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Schubert’s Great – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Conductor: David Afkham

Reviewer: Sam Chipman

There has always been a little confusion over the numbering of Schubert’s late symphonies because his symphonies had not been published before his death. This symphony was originally given the title of the seventh symphony, until it was discovered that it was preceded by two other symphonies, and its name was duly changed.

It has been suggested that Schubert’s ‘Great’ Symphony (No: 9 in C Major) was a response to Beethoven’s very own 9th symphony, and indeed you can hear similarities in the grand scale of the music. Robert Schumann brought the score to the attention of Mendelssohn who conducted the first complete public performance at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, almost ten years after Schubert’s death.

However, on this occasion, Anton Webern’s Passacaglia, Op.1 opens the evening. The CBSO, led by David Afkham ranges from lyrical to passionate where appropriate. The pizzicato string sections are are well controlled during this piece.

Gustav Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer is performed by the baritone Brett Po legato; who among other credits has performances at La Scala and l’Opera National de Paris to his name. His clear and intelligently used voice is a pleasure to listen to; however, the performance could benefit from more connection with the text.

The sublime orchestration and changes of mood in Schubert’s ‘Great’ symphony make it incredibly fulfilling to listen to from start to end: it is like a novel full of surprises that leaves a pang of loss once it has come to a close. David Afkham leads the CBSO intelligently, and the attention to the finer details really gives the piece the grand feel it requires. The string section is a joy to listen to, the triplet’s at the piece’s finale lay down a marker and make the performance a great success, if just short of being truly rousing.

As the CBSO still looks for its new principal conductor, David Afkham shows much promise and a taste of what he will bring to the Spanish National Orchestra when he takes over the rôle in the 2016 season.

Reviewed on 17th January

Conductor: David Afkham Reviewer: Sam Chipman There has always been a little confusion over the numbering of Schubert's late symphonies because his symphonies had not been published before his death. This symphony was originally given the title of the seventh symphony, until it was discovered that it was preceded by two other symphonies, and its name was duly changed. It has been suggested that Schubert's 'Great' Symphony (No: 9 in C Major) was a response to Beethoven's very own 9th symphony, and indeed you can hear similarities in the grand scale of the music. Robert Schumann brought the score to…

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.