Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9 (CD review)
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.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.