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Schubert: The Magic Harp – Suite

Junge Philharmonie Wien/Michael Lessky (Gramola)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Schubert
The Magic Harp, D644 (Suite – arr. B Newbould)
Junge Philharmonie Wien/Michael Lessky
Gramola 99263   42:06 mins

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It’s difficult to be fair to this disc, which contains music of great charm – and surprising familiarity – played with zest and warmth by the Vienna Youth Orchestra, but the attempts in the very detailed notes to show how and why these ten brief pieces belong together are not successful. Yet how to perform them all, without tedious passages of dramatic prose, read by actors in an exaggerated matter? There are plenty of those on record, as I found to my surprise, but the tunes and even small movements that everyone is familiar with have an individuality which is not enhanced by pretending that they add up to some kind of dramatic unity. So I was grateful to hear the brief orchestral pieces without the intrusion of plot summaries which add up to Gothick melodrama.

Brian Newbould, the most indefatigable rescuer of every note of Schubert’s that he can find, probably does as good a job as can be done to give these ten pieces a semblance of unity, and the performance is nothing if not sprightly – but leaving me with a sadness that tries to turn musical snacks into a genuine meal.

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Michael Tanner