Schubert: Symphony No. 9 in C major

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Decca Ovation
WORKS: Symphony No. 9 in C major
PERFORMER: Vienna PO/Sir Georg Solti
CATALOGUE NO: 430 747-2 DDD
Solti’s 1981 recording of the Ninth Symphony(Great) was among the first batch of CDs issued by Decca, nearly a decade ago. Since then, it has managed to hold its place in a crowded market, and rightly so. The rhythmic muscularity of this piece brings out the best in Solti: the outer movements especially are blessed by clean, well-articulated playing and a strong forward momentum. He relaxes a little for the second movement’s lyrical episodes but otherwise the Andante con moto is taut and martial. The Scherzo is also alive and energetic, the trio rather severe: a more lilting accompaniment wouldn’t go amiss. The VPO wind players here have difficulty making themselves heard above the gloriously full-bodied string sound, but the latter is so warm and yet so nimble that I can’t bring myself to complain too much about this imbalance.

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Among other versions of this popular work some may prefer Abbado’s more Romantic account with the excellent (and far smaller) Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Alternatively, the rasping ‘period’ wind and brass of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (under Mackerras) make a greater impact than the tastefully blended VPO sections. But Solti has an appealing directness and at mid-price it’s quite a bargain. Stephen Maddock