The audio of this great poem is compromised by two problems: piano music intrudes at the end of each section, drowning out the words for a stanza at a..Show More » time, and the narrator, Robert Bethune, turns in an eccentric performance. His reading isn't bad exactly, as his pacing is good and he stresses the right syllables. However, his voice has a slightly nasal tone, and he has a tendency to swoop and soar, coming dangerously close to a sing-song delivery. While this can be a little annoying, it is still much better than having no poem at all. Maybe I'll get used to it.
Bethune reads slowly, but Audible lets you speed up the tempo without changing the pitch of the reader's voice. I listen to this at 1.5x and it sound..Show More »s fine. His cadence and emphases are good; he occasionally sounds melodramatic, but this isn't inapt given the heroic style and grand scale of some passages of the poem. Bethune has a good sense of the shape of long sentences and he always sounds like he is "in" the poem; there is nothing mechanical or uncertain about his reading. The tone of his voice occasionally reminds me of a 1960s cartoon character--maybe Marvin the Martian?, but this is tolerable as well. Occasionally some passages have an unintended comic effect, though. The poem still benefits from being heard, though; I recommend this. This is a midatlantic American accent. The one strong criticism I have is of the use of piano music to punctuate certain parts of the poem, and to introduce and conclude somewhat arbitrarily created chapters in the poem. I am not against this idea, but its execution. The choices are often not tonally apt and, worse, the production values are amateurish. The piano music sometimes sounds like it came from an old movie or cassette tape, and warbles or wows a bit. If well-recorded Beethoven piano music had been used very selectively, this idea may have worked better. Now it often seems corny and distracting, though I appreciate the intent. A reading that takes hours could benefit from some musical punctuation.