SCHUBERT Symphony No 9 BERIO Rendering
Rendering (1988 89), a late instalment in Berio’s long-term engagement with the music of the past, now exists in more than a handful of recordings. It’s an odd thing, mixing Schubert’s sketches for the Tenth Symphony with music in Berio’s own modernist language – the curiosity being that Berio’s music sounds more persuasive than Schubert’s. Perhaps this is down to the piecemeal nature of the Schubert sketches, which in themselves are insufficiently developed to coalesce into their own argument. There’s always Brian Newbould’s realisation of the Tenth for those interested in hearing one quasi-19th-century way in which this music might have been brought to fruition (Mackerras and the SCO – Hyperion, 11/97).
The coupling with the magnificent Ninth Symphony also doesn’t quite convince. In order to get both works on a single CD, corners are cut in the main work to often deleterious effect. Thomas Dausgaard’s Ninth suffered from the same problem (BIS, 8/10): its coupling with the Eighth meant that both works had to be rushed through to bring them in under 80 minutes. Dausgaard’s Ninth sounded unloved; this one simply sounds relentless, with tempos pushed and not being allowed to yield against the underlying pulse at crucial junctions.
Compare König’s timings with those of Jansons: the Bavarians take just over an hour for their Ninth, while the Luxembourgeois come in at under 45 minutes; and while some of the difference is down to a more generous quota of repeats in Munich, much of it is down to tempo. Jansons and the BRSO let the music flow out organically, which is always preferable to the manic motivicism of König’s reading. The Bavarians, too (and hardly surprisingly), offer the richer orchestral blend, in the corporate sound of the strings especially, although König’s Solistes Européens really are soloists, with some beautifully rounded woodwind tone.
But this is not a compact symphony and it benefits from the longer, more leisurely view. The unhurried approach is what Jansons gives it, resulting, for example, in a winning lilt to the Ländler-like Trio that eludes König’s version. (Jansons takes more than 14 minutes over the Scherzo, König eight and a half.) Both readings have the odd moment of frayed ensemble; König’s recording doesn’t explicitly mention that it’s live but a slightly restless audience gives the game away.