Schubert: Symphony No. 3 in D major, D200; Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D417
The cover photo catches conductor Pablo Heras-Casado in mid-air, in a leap that has his arms flailing. Judging by these performances he certainly seems to have boundless energy. Some of the tempos here are hair-raisingly fast: Symphony No. 3’s concluding tarantella-like Presto vivace movement, for instance, or the finale of the Tragic No. 4. It’s a fair bet that the school orchestra for which the teenage Schubert wrote these pieces wouldn’t have been able to keep up with that sort of pace in the way the nimble-fingered Freiburg Baroque players can. In the case of the Tragic Symphony’s finale some of the music’s melodic detail, as well as the ‘stabbing’ accents in the agitated accompaniment, gets lost at Heras-Casado’s breathless speed, but there’s no doubting the drama and excitement of the playing.
The Symphony No. 3 has no slow movement (the second movement is a fairly brisk Allegretto whose central episode, featuring a military-style clarinet pitched in C, has an irresistible lilt), so the first movement’s Adagio maestoso introduction needs to carry particular weight and gravitas. Heras-Casado manages it very well, paying effective attention to Schubert’s tension-filled pianissimo writing. He brings admirable lightness to the following Allegro, with its Rossinian buoyancy, too; but he’s somewhat less successful in conveying the Viennese charm of the trio sections in the minuet movements of both Symphonies. Since these trio sections are in Ländler style, they could do with a more graceful and relaxed approach. But these are generally vivid performances, and very well recorded.