Edinburgh Festival 9: Second Helping of Schubert from Minkowski Not as Appetising as the First Course

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United KingdomUnited Kingdom Edinburgh International Festival 2013 (9) –Schubert,  Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble, Mark Minkowski (conductor) Usher Hall, 15.8.2013 (SRT)

Schubert: Symphony No. 3 in D
Symphony No. 8 in C “Great”

After last night’s first instalment, Minkowski and his band were back for a second bite of the Schubert cherry. In some ways I enjoyed this evening more, but as the evening progressed I became progressively less satisfied. First off, the winds were on much finer form tonight, more precise and more characterful, and clearly having a great time in the first movement of No. 3. Minkowski’s direction was more characterful, too, with real swing in that symphony’s Menuetto and razor-sharp attack from the brass in the finale.

Listening to the first two movements of the “Great” C major symphony was a revelation, too. Minkowski’s tempi weren’t particularly quick, but everything was clear so that, as in the best period performances, things sounded new and fresh. The opening horn call was ideally placed to sound close yet mysterious, while the inner textures never suffered from being drowned by the melody. The Andante con moto, too, sounded clipped and exciting, with good pace and exciting openness to it. The string attack in the Scherzo wasn’t nearly as precise as it should have been, though, and this wasn’t redeemed by the impressively broad trio. The finale also sounded muddier than the rest of the symphony (and significantly less impressive than it does on Minkowski’s CD), and even the gigantic unisons of the coda didn’t lift me out of my seat in the way they should.

I decided to stick around for the encore, but wished I hadn’t when they echoed last night by playing the entire first movement of the “Unfinished” symphony, an absurdly indulgent move that was nowhere near the snappy bonus-track that an encore should be. They were clearly enjoying their visit to the Edinburgh Festival, but this choice just overegged the pudding.

The Edinburgh International Festival runs until Sunday 1st September at a range of venues across the city. A selection of performances will be reviewed in these pages. For full details go to www.eif.co.uk

Simon Thompson