Schubert’s Fifth Symphony offers some of the loveliest melodies in the repertory, and Iván Fischer gave them room to blossom. He carefully balanced filigrees with broader lines, and allowed Schubert’s ingenious harmonic devices to land with due effect. In the Andante, the Symphony’s emotional heart, the principal theme sang out sweetly, and in the Minuet, suggestive of Mozart’s Fortieth Symphony (K550), Fischer stressed the downbeats rather heavily, heightening the contrast with the gentler Trio. The Finale’s breakneck start settled into a more gracious pace, but it picked up speed as the violins danced their way to the finish.
More Schubert followed – Miah Persson’s fine account of The Shepherd on the Rock in the scoring by Carl Reinecke (1824-1910, conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for three decades). Anthony McGill’s superb playing of Schubert’s original clarinet obbligato was the highlight of the concert, his tone impeccable across registers as he spun out the gorgeous invention.
In Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony Fischer sustained suspense in the dark introduction, then made the transition to Allegro vivace very emphatically, timpani pounding away with hard sticks, and continuing with ferocious attacks. Antiphonally seated second violins perfectly framed McGill’s marvelous solo in the Adagio, and in the rollicking Scherzo there was a nice contrast between the main subject and the twice-played Trio. Fischer took the Finale more rapidly than the non troppo qualification would suggest, thereby challenging the players – and especially bassoonist Judith LeClair, whose rapid-fire solo rose to the occasion brilliantly.