Elsewhere on this site I review the first release from The Cleveland Orchestra (search “A New Century”). This second album (distinctively packaged as a ten-inch LP and with full annotation, although it’s tricky to remove the disc from its compartment and return it), once again conducted by music director Franz Welser-Möst, includes a freshly-minted account of Schubert’s ‘Great’ C-major Symphony (No.9) that is honed in its preparation and playing, buoyant of rhythm and melodically expressive, and in which details and inner parts are pristine.
Tempos are moderate but never drag – Welser-Möst aligns speeds across the whole and he is persuasively less con moto in the Andante second movement than many an interpreter, to advantage. All repeats are observed, save, thankfully, in the Finale; anything to avoid those perfunctory lead-back bars! What can detract though is Welser-Möst’s tendency to emphasise occasional notes, not so much accented as highlighted: a distraction, especially during the Scherzo & Trio in which timpani could be clearer. Cavils aside, though, this is a palate-cleansing view of D944 that invites further listening.
The remainder of the disc is Ernst Krenek’s Statisch und Ekstatisch (Opus 214, 1973). There’s no doubting the quality of the performance, and while I am not one to ever shirk a musical challenge, I found this tedious and limited over its twenty minutes – easy to hear the Static, less so the Ecstatic – as Krenek (1900-91) follows strict Schoenbergian principles of organisation to increasingly dry results. (Only my opinion!)
The recorded sound (from Severance Hall during March this year, just before lockdown struck) is superb, as is post-production: applause is removed, so too between-movement hubbub. TCO0002 [SACD].
I lament the treatment Franz Welser-Most experienced while he had a shortish sojourn in London. Worse than most was his nickname, quite why I never worked out. Firstly he had convictions in his repertoire playing Sibelius’s rare Lemminkainen Suite at the opening concert and later having the daring to
perform the Fourth Symphony which still
lies totally neglected in London apart from my friend Adrian Brown’s fine rendition with his Bromley SO a few years ago.
I assume Welser-Most has a rich patron which oils wheels including his appointment in London.
But he has established a solid track record in Cleveland over many years which is no mean feat as many concert goers of a certain age would be able to compare him with the great George Szell let alone Lorin Maazel.
His London performances caused me no dismay and I still wonder why our critics took against him so virulently. Can someone please explain?
If you read German you might find the answer in Welser-Möst´s new book published last August. I know that an English translation will be published later. Als ich die Stille fand: Ein Plädoyer gegen den Lärm der Welt
I quite enjoyed the Krenek and even copied it to a friend with austere music tastes (eg Webern). Yes in the Schubert (iii) FW-M does some things that detract from the flow of the music. The very informative booklet says these pieces were recorded live during the early months of the pandemic with only a few people listening in the hall