Symphony No. 9, D944
Residentie Orkest The Hague/Jan Willem de Vriend
Challenge Classics CC 72863 57:07 mins
Period or modern style? This third instalment of Challenge Classics’s Schubert symphonies cycle explores both approaches: while modern instruments are evidently used, articulation is deft and neat, the strings’ vibrato is restrained but not harshly so and the feeling is of musical values leading at every point. The first movement’s C major opening horn call is played in natural-horn style, with handstopping rather than valves to tune the notes A and B, with the veiled, slightly fizzy effect that results – the kind of sound that Schubert would have expected in the mid-1820s when he wrote it.
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All the music’s indicated section repeats are here, including the rarely deployed one in the finale, so that this recording is truly as complete as you can get; if the epic length that results puts extra strain on the players, there’s no sign of it in their vividly alert response at every point. De Vriend’s approach to the difficult question of first-movement tempo changes is coherent (if a little pernickety), and the finale’s headlong pace raises the voltage-level to exciting heights. Only the Andante con moto second movement slightly disappoints, with the music’s mood-shifts between wistfulness, charm and obsessive desperation not quite captured as they might be.
Find out more about Schubert and his works here