Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9 (CD review)

Josef Krips, Vienna Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras.  Decca 476 1551.

The Schubert Ninth Symphony has always been a favorite piece of music, but I had quite forgotten how very good Josef Krips's 1958 LSO recording of it is.  I owned the performance on LP for years, but when I listened to it on CD the year Decca first issued the disc (at a friend's house), I found it sounded too bright and edgy for my taste.  I never actually owned the disc on CD myself, though, until I got this 2004 Decca remastering.  The CD is still a tad bright and edgy, with a touch of noticeable but unobtrusive background noise, but the sound is better than I remembered it.

The interpretation reminded me once again how very good Krips was in this music.  Everything about his performance of the Ninth is as perfect as one could want.  No reservations about the music's length being too extreme, because if anything the work flies by all too fast, it's so enjoyable.  No reservations about the tempos being too weighty, too slow, or too fast for that matter, because Krips takes every movement at an ideal speed, never sluggish, never frenetic.  And no reservations about what Schubert was up to in the piece, because Krips makes it clear that his Schubert is light, lyrical, and joyous, with no moody, philosophical arguments in sight.  It is a splendid performance in every way.

Krips's later, 1969 recording of the Schubert Eighth Symphony, the "Unfinished," with the Vienna Philharmonic, which Decca include on the disc, is also quite good, but it is not quite in the same league as his Ninth, lacking in the feeling of sheer, exuberant delight he brought earlier.  In terms of sound, however, the later recording is definitely smoother and more refined.  Still, the clarity and transparency of the earlier Ninth recording make it more than acceptable, and, frankly, in neither recording is the sonic quality absolutely state-of-the-art.  Nevertheless, it's good enough, making it pretty hard to complain about a coupling like this.

JJP

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa