Two-thirds of the way through the slow movement of Schubert's Ninth Symphony there is a tremendous tutti -- a cataclysm of sound that seems to announce the Apocalypse -- that is followed by a plaintive pianissimo that hanges over an abyss.
It is a tremendous moment, one that Gunther Herbig captured magnificently last night in Meyerhoff Hall in his concert with the Baltimore Symphony. It was tremendous because Herbig realized how it fit into the structure of the movement. The conductor's pacing was masterly and the great climax -- when it occurred -- sounded inevitable.
What is said of the second movement can be said of the entire performance. Herbig, the German-born music director of the Toronto Symphony, has few peers in his understanding of the Austro-Germanic Romantic repertory, and he has the technique to put his ideas across. Too many conductors make this music sound almost trivial, and one can sometimes understand the response of the London violinists who began to giggle during one of the work's first performances under the baton of Felix Mendelssohn. But Herbig made the music sound spontaneous, as if it was inventing itself on the spot, which is exactly what R RTC fine performance of Schubert must do.