Classical, November 2019

Symphony No 9
Bamberger SO/Herbert Blomstedt
Accentus Music ACC30477 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Blomstedt's work with the Bamberger orchestra has earned him Honorary Conductor title; he was nearly 91 when this live recording was made at the Josef-Keilberth-Saal last June. It's one of those performances where you hardly think of who is on the podium, but you are constantly engaged by the drama of the music, the twists and turns from lullaby to nightmare, and a finale that resolves everything. In this respect Blomstedt's Mahler 9 is akin to Haitink's and unlike, say Solti's or Bernstein's. The sound is clear, in part thanks to the orchestral layout, with antiphonal strings and basses set back stage left. An exceptional Ninth from perhaps an unexpected source. CB


Symphonie Fantastique; Fantaisie Dramatique sur la Tempête de Shakespeare
Toronto SO & Ch/Sir Andrew Davis
Chandos CHSA5239 (SACD; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

The Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique was recorded at the Roy Thomson Hall last September in conjunction with a concert performance. We have repeats properly observed in (i) and (iv), no cornets in (ii) but some unmarked string slides – although those in the finale are very tame. The church bells there are really loud, and very realistic in high-res format. The answering oboe calls in (ii) aren't really 'distant'. Overall, I felt Sir Andrew didn't want to make things in any way uncomfortable – as he should – and the opening Fantasie here, taken from Lélio, is more satisfying. CB


Piano Sonatas K280, K281, K310 & K333
Lars Vogt
Ondine ODE13182 (downloads to 48kHz/24-bit resolution)

Artur Schnabel's often quoted suggestion that Mozart's solo piano writing is too easy for children, too difficult for pianists, isn't really true either way. If you have struggled through them you might not want to listen to them on records, but this quartet by the German pianist Lars Vogt (he made an earlier EMI set in 2006) is compelling. The booklet note comprises a thorough interview discussion about the music, the minor-key K310 in particular. The sheer clarity of Vogt's fingerwork makes these flexible readings such a joy to hear, even if you find his expressive approach to dynamics and speeds a little extreme. CB


Symphony No 3/Symphony No 1, 'Spring'
Bavarian RSO/Mariss Jansons
BR Klassik 900176 (downloads to 48kHz/24-bit resolution)

These recordings are edited from live performances given in the Munich Herkulesshall in 2018 and '15. Jansons is more associated with later-period, bigger works than the Schubert – only 18 when he composed this brilliant little symphony – or Schumann's First (the 'Spring' was inspired by Schubert's Ninth). Jansons' readings are consistently taut without being overdriven (but I thought his 'Great C major' on this label was rather too forceful), while the playing is excellent – try the Schubert finale. But don't overlook the Kleiber No 3. Good sound, but I didn't hear the violinists divided as seen in the booklet photo. CB