LABELS: Solo Musica
ALBUM TITLE: Philippe Jordan Conducts Franz Schubert’s Symphonies No. 7 & 8
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 8 & 9
PERFORMER: Vienna Symphony/Philippe Jordan
CATALOGUE NO: WS 009
Having heard Bernard Haitink’s dead-straight Schubert Ninth at the BBC Proms with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, I realise there are some masterpieces which need the conductor to do rather more than simply breathe what’s on the printed page into life. Philippe Jordan, who’s often tended to apply a late-Romantic conducting approach to earlier works, enriches with just that extra degree in these always engaging, sometimes challenging performances. The slightest dynamic lift to phrases which are unadorned in the score gives a life behind the eyes, the longer-term crescendos are magnificent and Jordan finds exactly the conflict in the progress of the night-watch march of the Ninth’s second movement I found missing in Haitink’s interpretation.
Dynamic extremes are even more pronounced in the Unfinished Eighth, defiantly tragic when not bittersweet, starting with a whisper and especially affecting in the dying falls of the Andante con moto. The only movement in the two pieces that doesn’t entirely convince me is the Scherzo of the Great; I’ve been spoilt by Claudio Abbado’s swansong recording to expect something more of a lift in the outer sections, and the wind-band song of the trio needs to be more earthy; this is the only department of the excellent Vienna Symphony which seems slightly under-defined. And why not do the second-half repeat – or, for that matter, the one in the finale? The spacious Musikverein live recording highlights well-balanced textures, and is as alive as the playing. David Nice