Measurements show Schuricht (1938), Jochum (1939), and Kabasta (1942) taking quite slow new tempos at 125; Jochum and Kabasta, Horenstein and Ormandy as well, speed up slightly for 157, and re-establish the pre-ritardando tempo by 185. Fried makes a much greater slow-down, and that of Abendroth (1956) is truly amazing; he moves from 91, well above the specified tempo of 80, down to 60 at letter E, farther down to a lilting 54 at letter F, and up to 96 at letter G in a vertiginous acceleration which has to be heard to be believed.
By contrast, the conductors of the 1990s do not see much of an opportunity here, though Rattle slows down a little in response to the evident demands of the music. Most of those who change tempo in this region broaden slightly at letter F rather than E, perhaps seeing a hurried struggle at E, and a relaxed and lyrical reward at F. Eugen Jochum’s technique in achieving his imperceptible but wide accelerandos is amazing. Somehow he is able to gather tempo without any feeling of rushing or urgency. It is as if the music itself leads the listener to the faster tempo. And it must be that sense of graciousness and appropriateness which informed the old conducting style. Wand’s (1980) scherzo is well-organized and elegantly rendered in the same way, but without the sense of abandon which Jochum achieves. It is, incidentally, amusing to hear the Vienna Philharmonic in its recordings of this movement, for example under Karajan (1989), play such passages as mm. 93-96 with typical Viennese rubato.
Rosbaud’s (1957) scherzo is noteworthy for its slowness, which many listeners have criticized. However, I was struck by the sound of the trumpets in the normally-hurried passage stretching from 169 to 180, echoed by the clarinets in 181 through 184–that under Rosbaud’s direction, for once they did not seem raucous, but instead had a certain lyrical or melodic effect. Rosbaud only achieves 70 at the end of his accelerando, but it seems sufficient in context. Matacic (1983) is somewhat similar, though his letter F is even slower. Haenchen produces a particularly well-thought-out relaxing of the tempo, discreet but definitely present. As with Rattle, I believe that this is a reaction to the music itself. Some conductors get slow by stages in the measure or two just before letter E, but Fried (1923) establishes his new very-much-slower tempo extremely suddenly.