Schubert: Symphony No 9 in C major, D940

Reviewed on Tue 28 Jun, 2016

Dohnányi’s spontaneous-sounding, structure-conscious rendition makes for a bracing encounter with Schubert’s greatest completed symphony.

I can never understand why conductors who are bold enough to take the long first movement exposition repeat in Schubert 9 fail to observe the parallel repeat in the finale. Claudio Abbado with the Orchestra Mozart (DG) plays both, consequently bolstering the finale’s conclusive effect. Christoph von Dohnányi doesn’t, which is a pity because viewed overall he and the Philharmonia offer a clear-headed, vigorous and well-shaped interpretation that fully deserves the enthusiastic applause that bursts in at the end. Interesting, too, that Dohnányi’s opening Andante sets out at a brisk walking pace, so that by the time he reaches the main Allegro ma non troppo, the transition sounds entirely natural. The second movement reaches a dramatic apex, while the scherzo, although admirably spirited, wants for a certain element of charm, something that much-loved ‘old-timers’ like Bruno Walter (his stereo version) favoured as part of their interpretative stock – the more energised Abbado, too, for that matter, albeit to a lesser extent. But Dohnányi’s spontaneous-sounding, structure-conscious rendition makes for a bracing encounter with Schubert’s greatest completed symphony, and the Philharmonia Orchestra does him proud. Excellent booklet-notes by Wendy Thompson, by the way.
–Rob Cowan