Home | Audio Reviews |Audiophile Shows | Partner Mags News

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Franz Schubert

Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D 944 "The Great"
Sir Simon Rattle conducting The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Review By Max Westler
Click here to e-mail reviewer

Franz Schubert

CD Number: EMI Classics 38382 

 

  "Conductors must always bear in mind that the music they perform is even greater than they think it is." I've forgotten who first stated this democratic notion that the work at hand is always larger than the point-of-view of any single interpreter, that no one gets to have the final say. In which case, individual conductors are not competing to produce the definitive interpretation of a score, but are actually secret collaborators exploring its inexhaustible possibilities. This seems especially true when considering the extensive discography of a masterpiece like Schubert's Ninth Symphony: all the truly great versions teach us something different about the music. If for Carlo Maria Guilini the work is a revolutionary score that anticipates the work of Bruckner and Mahler, for George Szell it is at heart a traditional work built on the precedent of Beethoven and Haydn. For Charles Munch, the symphony is a protean surge of kinetic energy; for Sergiu Celibidache, a vast architectural design slowly taking shape. The heaven-storming Furtwangler, the rustic Josef Krips, the Dionysian Solti, Apollonian Boehm, warmhearted Walter, rugged Toscaninni each of these conductors honors Schubert's creation by revealing all the many things it can be.

Sir Simon Rattle also has an individual view of Schubert, though I'm not sure it honors the composer. Sir Rattle's Schubert isn't capable of carrying a tune let alone sustaining a singing line. Here is Schubert's Ninth reflected in a fun-house mirror; there's hardly a phrase that isn't distorted beyond recognition. Sir Rattle has always been way too eager to demonstrate his interpretive powers, to arbitrarily impose his will on the scores he conducts, but here his uncanny ability to place the accent on the wrong sylLAble (as we used to say in high school) is perverse. This is the least natural-sounding Schubert I've ever heard.

Of course, there have been highly individual, if not eccentric versions of this music before: Mengelberg, Abendroth, Sinopoli and Harnoncourt, to mention only a few. Though only the Mengelberg deserves an unqualified recommendation, I would still rather be listening to any of those versions than Rattle's because these conductors project a sense of spontaneity and at least pay some fleeting attention to tempo relationships. Typically Sir Rattle's phrasing is self-conscious and affected: you can always hear him thinking. And here he spends so much time and energy hauling details about, his tempos stall and falter. Without that crucial sense of forward momentum, Schubert's "heavenly lengths" become "deadly lengths." Though Rattle's performance clocks in at the same time as Celibidache's (a longer-than-usual 57'), it seems by far the slower. "Celi" makes his slow tempos work so well, sound so natural, that you soon forget you're listening to a "slow" performance. With Rattle, every moment drags leaden boots. By the end of this performance, I felt I'd aged ten years. Usually I would complain that a disc that contains less than sixty minutes of music could have, should have included at least one other composition, but here the want of a filler feels like a blessing.

The sound here is good enough to let you hear just how awful the performance is. As for the playing, I spent a lot of time thinking about the Berlin musicians, who (howsoever regretfully) do indeed give Sir Rattle what he's asking for. But what must it have been like for an orchestra that bears the living memory of Furtwangler, Boehm, Jochum, and Karajan to participate in a performance so glib and superficial? I'd like to think the entire city is feeling a collective sense of buyer's regret over their choice of maestro.

On a personal note, I see no point in continuing to review performances by Sir Rattle. Recent samplings his Ein Heldenleben, his Brahms First Concerto (with the magnificent Krystian Zimmerman) suggest he's not growing as an interpretive artist. Wisdom teaches one to accept that which cannot be changed. Besides, life is too short. Like it or not, George Bush will continue to be the President of these United States for another two years. Like it or not, Sir Rattle will continue to produce dreadful performances that publications like The Gramophone then hail as definitive. I happily leave it to others to explain what this says about the present state of musical culture.

 

Performance:

Sound:

Enjoyment: <none>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

Quick Links


Audiophile Review Magazine
High-End Audio Equipment Reviews

 

Equipment Review Archives
Turntables, Cartridges, Etc
Digital Source
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Preamplifiers
Amplifiers
Cables, Wires, Etc
Loudspeakers/ Monitors
Headphones, IEMs, Tweaks, Etc
Ultra High-End Audio Reviews

 

Videos
Enjoy the Music.TV

 

Columns
Editorials By Tom Lyle
Viewpoint By Roger Skoff
Viewpoint By Steven R. Rochlin
Various Think Pieces
Manufacturer Articles


Show Reports
Capital Audiofest 2021 Show
The HiFi Summit Q2 2021
T.H.E. Show 2021 Report
The HiFi Summit Q4 2020
The HiFi Summit Q2 2020
Bristol Hi-Fi Show Report 2020
Florida Audio Expo 2020 Show Report
New York Audio Show 2019 Report
Capital Audiofest 2019 Show Report
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) 2019
High End Munich 2019 Show Report
Click here for previous shows.

 

Other
Audiophile Contests
Cool Free Stuff For You
Tweaks For Your System
Vinyl Logos For LP Lovers
Lust Pages Visual Beauty

 

Resources & Information
Music Definitions
Hi-Fi Definitions

 


Daily Industry News

High-End Audio News & Information

 

Partner Print Magazines
audioXpress
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine
hi-fi+ Magazine
HIFICRITIC
HiFi Media
Hi-Fi World
Sound Practices
VALVE Magazine

 

For The Press & Industry
About Us
Press Releases
Official Site Graphics

 

Contests & Our Mailing List

Our free newsletter for monthly updates & enter our contests!

 

 

    

Home   |   Industry News   |   Equipment Reviews   |   Press Releases   |   About Us   |   Contact Us

 

All contents copyright  1995 - 2021  HighEndAudio.com and Enjoy the Music.com
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.  All rights reserved.