Next up: Karl Bohm and the London Symphony Orchestra. 1980.
Available in these editions:
First movement: Slow start, but nice tone to the clarinet. Dynamic changes are a bit muted. And into the next section, we are at a slow to moderate pace. This is a more legato approach with less strong accents and attacks. Climaxes are still exciting though. Tempo is consistent in each section, with changes in tempo more organic than most. There are some sudden changes, but generally done with the change in dynamics for the most part. Although the tempo speeds up when there are climaxes, it doesn’t shift into a totally unrelated gear. It stays slow for the most part, and it doesn’t have these sudden bursts of speed that seem out of place. While it is generally on the slow side, I find it quite well played (if highly controlled). Phrasing is good, though there is less focus on dynamics details.
Second Movement: Dark beginning – slow and foreboding. Gorgeously done. Horn solo sounds magnificent. It is a softer touch and quite alluring in sound. Beautifully done (not bold, but restrained; not attacking, but caressing). The tempo, however, is very slow. In fact, Bohm’s second movement is one of the 10 slowest on record. And it is surprisingly effective – the music can take it. There are times I wish they had filled the transitions with a bit more detail, but generally a good job overall. The slower tempo gives this a melancholy atmosphere much of the time. If you want speed (any speed), look elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is really quite well played.
Third movement: Another slow one. Also beautifully played. This one certainly doesn’t have the pulse of a waltz you would dance to (too slow).
Fourth Movement: Surprise – a slow start. It has a nice balance and the playing, by not being overly aggressive, makes this a bit more beautiful (and though I wonder if it really should be, I still enjoyed it). You do get to hear a lot of details. And then we are into the allegro vivace (after the timpani roll, no downbeat), and it takes off at a moderate pace, followed by a brief speed up. Brass have a really softened edge – no raspy brass here! This is not an intense version either, though climaxes are well handled. On the other hand, it does create an attractive sound. Unison is surprisingly a bit ragged in a couple moments considering the slow speed. Here I am much more reminded of the way Bruckner might write a climax (another thought I’ve never had while listening to this symphony) – I was reminded of this approach more than once. It slows down going into the final sections (which really sound like they are in slow motion, which I find fascinating). It finally picks up some speed in the presto, and the last section slows a hair, while last four notes slow down.
Overall: Good. This might be a good version for someone who wants a less aggressive approach or slower tempos. It is a bit too slow overall to recommend as a first choice, but would make an interesting complement to some of the faster versions. The slowness almost starts to remind me of Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony at times, which is an interesting thought to have (and not one I normally have here). Also, by playing it slow, some of the warts and hard edges are really softened and reduced quite a bit (whether this is good or not, I’ll leave to you). Playing is good, and this was one of Bohm’s last recordings. His is definitely a different approach.
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