Maxim Emelyanychev & SCO - Schubert: Symphony No. 9 - Gramophone

David Zinman led the way; now here is Maxim Emelyanychev waltzing through the ‘Great’ C major with all the repeats in less time than maestros of yore took to conduct roughly three-quarters of the same notes.

Not even Zinman in Zurich (Sony/BMG, 6/14) or Norrington in Stuttgart (Hänssler) set out on the second movement with Emelyanychev’s brisk clip, which resembles an Allegretto more than Andante con moto, no less in the airily floated second theme than the alla marcia first. In any case both older conductors point the phrasing, nudge and coax it into shape, with an affection to which the new account never once aspires. 

In the mould of his Eroica from Nizhny-Novgorod (Aparté, 2/19), the orchestra is balanced upwards, cast loose from a compact bass line that is too discreet for its own good at those many points in the symphony when we should feel the ground beneath our feet. The Scherzo’s Trio is especially disappointing in this regard: where are the smiles, the memories, the new wine and the tears that belong to every bar of this music?

The SCO’s violin section attacks the finale’s endless semiquavers with unflagging energy, and it’s an achievement of sorts for the all-important trio of trombones to play with the agility and delicacy of a flute section. Some measure of exhilaration enters the reading with the ‘Ode to Joy’ quotation and builds towards a conclusion of genuine elation, which old hands may think too little, too late. But if the symphony’s ‘heavenly lengths’ have left you cold in the past, Emelyanychev could be the man to banish your Schubertian blues. To the perennial debate over the accent or diminuendo on the last note he brings an ingenious solution, contriving both at once. His recordings with Il Pomo d’Oro demonstrate a musician of considerable flair and independent mind; as yet those qualities produce fitfully illuminating results in symphonic repertoire.

01 January 2020