Robert Trevino, just 35 when this sweeping Beethoven symphony cycle was recorded in late 2019, negotiates every young conductor’s rite of passage with fluency and flair on his ambitious debut outing on Ondine.

Captured live during Trevino’s first season at the helm of the Malmö Symphony Orchestra and recorded (and presented here) in numerical sequence, it heralds the young American baton-wielder as a Beethovenian of considerable abilities. The dominant accent is lyrical and fluid with zesty tempi, characterful playful and a pointedly employed penchant for the dramatic. Throughout, Trevino’s interpretative choices discretely accommodate lessons learned from his predecessors even while espousing an agreeable freshness all their own.

Not everything is perfect as Trevino attempts to strike a balance between the competing influences of his one-time teacher, David Zinman, and adopted guru Daniel Barenboim with glancing allusions to readings by the likes of Michael Tilson Thomas, Roger Norrington, Rafael Kubelík and several others.

That contest makes itself felt at the very beginning, the First Symphony constantly surging forward even as Trevino reins it in as if testing the waters of the wide ocean that lies ahead. Afforded a more measured approach, the Second retains enough of its inheritance from Haydn to remain a work of sweetly animated but testing exuberance.

There’s an unfettered quality to Trevino’s Eroica that makes it seem as aromatic as new-mown grass (the aching Marcia funèbre notwithstanding) and, in its dancing Scherzo, vividly sylvan. The lowering opening of the Fourth is superbly conjured, Trevino picking his way through the movement with balletic delicacy, its finale a brilliant firework display of orchestral rhetoric.

If the Fifth Symphony, for all its emphatic drive, lacks telling elemental profundity, Trevino makes a classy claim for its anthemic status with propulsive rhythms and dynamics, the Pastoral benefitting from a more delicate touch before its Thunderstorm bursts overhead with primordial force to abate in a conclusion of sirenic attractiveness.

The Seventh Symphony falters in attempting to blend Zinman’s poetic fleetness with Barenboim’s grandeur, the bracing finale getting closest to squaring the circle. Similarly, the buoyancy afforded Trevino’s Eighth, agreeable and exhilarating as it is, somehow prevents the piece from ever quite coming fully into focus.

The mighty Ninth is more adroitly handled, its mounting momentum gently breathed out with deftly measured confidence and a becoming leanness (characteristic of the set as a whole) to its fast-flowing lyricism and resounding flexing of musical muscles.

Spirited vocal contributions from soprano Kate Royal, mezzo Christine Rice, tenor Tuomas Katajala, bass-baritone Derek Welton and the MSO Festival Chorus in the rousingly excitable Choral finale are lithely supported by Malmö’s impressive musicians. A deserved nod, too, for Ondine’s crisp, clear and communicative engineering.

Composer: Beethoven
Works: The Nine Symhonies
Orchestra: Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Robert Trevino
Label: Ondine ODE1348-5

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