Beethoven Symphony No. 9/"Missa Solemnis"



In a newly remastered series of Beethoven's symphonies called "The Immortal Toscanini," RCA has tapped into a gold mine. What's more, each of the three double-CD sets sells for the price of one disc. Toscanini's strengths are abundantly evident in this last installment, recorded in 1952 and '53. The conductor's pinpoint precision and sense of balance are laudable, but his penchant for lickety-split tempos and occasional lack of subtlety are drawbacks.

Nonetheless, it's impossible not to get wrapped up in the excitement of this disc, in no small measure because of the vocal soloists. Dramatic soprano Eileen Farrell pours out a cascade of gorgeous sound in the "Ode to Joy," while soprano Lois Marshall lets loose with a brilliant display of high-wire agility in the "Gloria" of the "Missa Solemnis."