Review by fafnir April 20, 2007 (20 of 21 found this review helpful)
|For reasons that I hope will become clear by the end of this review, I have chosen not to assign a numeric rating to the performance. The mch sound, however, is very good indeed and is probably the best ever accorded this score. It has a close and clinical quality that brings out the detail of the piece to an unprecedented degree. It only lacks a bit of warmth, which, had it been present, would have earned a full five stars rating.
I was anticipating this performance for many months; Nott's traversal of the other Schubert Symphonies is excellent, with only a slightly sluggish finale of the Fifth to mar my enjoyment. I even admire his take on the "Unfinished," a certainly controversial performance. He also brings forth a concept of the "Great C Major" that is unexpected and, in my experience, at least, unique.
He believes that all repeats should be observed: first, third, and last movements. There is a school of thought that insists that all repeats should be observed if possible, especially on record. That is a school I did not attend, and I think that this score sound just great when played by Toscanini, Munch, Szell or Walter, with no repeats. Nevertheless, the proof is in the listening and in cases such as this, an open mind is a requirement. Aside: Those so inclined can check out Horowitz's performance and opinions on the repeat in the first movement of Chopin Sonata 2.
Nott adopts a brisk, exciting tempo for the first movement with the transition from the introduction being beautifully handled. The playing has such drive that the repeat seemed natural and certainly did no harm to the structure.
The second movement also goes extremely well at a fast pace with much beautiful playing. At this point, I was beginning to believe that my favorite, the Munch recording, was about to be supplanted.
The third movement brings the performance back down to earth. A very conservative tempo is taken for the opening and closing scherzo sections which, in combination with the repeat of the opening, makes the movement seem interminable. IMO this is a serious miscalculation and is extremely disappointing in an otherwise fine performance. The trio is beautifully done, but at 15 minutes in length, this movement loses all interest well before the end.
The finale is given a good standard reading where the repeat does no additional harm. It does, however, have a minor quirk that should be pointed out. The last chord in the score has a mark that can be (and has been) interpreted as both an accent and a diminuendo. Most conductors take it as an accent, which seems to work well. Some, such as Solti and a few others, play it as if the score were fading out - IMO this effect sounds ridiculous, but it is not a major point. Nott apparently ignores the the mark, whatever it may be, and it sounds fine.
The performance takes over 61 minutes. Taking all the repeats has resulted not in "heavenly length," but in "formidable" or perhaps "exhausting" length, depending on one's point of view (or listening).
I do not wish to unnecessarily dissuade anyone from purchasing this recording; it has many fine points. But ... caveat emptor.
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