Křenek • Schubert
Křenek: Static and Ecstatic; Schubert: Symphony in C major, D944 ‘Great’
The Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst
Cleveland Orchestra TCO0002 76:65 mins
These live recordings were made in the Cleveland Orchestra’s Severance Hall just before the coronavirus lockdown in March. In his fine and thoughtful booklet note, written in June while back home in Austria, music director Franz Welser-Möst reflects that there was a particular moment in the Andante con moto second movement of Schubert’s symphony when he suddenly realised that he might never conduct this orchestra again.
In such emotionally-charged circumstances, it’s maybe no surprise that the artistic waves were rolling so high. The trademark Cleveland sound, both ultra-classy and gloss-free, here intersects with Welser-Möst’s masterly approach to this greatest of symphonies – surely one of music’s supreme triumphs of the human spirit – to produce something very special. Decisions on the work’s notorious issues of tempo, for instance, here seem to make natural sense: the finale’s slightly broader-than-usual pace allows every note of its torrential and orchestra-exhausting passagework to count, gives sensible time to play it and generates huge momentum along the way. And there are wonderful moments elsewhere, like the fractional slowing-up of the Andantemovement’s closing stages, allowing the music’s gentle melancholy to speak unforgettably. The section repeats indicated by Schubert are played too (including all those in the Scherzo and Trio), except in the finale, which balances the length of other movements well enough without it.
Dating from 1972, the ten short and nugget-like movements of Static and Ecstatic by Ernst Křenek (like Schubert, Viennese-born) offer vivid modern contrast, incisively composed, and performed with tight-focus brilliance to match.