added more shine to the choral finale's forward-looking theme. Robert Breault's quivering tenor and Mary Dunleavy's soaring soprano beautifully highlighted the hopeful melody while Kelley O'Connor's mezzo-soprano provided grounding and balance to the solo voices.
Most deserving of the multiple rounds of roaring ovation from the capacity audience, however, was the utterly reliable San Diego Master Chorale. They sang like they meant every note from the softest of tones to the most imposing fortissimo in a symphony that looks behind and ahead.
Event: the San Diego Symphony performing Beethoven’s Ninth
Date: December 4, 2009
Venue: Copley Symphony Hall