Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in B minor (Unfinished); Rondo for violin and strings in A, D438; Polonaise in B flat for violin and orchestra, D580; Concert Piece in D for violin and orchestra, D345

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert
WORKS: Symphony No. 8 in B minor (Unfinished); Rondo for violin and strings in A, D438; Polonaise in B flat for violin and orchestra, D580; Concert Piece in D for violin and orchestra, D345
PERFORMER: Andreas Janke (violin); Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich/David Zinman
CATALOGUE NO: 88697 95335 2

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This rather short disc contains one masterpiece and three decidedly minor pieces. Schubert’s Unfinished is a work about which it is possible to become blasé, since it is performed so often. A worthwhile recording of it must, while not indulging in quirkiness, make the work sound as astounding as it truly is: both movements alternate elements of tenderness with ferocious outbursts of a kind that are found in Schubert’s last compositions, such as the String Quintet and the penultimate Piano Sonata. David Zinman tends to attack Classical works with some intensity, often eschewing rubato.

The second melody of the second movement of the Unfinished positively begs to be given a free rein, but here it doesn’t get it. Or rather it does, but in the form of irrelevant decorations, both when it comes first time on the clarinet and later when it is repeated on the oboe. This tune needs to be unadorned, or else, as here, its yearning, suffering quality is lost. Altogether, there is plenty of drama but too little contrast in this performance.

The other three pieces on this recording – Rondo for violin and strings in A, D438; Polonaise in B flat for violin and orchestra, D580; Concert Piece in D for violin and orchestra, D345 – are relatively early and delightful rarities. One of the leaders of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich, Andreas Janke, gives winning accounts of them.

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Michael Tanner