Schubert: Symphony No. 9 (CD review)

Josef Krips, London Symphony Orchestra. HDTT, remastered in DSD.

Among the first recordings I ever owned of Franz Schubert's Ninth Symphony "The Great" was this 1958 version by maestro Josef Krips and the LSO. I came to it a little late, sometime around 1970, and found it on a London Stereo Treasury LP. Unfortunately, the vinyl was rather scratchy and noisy, and while I enjoyed the performance enormously, I couldn't enjoy the sound. Then, years later, Decca issued it several times on CD, and with these releases the problem was that the sound was more than little bright and edgy. Again, wonderful performance, but questionable sonics.

Enter HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers), who have transferred the recording to CD and download twice now. It's with enthusiasm that I can tell you how much of a relief it is to hear the recording in the best versions I've yet to find them from the little company that gives us the best possible sound from older tapes. More about the HDTT sound in a moment.

First, a few notes about the music and the performance. Schubert wrote his Symphony No. 9 in C major in 1828, the year he died, and it premiered after his death. Consequently, he never heard it performed in his lifetime. He would have liked Krips's rendering, though, I'm sure. Under Krips, the opening movement may not be as weighty as, say, Klemperer's or as zippy as any of Mackerras's recordings, but it strikes a happy balance. More so than either of those conductors, good as they are, Krips is more playful and more lilting, his rhythms always bringing delight to the spirit, if not a downright smile to the face.

Although the second-movement Andante, with its faintly gypsy overtones, can in some other interpretations tend to drag, it's not so with Krips, who keeps the beat moving forward at a commendable pace. Yet he also maintains the movement's staccato-like cadences in good humor.

Josef Krips
Still, it's in the Scherzo that we really see Krips shine, his realization exhibiting so cheerful a glow, it makes most other conductors seem positively funereal by comparison. Then, in the Finale, Krips comes through with a combination of light airiness and energetic bounce that cannot fail to charm. While this was a fairly long symphony for its day, Krips leaves one wanting to hear even more, which is pretty much what any listener might want to do--hear it again. And again.

Decca recorded the music in May 1958, and HDTT remastered the present transfer in 2017 for, as I said, the second time. With this one they used DSD256 (Direct Stream Digital) and transferred the music from a 15ips 2-track tape (their previous transfer having used the LP).

One hears very little background noise, but even then it's only noticeable in select, quietest passages. There is also a very wide dynamic range involved and a reasonably strong impact. Needless to say, it is not quite as bright or edgy as the several Decca CD's I've owned, even if it is still a bit forward and tizzy in the upper midrange. Nevertheless, the HDTT sound is exceptionally clear.

The question, though, may be how the newer HDTT transfer stacks up against the company's earlier mastering. For one thing, the slight added clarity of the present recording brings out some of the minor distortions of the original source material. This is especially evident at the very beginning with a small degree of resonant shimmer noticeable, and then again during a few louder passages. In addition, I heard a more balanced left-to-right stereo spread from the newer mastering, the older one appearing to place a bit more gain in the left channel.

Overall, there is no doubt in my mind that Maestro Krips provides one the best renditions on record of Schubert's Ninth Symphony, if not the best. And whether or not its sound is up to every audiophile's standards, there is also no doubt in my mind that this HDTT transfer is the best you'll find of it.

For further information on the various formats, configurations, and prices of HDTT products, you can visit their Web site at https://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:

3 comments:

  1. No conocía esta sinfonía y me ha sorprendido gratamente.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Have you heard this SACD version? https://www.musicdirect.com/optical-disc/schubert-symphony-no9-krips-london-symphony-orchestra-hybrid-sacd
    I haven't, need to win the lottery now! This is music making we will never hear again.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nope. Haven't heard this one,Thomas. Thanks for the heads up.

    ReplyDelete

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