Schubert: Symphonies Nos 3-5

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert: Symphonies Nos 3-5
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 3-5
PERFORMER: Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-1786

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Schubert wrote these symphonies while still in his teens, and seems to have regarded them as little more than dry runs for his mature works. Thomas Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra are the latest team to make them sound like grown-up scores, worthwhile in their own right. Dausgaard’s orchestra is small – 38 players – but it punches above its weight, bringing muscle to Schubert’s early, Classical-style writing. In the opening movement of No. 4, the Tragic, it’s almost as if Mozart’s Commendatore is knocking at the door. The wind solos tend to be light and understated; nothing weighs the music down, and when the players let go, however briefly – for example, the joyous brass at the end of the scherzo of No. 3 – it makes an impact. Tempos are fleet and the momentum unflagging: in the final movement of No. 3 you can hear where the huge motor that drives the Great C major Symphony came from.

As with some of the other Romantic symphonies in the orchestra’s ‘Opening Doors’ series, that emphasis on rhythmic propulsion goes a little too far: once the initial exhilaration wears off and the music gets stuck into its development, there’s not always quite enough in the way of phrasing or individual character to hold the ear. Conductors, including Claudio Abbado (with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe), have found more wit in some of the fast movements, and more tenderness in the slow ones, than Dausgaard does here. But Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra are never less than invigorating.

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Erica Jeal