SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944 “The Great” – Hessian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Ferenc Fricsay – Tahra

by | Feb 19, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944 “The Great” – Hessian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Ferenc Fricsay

Tahra TAH 635,  53:50 [] ****:

The only surviving recording of this work with the late Ferenc Fricsay (1914-1963), this Schubert Ninth dates from 4 November 1955. In excellent mono sound, the performance resonates with the qualities we have long come to cherish from Fricsay: richly sensuous lines; orchestral definition of utmost clarity; deliberate, measured tempos; and a romantic sensibility and tragic color gleaned from both Furtwaengler’s expansive ethos and Mengelberg’s virtuoso showmanship with orchestral ensemble.  Always there is in Fricsay’s renditions the hugely arched singing line, especially in the mighty Andante from this symphony. The tempo slows almost to a halt in the French horn, the texture reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, another Fricsay staple. With the quickening of the tempo and trumpets’ and strings’ stretti, the syncopations halt and a deep mystery rises from the lower strings and the oboe, a paean to a lost horizon. The pizzicati strings and horn and wind punctuations return us to the oboe’s jaunting tune, now haunted by the shade of Orpheus.

Earthy voluptuousness for the Scherzo, without the pregnant caesura that Mengelberg imposed on the rhythmic flow. The woodwinds pipe in high spirits, answered by elastic strings. Horns and tympani in colossal interplay, strings tripping in an approximation of Mendelssohn’s fairyland.  A broad approach to the trio section, heavy breaths and sighs. Fricsay takes the little march codetta staccato, etching each note. The da capo appears pesant, erotic, swelling to a Whitmanesque stance, reeling in Nature. As per expectation, Fricsay takes the Allegro vivace in the manner of a veteran fencing master, a virtuoso romp for strings, horns, and tympani. The music swirls like a fierce storm, then the rumbles dissipate so that only the strings’ rhythmic pulsation remains, though that germ–as in Beethoven–can generate endlessly ferocious energies. The music returns to full force, a distinct pedal underpinning a series of furious, competing cross-rhythms. Aerial virtuosity enters, the oboe over the manic strings, to be taken by the horns and careened into outer space. Quite a thrilling ride, this Fricsay Schubert Ninth; and I, for one, am delighted to see this rarity enter the pantheon of musical records, courtesy of Myriam Scherchen, Rene Tremine, and their devoted Tahra staff.   

— Gary Lemco

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