Schubert's heavenly-length Ninth from Budapest

Schubert's heavenly-length Ninth from Budapest

A few short weeks ago, I reported on Concerto Budapest's concert at G-Live in Guildford. Their discs appear on the German Tacet label, an audophle edition released on SACD with the option for a 5.1 version (Real Surround Sound).

The full name of the orchestra is Concerto Budapest Symphony Orchestra, and it is one of Hungary’s leading orchestras, and one of its oldest. It was founded in 1907; András Keller (founder of the Keller Quartet) has been music director and principal conductor since 2007. He says about their approach to music:

We don't ven have to understand the music but rather to listen and feel it, and allow it to flow through us. If somebody is prepared to make this intellectual-spiritual investment, it will enrich them to the point that they will see their life in an entirely different way.

Quite a statement, but one thing is sure: this is a Schubert Ninth for the ages. The sheer breadth of emotion in the first movement is remarable, and yet the sound is impeccably Schubertian throughout: light, detailed, full of passion. Schubert’s use of trombones is particularly highlighted about nidway through the movement,portentious, profound. The performance, too, is so disciplined, and yet so characterful - some of the woodwind contributions are exceptional:

The second movement, Schubert in radiantly pastoral mode, and it is here that Concerto Budapest absolutely flourish, while the almost martial discipline of the contrasting dotted forte tuttis comes as the perfect contrast. This is one of the finest accounts of this movement on record:

The third movement blazes with power, yet holds an underlying lyricism. The finale is defined by an irrepressible energy of joy. It bounds and leaps and, most of all, dances furiously. At its heart, though, it explores mysteries expounded back in the first movement, raising them to the surface as if exposing them to the bright sunlight of day. This is a superb performance:

It is praise indeed to mention Keller’s Schubert Ninth (or Eighth as the disc puts it - we have no No. 7, remember) in the same breath as the great recordings by Günter Wand. A performance by Wand with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall inthe 1980s - coupled with the “Unfinished,” is forever etched on my memory; but Keller's is one of the few versions in a crowded catalogue that approaches himthe great man. In tribute to Wand’s work with radio orchestras (who gave him more rehearsal time) I have linked the performance of Nos. 8 & 9 with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra below the Budapest Spotify.