Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, D125; Symphony No. 3 in D major, D200
B’Rock Orchestra/René Jacobs
Pentatone PTC 5186 759 55:18 mins
Brahms, the first to edit Schubert’s youthful symphonies for publication nearly 70 years after they were composed, thought the pieces were like preliminary studies that really deserved only a limited circulation in the form of handwritten copies. But in his detailed booklet notes for this new recording of the Second and Third Symphonies, René Jacobs locates the music firmly among the great 19th-century symphonic tradition, and his admiration for it can be heard in these performances: the driving energy he brings to the impressive development section in the finale of No. 2; the dark and dramatic way he handles the slow introduction of No. 3; or the Rossinian lightness and buoyancy of the same work’s tarantella-like last movement.
Jacobs’s interpretations certainly aren’t without their controversial aspects. There’s the quick tempo of the second movement in No. 3, for instance: Schubert marks it ‘Allegretto’, and Jacobs is so anxious for it not to sound like a conventional slow movement that he rushes through the whole thing in less than three minutes. A touch more poise and elegance would surely have betrayed neither the spirit nor the letter of the music. Then there’s the da capo of the minuet in Symphony No. 2 which, curiously, is faster than it was the first time through; and, in Symphony No. 3, the quirky mannerisms that allow the music momentarily to grind to a halt in both the minuet’s trio and the da capo. However you respond to such things, one may scarcely complain that Jacobs’s performances are lacking in personality.