Schubert: Symphony in E

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Centaur
WORKS: Symphony in E
PERFORMER: Cincinnati PO/Gerhard Samuel
CATALOGUE NO: CRC 2139 DDD
There is something very odd going on here. A new symphony by Schubert must of course be the subject of international interest. But is this recording by the Cincinnati Philharmonic under Gerhard Samuel the real thing? I have no doubt that this CD was made in good faith as, indeed, a new discovery; the score, after all, has been around since 1982. Based on parts copied at some stage in the last 100 years, the results are fascinating, but not, to my ears, Schubert. This is music written with the advantage of hindsight: quotation abounds – you only have to listen to the Scherzo or the opening of the first movement –

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and there is a strong sense of sympathetic hands indulging in wish-fulfilment. My theory is that a talented Schubert enthusiast, at some stage in the last 150 years, has tried to solve the apparent problem of a missing ‘Gastein’ Symphony – which nearly everyone now acknowledges is the Great C major – by supplying a contrafactum.

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The result is puzzling, occasionally annoying and superb fun to play to unprimed friends: just watch their delight, growing disbelief and sheer frustration as you play it! The Cincinnati Philharmonic has a reputation for performing the under-known and deserves credit for its efforts. Sadly this performance rarely rises above the adequate. But never mind, this work could replace charades as a way of enlivening flagging dinner parties! Jan Smaczny