Schubert: Symphony No. 5 in B flat; Symphony No. 8 in B minor (Unfinished); Die Zauberharfe Overture

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Symphony No. 5 in B flat; Symphony No. 8 in B minor (Unfinished); Die Zauberharfe Overture
PERFORMER: Netherlands Radio CO/Ton Koopman
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-15518-2
This recording uses editions by Breitkopf & Härtel who published the first collected edition of Schubert’s works towards the end of last century. So one might expect authentic textual versions of the works. However, some aspects of Koopman’s interpretations are difficult to reconcile with the printed sources.

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In the Fifth Symphony, for example, Koopman synchronises the music’s dynamic flow and melodic contour in a superficially compelling reading, but the swirling crescendos and diminuendos in the first and third movements create a disturbing roller-coaster effect. Koopman’s pace in the Andante denies the animation called for by the score’s con moto marking and he narrows the third movement’s expressive range by conducting both minuet and trio at the same speed. Although he finds high drama in the finale, I could discover no documentary support for repeating the exposition from the fortissimo outburst at bar 47.

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With the Unfinished Symphony, bright recording and leisurely tempi highlight the Netherlands orchestra’s clear chamber textures. I felt the first movement a little lacking in atmosphere and dramatic impulse, but Koopman and his team effectively reveal the Andante’s impressive emotional scope. A vivid account of the Zauberharfe Overture completes the programme. Nicholas Rast