Christoph von Dohnányi / Philharmonia Orchestra

Schubert: Symphony No. 9 - Live in Concert

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Most performances of Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C major, "The Great" tend toward slow and stately tempos, perhaps emphasizing Robert Schumann's famous comment on the work's "heavenly length." Yet there are occasional interpretations that pick up the pace and move with considerable agility, such as Christoph von Dohnányi's 2015 performance with the Philharmonia Orchestra at London's Royal Festival Hall. While a measured, steadily paced reading gives the symphony a certain dignity, Dohnányi's brisk account is focused and exciting, two qualities that Schubert's longest symphony needs to be effective. The first two movements benefit the most from Dohnányi's uptempo conducting, and the Philharmonia plays with a lightness of tone that keeps the symphony from feeling overly monumental. Instead, there's a sense of playfulness that adds to the listener's enjoyment, and reminds one that, even as an early Romantic, Schubert was still a Classicist, and the gracefulness and charm of this spry performance bring that point across. The live recording has full presence and vibrant sonorities, with virtually no audience noise except for the applause.

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