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This release marks the completion of the Beethoven Symphony cycle from the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra and their founder and director Wojciech Rajski – a project that has taken ten years to reach fruition. As many visitors (and contributors) to this site and to SA-CD.net will be aware, Tacet's absolute commitment to recording in surround sound in a manner that places the listener at the centre of the orchestra makes Rajski's cycle unique even amongst the vast number of alternative Beethoven symphony recordings available on disc.

At the forefront of Andreas Spreer's recording philosophy is the desire to make full use of the whole acoustic space and explore the possibilities that current technology offers to enhance the overall musical experience for the home listener. This means going further than merely attempting to create the illusion of a normal concert hall and, controversial though this may seem, it really does add a new dimension to one's appreciation of even the most familiar music.

As with all of Tacet's 'Real Surround Sound' recordings the liner notes provide detailed information including a diagram of the positions of the musicians with respect to the listener. This helpfully aids spatial identification when adjusting one's surround set-up for optimum results. Tacet recommends that all the speakers are set to the same volume level, which should not be too high, and that the use of filters should be avoided. Adjustments completed, one can sit back and enjoy an enthralling and often jaw-dropping sonic experience.

In view of the larger forces involved – orchestra, soloists and chorus – the recording of the 9th Symphony did not take place in the venue used for the earlier eight symphonies (the "Stella Maria" Church in Sopot); instead St. John's Church in the middle of the old town of Gdansk was chosen and, from the photographs in the liner notes, this church with its high vaulted ceiling would seem to be a well chosen location. I did find, however, that the considerable reverberation period of the building did cause some blurring of the chorus in the finale though it was not a problem in the instrumental movements.

Ten years ago Rajski's account of this Symphony using a chamber orchestra, small chorus and playing with modern instruments in a generally period or 'authentic' style would have stood out not just for its unusual aural perspective but for its refreshingly straightforward and unfussy approach. Now, however, one misses the greater insights and nuances that, for example, Paavo Jarvi and his crack Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Bremen bring to the work Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 - Paavo Järvi. The Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra though do not disappoint and perform most creditably throughout. Rajski is also fortunate to have an excellent line up of soloists for the choral finale, especially the splendid bass Tareq Nazmi whose firm delivery and impeccable diction are outstanding. The Polish Chamber Choir Schola Cantorum Gedanensis, after two surprisingly halfhearted cries of 'Freude' quickly come alive and sing with full-throated enthusiasm throughout the remainder of the finale.

Those who have invested in the four earlier SACD releases in this series will certainly wish to add this one to their collection. It is worth noting, however, that newcomers can now acquire the whole cycle as a set of three Blu-ray discs (three symphonies per disc) Beethoven: 9 Symphonies - Rajski. a most tempting prospect.

Copyright © 2016 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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