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CBSO Berg, Schubert review

NO ROMANCE OR MYSTERY

CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★

The gear change required between the opening andante and subsequent allegro sections in the first movement of Schubert's Symphony No. 9 is notoriously difficult to navigate. Start with the famous solo horn theme too slowly and portentously and when it returns triumphantly in the coda it'll sound like a speeded-up record. Juanjo Mena avoided this pitfall; the tempi matched seamlessly and there was no need for an old-school ritardando. There was a price to pay though as Mena's relentless briskness gave it a Rossini-like lightness and banality. Elspeth Dutch's horn call was perfect for Mena's approach but never suggested the promise of romance and mystery that left Schumann awe-struck. As we raced onward the symphony was gradually stripped of its majesty with only small pockets of beauty as compensation. Mena used a large body of strings but, in not doubling the wind section, left much of their music inaudible.

These de…

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