This Ninth from Seoul is up-to-date, flexible and expressive. Myung-Whun Chung and his Seoul Philharmonic have been climbing the international league table during his ten years as music director, and there is no doubt that this Orchestra now plays with admirable unanimity, tonal lustre, responsiveness and character. There is much to like about the performance overall, the intensity of long-held notes in the strings (and this group's depth of sound), the poetic expression of the woodwinds that are also vividly detailed and full of meaning, and the overall dedication . . . The slow movement is a wonder, properly spacious and beautifully sounded (something so appealing in these lean, vibrato-reduced times), the melodies blossoming out to embrace us . . . The vocal soloists and combined choruses acquit themselves well . . . The 'Turkish March' (with tenor) is unusually jaunty and hip-swinging with the ensuing fugal episode particularly virile. The very end is exhilarating. All in all, this is an inviting, uplifting and rewarding account of Beethoven 9, performed with instinct and endeavour . . .
This is a stupendous performance. The Seoul Phil produces a grand sound, suited to Chung's grand conception, and the vocal forces are magnificent.
Intense and sober live version from Korea of Mahler's final symphony . . . [1st movement]: The first thing that struck me was the sound of the strings, always an important component in Mahler. The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra strings play with a sense of flexible line which has fine-grained tone but with an innate strength which is expressive, but not luxurious. Throughout the movement we continue this combination of flexibility and strength. The players bring a lovely sense of control and subtlety to the quiet, rather magical textures in the movement. There is a steadiness to Myung-Whun Chung's direction, even in the passages of struggle or impulse. He brings a real architectonic feel to the span of the movement. Yet there is a sobriety too, despite the moments of sublime beauty . . . [3rd movement]: a real intensity in the sound, a strongly emotive line from the strings, vibrant yet still firm. The brilliant passage where the opening material returns in the distance, over the slower middle section is magically realised with a lovely sarcastic edge to the distant interruption from the opening material. The full return of the opening material returns with full driven bravura which Myung-Whun Chung whips the orchestra into a terrific climax. The final "Adagio", almost as long as the opening movement, is a second elegy. Here the string play with a lovely richly expressive, vibrant sense of line, but still with that underlying strength to it . . . The control of the players really shows here as we have some real magic in the quieter moments. This control from the players is matched by the steady solidity of Myung-Whung Chung's grip on the architecture, creating a long deeply felt movement . . . This recording is an impressive achievement and highly memorable . . . This is a superb achievement especially as it was recorded live, and it certainly shows that Myung-Whun Chung and his Korean orchestra are on an international stage.