Kevin John Edusei’s Schubert

SM296 cover 5 & 6

SCHUBERT: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 6 / Munich Symphony Orch.; Kevin John Edusei, cond / Solo Musica SM296

As an adjunct to my review of René Jacobs’ Schubert Symphonies, I ran across this (and two other) CDs of Schubert Symphonies conducted by one Kevin John Edusei (b. 1976). Looking him up on Wikipedia, I learned that Edusei is of mixed German and Ghanaian heritage, his father being a physician from Ghana and his mother being a historian and theologian. In addition, his maternal grandmother, Antonie Wingels, was an opera singer at the Theater Bielefeld. His musical training progressed from pianist to percussionist to sound engineering to conducting, studying the latter with Jac van Steen and Ed Spanjaard with additional conducting classes under David Zinman, Pierre Boulez, Péter Eötvös. His other conducting mentors were Marc Albrecht, Kurt Masur and Sylvain Cambreling.

Judging from this (and the other) CDs issued so far, which cover Symphonies Nos. 3-8, including the extremely rare No. 7 and the full version of the Eighth, his style is a bit more conventionally phrased than Jacobs, with a smoother legato. On the plus side, his tempi are every bit as brisk as Jacobs’, he uses the leaner, more authentic scores for these symphonies, there is excellent clarity in the orchestral texture and, wonder of wonders, no straight tone in the strings!!!!! Because of this, plus his recording the complete Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, this places his incomplete cycle—which I hope and pray he will finish—at the top of the list for Schubert Symphony performances.

But as good as the Fifth Symphony is, the Sixth is even better. Never in my life have I heard such a dynamic performance of this “little” C Major symphony. The opening chords are absolutely explosive, and Edusei never once allows the pace to slacken, not even through the “Adagio” opening section. When he reaches the “Allegro,” he punches out the orchestral chords with the force of a Toscanini. And there are absolutely no slack moments; the symphony just keeps on rolling along, impressing the listener at every turn of phrase. Kudos to Edusei!

There is a wonderful feeling of unity and “completeness” about these performances that I really enjoyed. No orchestral detail is left to chance, yet it never sounds as if Edusei is purposely over-accenting things in order to score points. It’s very “pure” Schubert, lean, exciting and yet smooth at times, emotional without being overwrought and extremely satisfying.

I highly recommend this disc as well as its companions. This is touchstone Schubert conducting of the highest level.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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