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Schubert: Symphonies Nos 2 & 3, etc (Basel/Holliger)

Chamber Orchestra Basel/Heinz Holliger (Sony Classical)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Symphonies Nos 2 & 3; Alfonso und Estrella – Overture ‘Rosamund’; Des Teufels Lustschloss – Overture
Chamber Orchestra Basel/Heinz Holliger
Sony Classical 19075814422   76:10 mins

Heinz Holliger’s energetic approach to Schubert pays off in this recording of these two symphonies. The bright Symphony No. 3 fizzes, clipped and contained most starkly in the surprisingly decorous third movement Menuetto, a collected canter rather than the hair-raising, flat-out gallop that one might be used to elsewhere. The Presto vivace is as expertly delineated, but far more fleet and glittering, a champagne finish.

Overtures from Schubert’s ‘failed’ opera career provide the sandwich filling. Holliger goes some way to redressing this historical oversight, particularly in the overture to Schubert’s teenage opera Das Teufels Lustschloss, with its thrilling sense of drama as imaginary furies rage through the strings. And yet he also manages to suggest, as Schubert intends, that all this conjuring might just be a grand illusion.

In the rather more sombre overture to Alfonso und Estrella, Schubert’s exploratory manipulations of tonality and structure, as if constantly working on the element of surprise, is underscored by Holliger’s attentive approach, here as in the composer’s Second Symphony. Holliger makes a thrilling case for the Symphony’s lengthy first movement, played by the Kammerorchester Basel with infectious drive. The Andante’s delicate main theme is followed by an insistent Menuetto, although it’s perhaps all too much drive at this point, and in the end it is the dazzling Third Symphony and Das Teufels Lustschloss which linger.

Sarah Urwin Jones