Symphony No.8 in B minor (Unfinished)
Symphony No.9 in D minor
Kensington Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: David Bird
Reviewed: 10 May, 2010
Venue: St John’s, Smith Square, London
The penultimate concert of the Kensington Symphony Orchestra’s current season looked, when compared to the rest of the 2009-10 fare, to be a rather safe affair, but it proved to be, possibly, the most musically satisfying of the whole lot. These two unfinished symphonies – incomplete for totally different reasons – made perfect bedfellows, and Russell Keable made the most of both the similarities and the differences.
What impressed about Keable’s interpretation of the Schubert was that he understood, as too many don’t, that the two movements are marked to be played fast and slow – too many conductors see them as being similar in both texture and tempo. Keable allowed for much drama throughout the work, but still had time for reflection and relaxation. The ending was as serene and contemplative as could be wished for.
Bruckner’s final symphonic vision is one of apocalyptic tragedy – perhaps, had he finished the work, this might not be so – but here we were given a granite-like opening movement, the music only gradually revealing its ways and meanings. Keable built the large structure gradually, making the journey to the final climax seem inevitable, yet with a real shock-punch at the closing. This was a fine piece of interpretative work. The scherzo was nasty and twisted – the giant’s footsteps were heavy and perilous and if Keable made one miscalculation it was that the contrasting trio section was too heavy-handed. Everything came together in the final Adagio, in which Bruckner builds his creation to a climax that culminates in a visionary eleven-note chord.
Keable’s intelligent direction brought out the very best in his players, and there was much to enjoy from the solos for winds and brass. The massed strings were resplendent in their fullness and richness and everything was underpinned by the generous weight of the timpani.