Symphony in E major, D729 (completed R Dünser); Fierrabras – Overture
Berne Symphony Orchestra/Mario Venzago
Prospero PROSP 0030 56:46 mins
If you thought there was only one unfinished symphony by Schubert, think again. There must be far more uncompleted works by him than by any other major composer. This one mainly shows Schubert at his least inspired, still attempting to write an Italian-opera style series of movements, and succeeding only in producing the skeletons without the flesh.
Mario Venzago, hero of lost musical causes, writes at length and obscurely about why he thinks the work worth extensive surgery and recording, but the 40 minutes that it takes – there is also an Overture, in a similar style – seem interminable. This is despite the polished orchestral playing and the spirited tempos. Indeed the tempos are too spirited, and by the time I’d reached the fourth movement I found it hard to remember what the first movement had been like.
Schubert is still remembered first as a great song composer, yet there is not a single memorable theme in the whole of this work. Surely it is permissible to say that the reason for many of Schubert’s works being unfinished is that the composer recognised that what he had written was not worth expansion.