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SIG 133
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SIG 133

Schubert: Symphony No. 9

The Classical Shop
release date: August 2008

Originally recorded in 2008


Philharmonia Orchestra

Sir Charles Mackerras


Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

'Live' 10 June 2006


Misha Donat


Jonathan Stokes

Record Label


Orchestral & Concertos

Total Time - 59:02
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Symphony No. 9 in C major D.944, The Great

1 I Andante - Allegro ma non troppo 15:58
2 II Andante con moto 14:08
3 III Scherzo: Allegro vivace 13:40
4 IV Finale: Allegro vivace 15:16
  TT 59:04      
 Sir Charles Mackerras

The ‘Great C major’ has often been cited as the first of the big romantic symphonies and an open door leading to the Romantic era. We owe the belated emergence of this symphony, 11 years after Schubert’s death, to Schumann who described it as “a symphony for the benefit and enjoyment of the whole world.”

The Philharmonia Orchestra are widely recognised as the UK’s finest performers with an impressive recording legacy. The orchestra prides itself on collaborations with the finest musicians of our day including guest conductor Sir Charles MacKerras.


"Often the spontaneity that results from a live performance more than compensates for any minor fluffs or less than ideal recording conditions. This is certainly the case here with the Philharmonia Orchestra on sparkling form for its Principal Guest Conductor, Sir Charles Mackerras. And this records just one performance, not an edit of a few. Accordingly it has absolute integrity of continuity."

"...this 2006 Mackerras gives you a more rounded experience of the whole symphony, its effectiveness, life and colour. Here is everything you’d expect from Indian summer Mackerras: lively, rhythmically crisp, melodically well shaped, precise in dynamics and with all repeats observed except, as normal practice, not those in the Scherzo da capo. The recording is fresh and clear, very bright in the brass but not glaring. Only when the music stops do you become aware of the audience. You are grateful for this but even more for a performance of consummate skill."

Michael Greenhalgh - December 2008

"In his 1987 recording of the Great C major with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Virgin Classics), Charles Mackerras combined exhilaration, revelatory clarity of detail and a sure command of Schubert’s vast structures.

Now, with the Philharmonia before a preternaturally quiet Queen Elizabeth Hall audience, Mackerras’s interpretation has changed little in essentials. Violins are again properly divided left and right and all repeats observed. The swiftly paced “slow” introduction merges into the following allegro without the traditional accelerando. The andante is a brisk, though never inflexible, Alpine walk that builds urgently and inexorably to a shattering climax, horns and trumpets scything through the texture. Perhaps the scherzo is a little fierce, missing a Viennese lilt in the gliding waltz tune. But the final, a glorious celebration of the power of movement is magnificent in its mingled buoyancy and gargantuan energy.

The Philharmonia, woodwind especially, are on inspired form, and the sound has more bloom that you might expect from a recording emanating from the QEH."


The Daily Telegraph - 13 Septembert 2008

                                  ***** Performance     -    *****  – Recording !"

"This staggering recording, of a ‘live’ performance in 2006 – but the audience can only be heard between the movements – is the most remarkable recording of this elusive work since Furtwängler’s famous Berlin account in 1951. It has a ferocity which, in some places, notably the climax of the second movement, turns into a frightening stampede, to be followed by a prolonged awed silence.

Charles Mackerras conducts with a greater freedom of tempos than he has before, though always with careful concern for the vast work’s structure. At very nearly an hour, this clocks in as the longest account I have heard, but it gives the overall impression of stationing the listener in the centre of a whirlwind, even usually rather unbuttoned and jovial trio of the third movement offering relief: it surges in menacing waves. There are so many ways of taking this utterly original work, but when we are offered a reading that stresses the unity and savage momentum of this symphony, it seems for the time being to be the only right way.

The Philharmonia rises magnificently to what must have been an exhausting occasion. My only slight reservation is that the strings, especially the violin, sound rather sparse and don’t sing enough, which they need to do to counteract the aggressive winds, here playing tirelessly."   

Michael Tanner

BBC Music Magazine - October 2008

‘A symphony for the benefit and enjoyment of the whole world,’ was Schumann’s verdict on Schubert’s Great C Major, generally deemed to have ushered in the Romantic era when it emerged 11 years after the composer’s death. Sir Charles Mackerras forges a characteristic combination of elegance, power and restraint in this fine recording with the Philahrmonia, the first in a new relationship between the orchestra and this label which also sees the release of forceful versions of Brahms’s second and fourth symphonies under Christoph von Dohnányi."

Anthony Holden

The Observer - 24 August 2008

"Where were you on June 10, 2006? I was in Aldeburgh, enjoying the festival but lamenting that I was not watching Sir Charles Mackerras conduct the Philharmonia in Schubert’s “Great C Major”. In an age of deodorised live recordings, this rough diamond document of that concert is thrilling. The QEH’s warts-and-all acoustic intensifies a performance that crackles with excitement. The sound is compromised, but the basses and cellos have bite, the violins and violas ineffable sweetness, while the woodwind and brass are elegant. A miraculous work played with humour, wisdom and daring."


The Independent on Sunday - 17 August 2008

"Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 has never been one of my favourite of the composer’s works - it’s occasionally a bit long-winded - but if anything could convert me, it’s this thrilling live recording on the enterprising Signum label. Without forcing a note, Charles Mackerras finds a path through the work which which creates a convincing emotional journey - the race to the end is particularly exciting - and the sound of the Philharmonia Orchestra simply glows with warmth. (A jolly good account of Brahms’s symphonies No.2 and No.4, with Christoph von Dohnányi and the Philharmonia, is also released on Signum at the same time.)"

Warwick Thompson

Metro - 8 August 2008

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