Monday 27 July 2020, BBC Radio 3 @ 7.30 p.m.

Recorded at Royal Albert Hall on 21 August 1989

Guest Writer, Antony Hodgson

Beethoven No.2 came early in Roger Norrington’s recorded series of Beethoven Symphonies and did much to awaken listeners to the advantages of playing this music on instruments similar to those of Beethoven’s time.  The Larghetto was a particular delight and so it was in this Proms performance; here is a Beethoven metronome marking that works and in obeying it Norrington brings ideal lightness – there is particular charm in the moments when the winds skip happily up and down the octaves.  Norrington’s approach to the Symphony is lively throughout and he takes a particularly forceful view of the Finale.  All repeats were made including those of the Minuet both before and after the Trio; this slight movement needs to be given some weight and the unhurried tempo helps.

In Schubert’s ‘Great C-major’ (D944) Norrington succeeds in several areas where many distinguished conductors have failed.  This is very much so in the tempo relationship between the Andante Introduction and the following Allegro non troppo, Norrington’s firm adherence to tempo throughout the movement’s magnificent coda and his firm retention of pulse throughout both Scherzo and Trio.  All this was to be found in his excellent recording made nine months earlier.  In concert, the opening Andante has a hint of breathlessness and there are a few minor imperfections.  It was perhaps to be expected that in the Royal Albert Hall the period strings would not make the impact of those of a modern symphony orchestra but wind predominance is quite suitable in this music. Tempo is admirably strict throughout, although the fast speed for the Scherzo invoked an element of instability. The Finale is exciting and who cares about imprecision when one is left with the feeling: what wonderful music.

As an encore we are given further Schubert, a Ballet Music from Rosamunde.  Enjoyable enough but not all of it was played.

Sadly there is a downside to this concert – the ridiculous between-movement events, such as rude clapping and much tuning followed by a great deal of scuffling and muttering. I shall happily return to the CD of Norrington’s fine interpretation of the Schubert Symphony.