The disrespect with which Daniel Barenboim holds the Beethoven Ninth Symphony was apparent in his first concert as CSO music director back in the fall of 1991 when he concluded the concert with the finale choral movement only of the piece, the musical equivalent of motel sex with no foreplay. Since then, there have been a couple of occasions when Barenboim and the CSO have performed the full work together, none of them particularly memorable. What then to make of the full work as the choice for what Barenboim says will be his last concert ever with the CSO? The ending itself being so rousing that even if the performance is lackluster, there is still a guaranteed sense of occasion and standing ovation? Who knows what he has up his sleeve, but my bet is that Barenboim will pull out all of the stops and make this the performance of a lifetime, helping leave an indelible sense of regret at his huffy departure. There is no chorus on the planet that can scale the choral stratosphere of this work—written after Beethoven was totally deaf and was writing his most introspective music not limited by his outer ear—like the CSO chorus, who will also perform Beethoven’s “Choral” Fantasy to open this Musicians’ Pension Fund sold-out-for-over-a-year concert, but turn-backs, standbys and sidewalk vendors should reward the persistent. (Dennis Polkow)
June 17 at Orchestra Hall.