Newly Released: Robert Shaw’s Live Recording of Beethoven’s Ninth

This performance is one of those in which all of the participants were playing for the sake of the music and were caught up in a vortex of musical union and humanity, the likes of which you just don’t encounter very often, if ever, in a lifetime.

This is how Robert Woods, founding producer of the Telarc record label, described a rare archival recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, performed by Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The concert took place on May 20, 1988 as the orchestra prepared to embark on a triumphant European tour. It marked Robert Shaw’s final Atlanta appearance as music director, a position he held for twenty-one years. (Shaw remained Music Director Emeritus and Conductor Laureate until his death in 1999).

The Atlanta Symphony released this historic recording last month, just in time for the hundredth anniversary of Robert Shaw’s birth. It will surely be regarded as Shaw’s definitive recording of Beethoven’s Ninth, replacing a problematic and poorly recorded 1985 record, produced by the now-defunct Pro Arte label.

I was a student at the Eastman School of Music when Robert Shaw came to conduct the Brahms Requiem, shortly before his death. Even in his final years, he demanded the highest musical standards, sometimes expressing his displeasure during rehearsals with memorable phrases: “That’s like putting ketchup on the Mona Lisa.”

Here is an excerpt from the recording. In the opening of the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the themes of the previous movements emerge briefly. Each is cut off and quickly rejected in favor of something completely new: a transcendent finale, unlike any previously-written symphonic movement, which blends symphony, opera, fugue, and drinking song into one exhilaratingly joyful proclamation of the universal brotherhood of man.

Additional Recordings

  • Find this recording: iTunes, Amazon
  • Robert Shaw rehearsing Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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