SCHUBERT: Symphonies No. 1 in D; No. 3 in D; No 7(8) in B-minor – Bamberg Symphony/ Jonathan Nott, conductor – Tudor

by | Jun 27, 2009 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 1 in D; No. 3 in D; No. 7 (8) in b minor – Bamberg Symphony/ Jonathan Nott, conductor – Tudor multichannel SACD 7141, 79:07 ****1/2 [Distr. by Naxos]:

This is the concluding SACD of Jonathan Nott’s path breaking first surround sound edition of the complete Schubert Symphonies. As you can see by the header, they are using (as did Harnoncourt) the revised numbering system so that the famous “Unfinished” becomes No. 7. Well, we will see if that catches on. The revisions to Dvorak’s symphonies took awhile also, but eventually caught on. Performance-wise this series has had a few issues, but overall the quality has been very high, and Nott has a lot to say in this music. For the two lesser works, Nott easily is able to compete with the very best, and by that I mean No. 1 with Harnoncourt and No. 3 with Beecham and Bohm, the latter being especially noteworthy and standard-setting.

In fact the early symphonies benefit from Nott’s carefully planned phrases and smashing fortes, and the surround spread gives Schubert’s youngster-orchestration a vivid and panoramic spectrum of color and clarity that is too often lost. Tempos are up but not rigidly so (the minuets are taken at scherzo speeds) and the Bambergers play with a lot of finesse. No. 1 is superb, No. 3 not quite the equal of Bohm’s more measured and probing reading though it still has much to offer, and the sonics are something Bohm could have only dreamed about.

The one disappointment (and I use that word with much reserve) is the “Unfinished”, and even it has many wonderful moments. The opening is somewhat of a letdown; Nott’s foursquare rhythmic underpinning sounds too hackneyed when taken at this slow tempo, and the eighth notes too detached, presenting us with a sort of lumbering march feeling that destroys the mandatory mystery and potent mystical power that Schubert invests in these seed-filled bars. Nott also misses the delicacy in the string line that I so memorably recall from Roberto Abbado’s performance with the Atlanta Symphony about 12 years ago—truly magical. But he has the right amount of trombone heaviness that anchors the work, and this performance is nothing to be ashamed of.

Overall I rate this disc highly, and Nott and Tudor can rightly be proud of their new Super Audio achievement.

— Steven Ritter

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