Sunday, August 1, 2021, Royal Albert Hall, London
Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from 8.00 p.m., and on BBC Four half-an-hour later
Maxim Emelyanychev and the SCO (led by Stephanie Gonley – no mention for her by Radio 3’s announcer) opened with a rather throwaway ‘slow’ introduction to K543; vivid though, especially from timpani, although the main Allegro married stealth and lyricism to exhilarating (horns and trumpets to the fore) and shapely effect, some overdone emphases and lingered phrase-ends aside. The Andante was certainly con moto, a little hasty at times if quite expressive and even operatic in its contrasts. With a striding Minuet and mellifluous clarinet-led Trio (not entirely convinced by the added-in decorations though) and a furiously-paced, somewhat scrambled, Finale, this was an interesting account.
Similarly regarding the G-minor and ‘Jupiter’ Symphonies, the former (played as revised, with clarinets) had a rather disjointed opening movement and an overlong slow one (see next paragraph), and the remaining two were generally well-judged.
As for repeats, every one, except for two, were observed, including Finale second halves, with Minuets played twice-through again following Trios. Fine for K543 and K551 (especially their respective Finales), but potentially less successful in K550, which benefits from the minimum of repetition (for me, only needed in the first and third movements) and can mean that the second-movement Andante is much longer than its predecessor (symphonic disproportion), although Emelyanychev did in fact ignore the second repeat to somewhat reduce any discrepancy, and, indeed, the second half of the Finale, which avoids the monotony it can fall into. Of course, these repetitions are bound into the score, but well-done Maxim for not being pedantic.
Regarding the ‘Jupiter’ (unhelpfully heralded by interval chat that included snippets of the work from recordings by René Jacobs, Richard Strauss and Otto Klemperer – a pre-emptive strike, reminding, however briefly, of Interpretations on Record, from Radio 3’s yesteryear), in the first movement Emelyanychev introduced some mannered pauses that were more ‘something’s gone wrong’ than illuminating; fiery playing, mind. The slow movement was sublime and phrasally fluid, however, tenderly confiding. Following a courtly Minuet (with a perky Trio, and extra notes), the Finale enjoyed poise and grandeur, a traversal of surety to the fugal coda, with the vital second repeat keeping this glorious ending in the wings that little bit longer. Just as it should be.
There was an encore of the closing measures of the ‘Jupiter’, which seemed pointless.